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Let's Help, Not Direct and Delegate: Developing Onsite Talent for Future Leadership Roles

Let’s Help, Not Direct and Delegate.

Developing Onsite Talent for Future Leadership Roles

 

 Developing onsite managers to move into upper management.

Finding talent in the multifamily and student housing industry is always a challenge because let’s face it……this job and industry is not for everyone or the thin skinned.  When you find those diamonds in the rough you want to develop, train and hold onto them for dear life because we cannot operate or do our jobs without the life support from the on-site managers. I came into student housing as a Leasing Manager after transitioning from the hotel and hospitality industry. My passion has always been customer service and providing exceptional experiences for people.  While many skills overlapped from hospitality, there were tools I needed to feel comfortable and grow in my position within student housing. I have strong mentors and support from my leadership at two student management companies over the last nine years. As of 2013 I have been a Regional Leasing Specialist that reported directly to the VP of Leasing and Marketing (and veteran in student housing), Barrie Nichols. I am now one of those team members in the leadership role that is supporting the onsite teams, recruiting talent from different industries and spending a lot of time with the managers. I am lucky to say that several people are now veterans in the industry and have even obtained prestigious awards for themselves and their properties across the United States. Below are three tips I have used to actively develop managers and onsite team members to #1 Enjoy coming to work every day and #2 Knowing they have support from executive leadership so they will continue the good habits when they move to an upper leadership role.

Tip #1: Empowerment and Involvement: Managers are the experts of their properties. They know what goes on every day. They see the struggles and needs for their properties. The quickest way for a manager to lose trust or motivation is to keep them out of the loop of anything changing at their property. While some things are required to keep confidential, it is so important to involve managers on leasing calls, budget reviews, capital improvements, LIF’s, and simple communication of "what are the needs are at their property" on a regular basis. I have worked to managers that haven’t heard from their leadership team in months, or they find out a special was approved they didn’t request or leadership ordered a lot of swag that ate up their promo budget when they didn’t need more promo. They lose trust and don’t feel empowered to do their jobs; thus, they will go somewhere else where they are appreciated and trusted.

Tip #2: Knowing that leadership is there to help; Not to make more work for the property. As a traveling RLS my job is to support and help the properties. I admit, in the past I would find things that need to be changed and put it on a list to revisit or delegate to the team. WRONG. Once I realized this was causing more stress to the team and people were nervous when I came to their property, I completely changed my approach. Student housing is stressful and hard enough just trying to get our tasks done during the day while serving residents, pre-leasing, planning events, marketing on campus, guiding parents for FTIC’s (you get the idea….).

 My approach NOW is that I am there to help and take work OFF of their plate versus finding more work for them to do. After all, I am visiting the property for a reason, to figure out what needs to be done to improve leasing or more training. I now focus on what is important to the team versus what I think is important to accomplish.  My approach includes asking questions to figure out where they need help. I also observe my first day and come up with a plan of action (with the managers) and then assign myself a list of tasks to help the property. This has been a game changer because, now the teams know all tasks will get done when leadership is there, I keep my word and go above and beyond to complete and after my visit is complete I continue to follow up with progress so they know they are supported if leadership is onsite or helping remotely. Managers appreciate the extra help versus adding more to their plate. Guess what? Teams ask me when I am coming back to their properties and send me thank you notes for the help.  When a manager moves on to upper management, having these habits that they are there to help will improve team morale and company culture wherever they travel.

#3-Public Recognition for small milestones/accomplishments- One of the many awesome things our leadership team does for the on-site managers is weekly recognition on our marketing call. Barrie Nichols initiated this many years ago and it’s SO simple yet offers a huge motivation factor! Once a week we conduct a Google Hangout call with the managers to go over ideas, leasing goals, social media tips etc. At the end of every call we announce the top leaser in the country and the property that closed the most leases. The property then gets a prize for instant gratification through Amazon gift cards. You won’t believe how motivating this is to the teams! The managers are involved, they love seeing their property get publicly recognized on a national call. Managers will reach out and ask if they are in the lead for the week, it creates friendly competition between properties. The fact is, they feel invested to see their property win, which trickles to their on-site team members which turns into more leases!!

Anyone going into an upper management role can take these three simple ideas to motivate and help any property they visit. When you work in student housing you always have a lot of pressure to lease up, stay ahead of the comps, please your investors, improve pro-forma and stay within budget (Whew….. right?). If we can promote good habits with the mind set to “help” versus “direct and delegate,” managers who move onto upper management roles will have these helpful habits, and create loyal on-site staff teams that will ensure the positive future growth of student housing.

Happy Leasing and make it fun!

Carroll VanHook-Weaver

Regional Leasing Specialist-Student Housing

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