Four Tips for Self-Guided Property Management Staff Development


Every property management company would like to believe that they have the best employees. In reality, many of them suffer from what a friend of mine who owns a horse ranch terms as “barn blindness”—meaning the value isn’t there to the extent we believe it is.

There are people who own horses they believe are the best simply because they look the part or they just have decided it is so. They walk down the stable aisle patting themselves on the back, gloating with pride, as they look at what they feel are the most beautiful and talented animals that have ever stepped foot on earth. Reality hits them when they visit their neighbor’s barn only to realize what everyone else has been trying to tell them for a very long time—they have barn blindness. A ranch owner, much like a smart business person, will let the poor performers go rather than allow them to pull down the rest of the herd and the overall reputation of their program.

If you want to create a great horse ranch you have to create great performing horses. If you want to create a great property management company, you have to create great employees through supervision, training, and coaching.

Don’t Let Poor Performers Impede Great Property Management

It sounds harsh but there is a time and place to inventory your staff and release those who are not performing. The longer an employee stays with a property management company the more difficult this change can be. Barn blindness sets in and supervisors begin to overlook current performance and reminisce about the great days gone by. While some people might consider this a kind gesture, to others it is simply unfair and bad business. These are the types of choices that cause really great employees to look elsewhere and can result in a decline in overall productivity and eventually a high turnover rate.

When your poor performers are not working, your great performers are forced to work twice as hard. You are not serving your customers if you let the poor performers slide. Stop the bad excuses and confront the poor performance.

Four Tips to Foster Self-Guided Development

After you have confronted the poor performers and let them go, you are left with a group of great employees who require your attention – supervision, training, and coaching. A strong training program is critical to the success of any property management company, but the real learning takes place on the job. With multiple generations working side-by-side in the workplace it is important to allow employees to learn their own way—one size does not fit all or even most.

Self-guided development can be accomplished when you do these four things:

1. Invite Welcoming Questions

Cultivate a culture that gives employees permission to ask questions when they don’t understand; to give their best effort regardless of the outcome; to make errors (within reason) as long as they own up to and correct them.

2. Provide Encouraging Feedback

Inspire employees to speak up when they have comments and/or observations. While this sounds simple, many employees don’t do this as a result of fear or intimidation –these factors must be removed from the equation.

3. Promote Practical Experience

Encourage hands-on experience by breaking down each task that an employee’s job entails. Start by having them do one task, and then review it when they think it’s done. If it’s not up to your standards, explain why and have them fix it so that is done to your satisfaction. Repeat as needed. You are showing employees what their job responsibilities encompass but letting them figure out the details for themselves. This can be more effective than simply telling them exactly how to do their job. Teach your employees to be problem-solvers and decision-makers by leveraging the learning that happens naturally each day at work. Self-guided development often leads to happier, more engaged, employees.

4. Support Training and Coaching

There are as many differences between “supervisors” and “coaches” as there are similarities. A supervisor’s main purpose is typically perceived to be one of control over employees, whereas a coach’s functions blend mentoring and motivation. It’s easy to point out what people have done wrong but more difficult to do it through training and coaching to do it right next time. Freeing trained employees to do their job their way can be a difficult task for some supervisors. At the end of the day the goal should be to have the job done right, not necessarily the same way you would do it. I know—easier said than done.

“A manager’s coaching effectiveness impacts employees’ intention to stay with the organization, their overall engagement levels, and their willingness to go the extra mile.”

Zenger Folkman Leadership Development

Training and coaching together produce a long-term positive change in people’s behavior and skills that will bring great benefits to a company.

Great Employees Make Great Property Management Companies

When you create a working environment with a basis of self-guided development, what you’re really doing is creating employees who can train themselves, lead themselves, train and lead other employees, and make a significant contribution to the success of your property management company whether someone is directly watching over them or not.



President and Owner, Ellis Partners in Mystery Shopping

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Joanna Ellis is CEO and Owner of Ellis Partners in Management Solutions (EPMS) and Co-owner of Renter’s Voice. Under her direction, Ellis has established itself as the premier apartment mystery shopping company in the nation, as well as a respected provider of multi-touch point resident surveys, as part of their retention-focused customer experience program. Current clients include most major apartment developers, management companies, and REITs. Through Renter’s Voice, Ellis helps clients promote and respond to authentic and objective apartment reviews. Having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Texas A&M, Ms. Ellis has spent more than 25 years in the multifamily industry, and she now holds both the Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) and Certified Apartment Property Supervisor (CAPS). She is also a licensed Texas Real Estate Agent. In honor of EPMS’ reputation for integrity, the Dallas Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals awarded Joanna, on behalf of the company, the 2008 Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award for mid-size companies.

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