Putting the Personality Back into Property Management
Technology and automation have answers to almost everything in our lives today. We ask it to turn on our heat when we’re far away, and it obliges. We want a ride near a busy street corner, and it finds us a car. We want to be able to pay bills without leaving the kitchen table, the money is on its way with a single click.
Yet, the digital side of life doesn’t teach us how to win over people or create relationships in our personal and professional lives. You can ask Siri for help, but she probably won’t get it right.
Managing people and relationships in property management
Remember the old family saying about catching more flies with honey? Some of the ways to manage people and residents are ingrained in us from early childhood. Others are learned from either the School of Hard Knocks or over time. Or not at all.
How you manage people and relationships, whether in the leasing office or at a resident’s home, are critical to an apartment’s success. That’s the message that multifamily industry speakers offered recently to apartment managers, assistants, maintenance technicians and associates at the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas’ 4th Annual Education Conference in Frisco, Texas.
Success is dependent on ability to connect with people
The lessons weren’t compiled from searches on the Internet. Relationship Difference president Rommel Anacan, a communications consultant who co-hosts the Multifamily Podcast, offered his thoughts on relationship differences.
“Ultimately your success in the industry is dependent on how you connect with people, the people you like, the people you can’t stand,” said Anacan, whose 12-year career in the apartment industry began in Newport Beach, Calif. “Why is it so hard to connect with someone halfway across the office, or the resident in D2? It’s important we know our effect on people.”
First, figuring out what kinds of people you’re dealing with will help determine your ability to connect, he said. He described the traits of three types of people – those who move away from people, move toward people and move against people. Sometimes giving people space, reading in between the lines, and developing flexible boundaries can create that link which betters communication and trust with residents and enhances collaboration with employees, he said.
Be nice, don’t overreact and find amicable solutions
Body movements, tone of voice and actions determine the foundations of relationships good and bad. Speaker Anne Sadovsky, who has been teaching apartment industry fundamentals since 1981, says sometimes you have to be nice.
“There are likable people and unlikable people,” she said in her sweet, stern Texas drawl. “The unlikable person is the one changing lanes, not signaling and forcing their way in front of you. The likable person uses their signal and says, ‘Excuse me, can I get in?’ You can bet 99 percent of people will let that person in.”
Off the road and in the leasing office, likability also translates into better working relationships with staff and resident retention. When people like you, she says, they are more prone to stick around. Enthusiasm and clean appearance go a long way, especially when dealing with residents.
“People are drawn to you when you’re energetic,” she said.
But sometimes they come at you more aggressively, especially angry residents. Sadovsky said gracefully acknowledging a complaint, being proactive with a solution and even taking a deep breath before your next response can help deflect the negative energy.
She pondered if two apartment employees would have been harmed after a heated discussion with a resident about 20 years ago during the days of landlord liens. The resident returned with a gun and shot both. Fortunately, they survived.
“Don’t overreact,” Sadovsky said. Know your hot buttons and do what you can to calm upset residents. Seek amicable solutions.
Work with people and understand what motivates to increase value of asset
People also need to learn from people, says Lia Nichole Smith, Vice President of Education and Consulting at SatisFacts and ApartmentRatings.com. With some eye-opening employee survey responses, she described how managers sometimes fail at building healthy employee relationships that are needed to fulfill a property manager’s top objective of increasing asset value.
In apartment industry surveys, employees said managers don’t understand what motivates them, which suggests that some leaders simply cannot connect with workers and get the most out of them. Surprisingly, monetary rewards ranked low and training high.
“Training and the opportunity to learn new things is what motivates employees, over promotions, over money,” Smith said. “If you give me a chance to learn more so I can be better, the promotions will come, the money will come.”
Which gets back to understanding how employees tick and developing strong relationships. Even if the answer involves a little sugar.
Building relationships, dealing with difficult people, and inspiring and motivating employees in the apartment industry sometimes can’t be learned online. It often takes a personal touch.