Elizabeth Francisco (EF): Welcome to PropTalk, a podcast powered by ResMan, that focuses on the property management ecosystem. I’m Elizabeth Francisco, the President here at ResMan.
Amanda Mabrey (AM): And I am Amanda Mabrey, the Director of People and Culture.
EF: We are so happy to be recording our first episode of this podcast series. You can expect a variety of experts from the Multifamily and Affordable Housing industries, each discussing key insights into how property managers can maximize their efficiency and increase their NOI.
So, Amanda, I can’t think of anyone better to have here on the inaugural podcast for ResMan’s PropTalk other than my right hand, who’s had God knows how many varieties of positions inside the company. But I can’t think of anyone better to do this with. Thank you for participating. I’m so happy you are here and do what you do every day, but I’m really happy you’re here with me for the first one, also.
AM: Thank you. I’m very happy to be here.
EF: One of the most challenging and most important aspects of growing a business is managing employees and keeping them engaged. And I know that, given how long you’ve been here at ResMan from the very early days, you know first-hand how important that is, regardless of the industry.
Employees champion our business and ultimately determine our success or failures along the way. The work they do determines what customers and partners see. So, you need to prioritize your employees for the total value they bring to the company. You know, employees leading an organization might be able to be replaced physically, but their skillset and their knowledge can’t be. This is why we decided to launch our PropTalk podcast with a discussion about your most valuable asset in any company, which is your team.
You know, 2020 lead to so many challenges and changes for businesses all over the country, but it was more than just changes to the way we work. We asked our employees to change with the changing times. Many companies had to maintain operations during the start of the pandemic while possibly having to reduce staff or implement payroll cuts. Or maybe, like our property management customers, your employees were essential workers, forcing you to think about their safety and maintaining the quality of the community for the renters, all at the same time. And renters who, by the way, were now in their homes 24/7.
There was so much change to our work environments, on top of the ones to our personal lives. I think most of the people in charge of these businesses and the ones I know and talk to, if you will, I think the industry did a hell of a job putting the focus back on their employees, working to support them through trying times that I never faced when I was in the industry.
And while we’ve made so much progress and we’re all ready to move into business-as-usual, I’m afraid the trying times are not quite over, though. Now that we’re well into 2021, we’re still in the midst of change. As leaders, our teams count on us to lead them through this next chapter, whatever that may be. I’m sure we’re not the only ones discussing what getting back to business-as-usual means today, or what adaptions due to the pandemic should be adopted for the longer term. Not to mention, there’s a growing pressure from investors to make up for any lost revenues incurred last year, in the last 12 months. As we move forward, we must make sure that we put our teams in the best positions to succeed.
Amanda, I know your thoughts on this because I bounce my sanity off you on a regular basis. You know that the buck stops with us as leaders in the organization. And I would just like to hear your perspective of the things I’ve just said about the importance that leaders play in leading the way and what our role is in this.
AM: Absolutely. Thank you. Our job as leaders is to facilitate the ability of our employees to have their needs met. One way we can look at it is based on Maslow’s hierarchy. So Paycom adapted Maslow’s hierarchy –think back to psychology 101, right? The pyramid, having your needs met. And before you can move up in the pyramid, that need needs to be met. So Paycom adapted this to the hierarchy of employee needs, right? Basic needs, stability and transparency, along a recognition and finally self-actualization. It’s our responsibility to meet these needs so that our team members can fully feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
EF: I love that you mentioned the sense of belonging, because I know as we have continued to evolve our thinking in turn inside the company and focusing on diversity equity and inclusion, one of the things we talk about is it’s really about a sense of belonging at the end of the day. So, I’m really glad that you said that and mentioned that.
AM: There are so many ways that you can recognize team members. You can make them feel like they do belong. One-on-ones. We’re going to talk about one-on-ones. Private and public recognition are absolutely huge. The biggest thing is that just as the world around us is evolving and changing, so are the needs of our team members. So, I’m excited to talk about that in depth with you today.
EF: Awesome! Fantastic, and I think, too, as we started this conversation, it’s easy to put something down on paper. It’s easy to research what needs to be done in an organization, but at the end of the day, as I mentioned earlier, the buck stops here. Right? The buck stops with Paul, our CEO, with myself, with the rest of our leadership team. We have to be present, and we have to be actively engaged, because if we’re not and if we don’t lead from the top, right, then those things won’t happen, at least not to the magnitude that they could.
AM: Being in front of the organization is so incredibly important, right? We learned this right away in 2020 when the pandemic hit. Previously to that, our executive team was wonderful about being open with our team members but what we learned is that visibility is so powerful to team members to know that our executive team, the executive team of an organization, is right there in the trenches with every single team member.
EF: You know what’s funny? I literally said today, not figuratively but literally, I said, well I’ve always had an open-door policy in my office. In fact, I never locked it, right? And you know that from yours. So now I have a virtual open policy also. I just told someone this today, never hesitate to reach out to myself, and I know the rest of the executive team is the same way. We will make the time. And you know, I think it’s important at any point in your business life cycle that you make yourself available, but I think the last 12 months really highlighted that. Sometimes we as leaders, we get our heads down and we’re buried and we’re just we’re trying to do what we think is best for the company to help provide opportunities for our employees. Even we can sometimes find ourselves being too narrow and just heads down. I know for myself, coming through the last 12 months, this really helped me make sure that it stayed front of mind. And you know I hope that it will always be that way but it’s important that we remind each other of that along the way.
AM: It’s a challenge. You talked about walking the floor, and now many organizations are still remote and so the idea of walking the floor and meeting with people that they may not have had normal meetings with it has changed drastically. And so, leaders of all organizations have needed to become more creative in how they can reach out and be visible and be present to their employees.
EF: Completely agree. OK, so one of the things that you know we’ve heard repeatedly with Paul Bridgewater joining the organization as our CEO, something I heard before he joined the organization, was that it is super important to have honest conversations within your organization. And I know you, and you study anything that you do to the NTH degree. So, you may already know this, but that’s a management philosophy that is the foundation of a business philosophy in a book called Radical Candor, which basically states that guidance and feedback has to be kind and clear, specific and sincere. So Amanda, that sounds like a simple thing to do. We’ve been living it for two years now, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. So why do you think something that sounds so simple is actually so hard to do?
AM: So, it goes back to the hierarchy, right? Having those basic needs met. Once those basic needs are met, you’re getting paid on time, you know that you’re going to get paid, you know you have a stable job, the stability and transparency, right? That’s part of those honest conversations, but it leads right into feeling like you belong.
Two of my favorite thought leaders in this realm are Kim Scott who’s the author of Radical Candor. She spent the majority of her career working in Silicon Valley, spent time at Google and Apple and now is a CEO coach for some of the biggest Silicon Valley tech companies out there. Alongside her, Patti McCord was previously the chief people officer at Netflix. She authored a book called Powerful and I know you and I both simultaneously, not knowing, read the same books. And so Powerful details her experiences of building out that culture at Phenomenal.
So Patty says the greatest motivation for workers is their ability to contribute to success. The majority of workers want to be successful. Our responsibility as leaders is to guide them on that path toward success, which sometimes includes having difficult or challenging conversations. This is where the idea of honest conversations or, as Kim Scott calls it, radical candor, comes into play. Honest conversations and radical candor are all about our ability to deliver and to receive feedback.
The trick is exemplifying to the listener, whether it’s your boss or your employees, that even though you’re challenging directly, you’re having a direct conversation where the content could be difficult to receive, you still care personally about that person. It’s difficult because we’ve been raised with Thumper wisdom: if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything. It’s in the back of our minds, so if the greatest motivation for our workers is the ability to contribute to success, then we definitely don’t want to do anything that would demotivate them. However, radically candid and honest conversations, if they’re done correctly, can positively impact performance, your relationship, the commitment to the organizational objectives, and their willingness to continue to do what it takes to be successful for the organization.
EF: I completely agree with everything that you just said. And I think what I’ve personally experienced and what I’ve seen as I’ve navigated my career and when we talk about why is it such a difficult thing to do, I think the stage in your career that you’re at also can play a role in that. And it’s funny, I’m sitting here thinking about what you were talking about, coming up through the ranks in property management and then seeing it here, in ResMan, as well. And I think depending on the staffing, maybe at a property or within your company, and when workloads are tough and there’s pressures to meet goals, you can find yourself, especially if you’re a younger first-time manager, sometimes you can be too cautious and too withdrawn from having the tough conversations because you’re afraid of losing the worker.
AM: You’re not only afraid of losing the worker but prior to that, we all want to be friends, right? We all want to go to happy hour…
EF: Absolutely not me!
AM: We all want to have that relationship where we spend how many hours a week with each other. And to have someone who you think may not like you can be difficult, especially as a first-time manager. So, you know, practice makes perfect in these situations. And I highly recommend finding someone on the leadership team to practice the conversation before you have it. That can be incredibly powerful once you are able to deliver that conversation.
EF: Yeah. I was in a conference with one of our favorite customers Allied Orion earlier this week and one of the questions during my session was talking about work life balance and just doing some deeper diving in investigating and looking at some other resources. One of the things that happens when we’re afraid to have the tough conversations is that we actually handicap the employee and we handicap ourselves, because the work still needs to be done. And a lot of times what I’ve seen is when somebody is not doing what’s expected, you’re not on the same page, both of you may be working really hard, but you’re not actually getting what needs to be done the right way, so you’ll have someone maybe try to step up and try to pick up that slack, which in turn is making it hard for them to get their deliverables done. I was thinking about this, just over the years, and I think you’re afraid to have the tough conversation because you don’t want the employee not only not to like you, but you don’t them to leave.
One of the things I’ve seen my whole 30 years in management is that sometimes by holding back, not only are you impacting yourself, not only are you impacting that employee, you’re actually hindering the rest of the team. And the rest of the team sees that. So, if you’re not addressing the tough conversations, if someone’s not performing to expectations and there are things that are falling through the cracks, or there’s a certain amount of that workload that shifts on to the backs of their other employees, well, the rest of that team is counting on you to look after the best interest of the company. But if you’re truly dedicated to someone’s success, you’re not doing anyone in that scenario I just described any favors.
It was hard for me—I continue to work on it, I hope I’ve gotten better over the years, but learning to have the honest conversation where someone walks away from the tough conversation truly believing that you’re dedicated to their success before your own. I think sometimes we can approach situations in leadership, or we’re talking about this goal, that goal, that goal, and ultimately responsible for stepping into that role and phrasing it where it comes across it’s all about you and what your responsibilities are to the company. And for me, I’ve just seen that that doesn’t work.
When you take yourself out of it, take your immediate goals out of it, if you are truly dedicated to those employees, you have those tough conversations and you’re helping them identify areas for improvement. When they feel that sense of “this person is really looking out for me, they want me to do my best that I possibly can, the business in turn will accomplish its goals.
AM: Yeah, and just like you mentioned, being kind and clear and specific and sincere, along with the why, right? If every worker is wanting to contribute to success, if that is their greatest motivation, then they need to know the why just as they need to know the why for the good things that are happening, right? They need to know the why behind the challenging conversations.
And so when you’re thinking about having a difficult conversation, first know that their intentions are most likely very, very positive and good. Very rarely are there saboteurs in our business, right? The second thing is understanding the why and then the third is the delivery … being kind, clear, specific, and sincere is all what radical candor and honest conversations are about.
EF: You know. In leadership one of the things I also find, and I remind our team and myself, that our titles have weight, alright? And the point about an honest conversation is not just the conversation I’m having with you as a supervisor. It’s also helping the team have honest conversations with you back, so that if there are challenges that need to be tackled, if there is, let’s say, something you know could impact the business, I tend to see and I will tell you. I’ve seen this at ResMan. I’ve seen this in property management. People are afraid to speak up or to say what needs to be said … their fear of looking bad, their fear of letting down the company. Maybe they’re not sure how it’s going to be received or maybe it’ll be discredited, so they hold on to it and whatever that problem is—not all problems—but sometimes those challenges or issues start to become a much bigger issue that can impact customers, that can impact other internal customers within your team.
So, what would you advise me for the leaders to help their frontline teams understand, and how can we communicate better so that they feel comfortable and confident to come to us and have the honest conversation? I mean, it’s hard to tell the president of the company “Oh, by the way … I don’t know how you’re gonna take this…”
AM: In Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, she discusses this. The leader’s responsibility is not only to be there to guide and to have those conversations, but you also need to be open and willing to be on the receiving end. So, what she recommends is in your one-on-ones, in your meetings, ask your team members, ask your individual contributors how you’re doing and be receptive to the feedback that they have. That’s a really important step that many leaders are fearful to take. They don’t want to look bad. It’s the same reasons they’re fearful of giving that kind of advice or feedback. It’s the same thing. So I think that’s a really important aspect of having that two-way conversation. That’s really what creates a truly honest environment and a truly candid—radically candid—environment.
EF: Well, I don’t know if I will ever master it but I can definitely assure you that I must have gotten somewhere with you because you tell me exactly what you think.
AM: It’s true. It’s hard. I report to our CEO and yesterday I had to provide feedback that was not warranted—he didn’t ask for it—but you know, starting off the conversation in an open and engaging way like ‘what was your reasoning behind this?’ Asking those open-ended questions and not coming at it in an accusatory way is really important and it lends itself to actual conversation. That’s how you drive towards a solution.
EF: I completely agree. Awesome, thank you for your insight there. The last thing I would add to that is that publicly we have to admit we are human, too. I think that opens the door for conversation. We’re not going to have every answer. In fact, what I would tell you, over time, is there’s a lot of direction we can provide, and we do have a different level of insight and a bigger picture view. Sometimes we have a better understanding of where we need to go, but the people that are doing the job actually have the information we really need to know, to make sure that we ultimately achieve those goals. Opening that door and being vulnerable, like you mentioned, is a critical part of that.
Well, Amanda, thank you for the insight on the importance of honest conversations. If I think about how to combine that topic and thinking about what we started—and you were so eloquent about—being the needs of the employees and that sense of belonging, you know we’ve talked about even our diversity and inclusivity goals, that we’re trying to work on as a company, one of the things we frequently say is we want to level the playing field. We want everyone to have the same opportunity within the company. And one of the things that we talk about in our employee engagement committee is that the level of the playing field, one of the first—and probably most significant—things you can do is be very clear and transparent and set goals, measurable goals, that are the same across the board, so that it’s very transparent on both sides.
With Paul joining the organization, one of the first things he did was set out to tackle, let’s refocus in, let’s understand and make sure that we have this not just verbally, but well-documented—as we all know, we think we’re on the same page verbally and oftentimes we’re not—how do we set those goals? But more importantly, how do we track those goals? And if there’s a challenge or maybe we’re not hitting those goals, how do we deal with that as an organization? I think you have some great insight on that.
AM: When Paul joined the organization and engaged us in coming up with this VSGM, which is Vision, Strategy, Goals and Measures, I was still pretty young in my HR career. But something just clicked, and it makes so much sense. You start at the top. What is your organization’s vision or their mission? What is the thing that you’re striving for?
A strategy … how are you going to get there? What are you going to invest in? What products are you going to build? What assets are you going to purchase if you’re onsite or working in the property management industry?
The goals. These are short term, or they can be long term goals. They have to be measurable. They have to make sense. They have to be attainable, right? That’s the idea of the smart goal.
And then the measure is the way that you’re going to get there. So, we as an organization have had this VSGM for the past couple of years and every year we tweak it just slightly to make it make sense for where we are in the times.
And then from there, it’s the leaders’ and the individual contributor’s responsibilities to work together so that every single employee or team member or associate knows what they need to be doing on a daily basis to achieve their goals that ultimately tie into the larger goals of the organization.
EF: Yeah, and I think one of the things that was eye opening for me in this exercise, I’ve never been exposed to this practice in my previous career before starting Resman or being part of this team, and I thought one of the things that was interesting is there’s truth in you can have a company goal but if everybody’s not on that same page… And it was interesting through this exercise that we did, we had conversations and where we had some employees struggling in the organization is because their idea of what was expected to them or and how it aligned with their perception of where the company needed to prioritize or what they thought the company was prioritizing – they don’t always align, you know?
So that’s been a very enlightening part of this exercise and in our in our situation, we go in and we set it first for the company because that has to be the strategic road map of where we’re going with the business. When we as leaders have that that big picture, long term view of where we need to go so that we can do the things we want to for the company and for our customers and for our teams.
But now I’m taking it down and sharing those goals and being very transparent with all of our teams. And then sitting down with each person and sharing it with them. And I just I loved this part of the exercise, when I was helping with our support and customer success organization, is let’s go through now for each individual employee and here’s the goals of the company. Then as a department head, here’s the goals of our department that support that ultimate goal. And then having each employee sit down and have their first attempt at what am I going to do to support those goals? Where can I individually contribute?
I can tell you, I’ll give some shoutouts to Cal, Caroline, other people that I engaged with personally back in 2019. It was really exciting to see them communicate and think through it and come together. Their sense of belonging and their value in the company, I think for a lot of people, became more visible to themselves.
AM: As you think about the hierarchy of employee needs, that’s part of stability and transparency. The wonderful thing that Paul and our leadership group has done prior to the pandemic—and this is very relevant to our PMCs that we serve—they’re dispersed. They’re not all in one central location. So it can be difficult to translate and feel like you’re attached to the larger company objectives.
One thing that I appreciate about our leadership is that they do a wonderful job of bringing everyone together, taking the time and walking through the goals. And not only walking through the goals but doing check-ins throughout the year to ensure that we’re still on track. From there it’s down to the middle managers, the supervisors and line leaders to again be able to translate and coordinate everything that the team members are doing, back up to the company objectives. And it gives them that sense of ownership.
The other thing, too, is you cannot have 15 goals as an individual contributor. You absolutely cannot. Just like a company should not have more than four to five goals that they’re really focused on in a year, you should not expect your individual team members to focus in on 15 goals. They have to be simple and focused…a term that Paul uses—simplify and focus is our friend—it’s incredible to see they need to meet these ten metrics. Well, it’s impossible to stay focused and to do all of them well, so I recommend four to five goals. How do they relate to the larger goals? And then having those consistent check-ins to ensure that you are on track. You shouldn’t wait until the performance review at the end of the year to tell a team member that they are doing poorly in an area.
EF: Yes, and that goes back what we were talking about earlier about. If you are truly dedicated to someone success, you wouldn’t want to do that. You should see the path and how that can be very disruptive. And I’m glad you brought that up because you reminded me, years ago we had an employee in maintenance and the property management side. He worked really hard but there were some challenges with a certain area of his skill set and his attention to detail. A lot of times in property management, the position below the one you’re promoted into doesn’t always have the same skill set, so we end up promoting them into a new position, and a lot of management teams don’t have the internal support or means or resources to properly invest in that education, especially from the people management side. So, I remember getting to work with this one particular gentleman and the main supervisor is like I’ve told you, we’ve had so many conversations about this—in passing, you know, in golf carts passing or whatever—I just don’t understand why we can’t get there? And this was a lesson learned. I did exactly what you said not to do. We waited ‘til the end of the year and—at the time, that was the way we did our annual reviews, and it was so interesting to see how the employees scored themselves versus the manager and the maintenance supervisor—the employee was just shocked because of the way that it was presented to him. His perception of his performance was he was doing all the right things. He wasn’t resentful, it was just a moment where we were able to come together and realize Look, we’re not on the same page.
And so, I think you’re right. You can’t wait till the end of the year. You’ve got to have those constant check-ins. Take that a step further. In the first 90 days (we’re talking about those 90-day probation periods; I don’t know that I’ve ever really liked that term), but I think when people come in in the beginning of a new employment, they have a mentality of I need to understand what’s expected of me. So, they’re very open to hearing any sort of criticism. And it is perceived as constructive criticism because I’m joining your organization. I want to meet your expectations. When you don’t have those regular check-ins, especially in the beginning, and you’re not helping set expectations of that role—and maybe if it’s not the right role you need to come to that understanding for both of your sake.
But let’s say that it does have that potential and you wait and you don’t have those meetings and you don’t have those check-ins. And then six, nine months later, you’re coming back around, and you’re frustrated because the employee’s not meeting the expectations, they’re not hitting the performance goals they were supposed to. But in the employee’s mind, when you bring it around and you bring up this topic, they’re like wait a minute I’ve been here for nine months, I’ve been doing this since the first month I got here. So now it’s personal and they can’t hear you at that point. Now they’re questioning, they’re doubtful. They don’t understand your motives because it was fine up to this point.
And with your role, mentoring and counseling our leaders, our new managers and their employees, have you seen some of that and what would your recommendations be?
AM: It happens more often than not, unfortunately. And I personally have taken a larger role in the onboarding process of our new hires. I know personally, for me, I’ve taken it upon myself to meet with our new hires a month after they join. I’m asking them how are they doing, is the job or the position that they’re filling is it what they expected? Because there’s a couple of reasons that team members fail, right? Obviously one of the biggest ones is they are not being managed well, there is a disconnect between what they should be doing and what they are doing.
Another reason is that the position may not be the right fit and that’s OK. Part of being able to have these conversations and doing it on a frequent basis—whether you have weekly one-on-ones or just monthly one-on-ones—is being able to identify the fit for the position. It can be hard to have a conversation with someone to say I don’t know that this is going to be the right role for you, but we as an organization we’re going to assist you for a period of time, or we need to have a conversation about how we can exit you from the organization very amicably. And that is OK.
But it’s not something that is actually very common. It just festers and that can create all the problems that we discussed previously, where the manager is taking on the bulk of the work because their team member can’t perform, or they’re having to correct the work, or the surrounding team is having to pick up the slack. And those are all things that you can avoid by just meeting regularly having the conversations and asking those exploratory questions.
EF: Wait, you mean honest conversations? (laughs)
AM: Honest conversations.
EF: I couldn’t resist! Yes, that’s what we’re talking about. You’re exactly right. It’s funny, the hard side of management is people management. As you’re coming up and you aspire to be those things in your career and whether you initially want to do it because it is an income increase— that was all important, we’ve got to feed our families, we got to take care of our families—or it’s just some personal, professional career goals, but that’s the hardest part about this.
And the other part I would say on that is when you’re in a new role and you’re coming up within the company, as leaders we always need to be present, we need to be challenging ourselves. The weight is on us. Ultimately the responsibility is on us. BUT, I would also say we are human. Some of the times when I’ve been brought into conversations, you know, it’s OK to reach up, too, and maybe I’m not feeling it. You are exactly right. It is not easy to have that honest conversation about maybe this isn’t the right fit. But if you set the tone, that look let’s figure this out together—and fortunately I did this once in my career. It was interesting, the employee that I was talking with was really on the way out the door and we just had this come-to-Jesus meeting, if you will. And it’s like OK let’s talk about this. I don’t know if this is the right role for you but are you really giving it everything you got, let’s take this together. Let’s give the next 90 days … here’s the expectations: You give me everything you’ve got and if at the end of the 90 days we’re both on the same page and you see a career here and I’ve been able to see the performance, that’s fantastic. But along the way, if you decide this isn’t what you want to do–because I know that you’re struggling; when I have to counsel you, I see how it deflates you. I know that you’re not in your natural fit. But then I’m going to honor my commitment that says hey I’m going to help you, whether it’s I’m going to call and try to help you with some references, I’m going to see who I can reach out to. If you show me you can do the work and this is just not the right fit, then I feel comfortable putting my name behind you.
And it’s amazing because there’s employees in my property management past, and employees within ResMan, and some of them I am very close to this day, but it’s not easy. Again, it goes back to the honest conversations. Sometimes people — we talked about this before — avoid the honest conversations, sometimes even deep down inside it’s almost more selfish, because I don’t like the way it makes me feel when I have to do it and that that’s something you certainly have to push through. Because at the end of the day, this is a business. And that’s part of that tough conversation. I can adore you as a person and think you’re fantastic, but if you can’t do what’s really needed to help move the company forward, I’m obligated to the company. I’m obligated to everyone else here. I’m obligated, as the leaders of the company, we are obligated to our customers, the business, our fellow employees. It’s not personal. I want to be here to support you personally, but I have to put the business first.
And I think specifically with ResMan, starting where we started and how much weight we had to carry in the early days, that’s definitely been one heck of a journey. But it’s important and I think if I didn’t know that in property management, I definitely learned that in the early days of ResMan because everything was so critical, and we were wearing so many hats. We just we really couldn’t afford to have people on the team—we can’t today either–have people on the team that are not pulling their own weight, that are not “oaring” in the right direction with us, as I think we said once in a company stand-up.
AM: Also, you know, it goes back to the idea of radical candor, right? You mentioned it just now: care personally. Having your individual contributors know that this is an uncomfortable conversation for me to having to deliver this news or to deliver this feedback. I think if they can sense that and they know that you have their best intentions in mind and that they understand that it’s for their own good, that goes a very, very long way.
EF: Yeah, I would agree, I would agree. I guess that’s the hard part the people management is that there is no—well, there’s a lot of books but I don’t know if there’s any guaranteed playbook though. There’s a lot of things you can do—but there’s no guaranteed playbook, that’s for sure. So you know, circling it back around when we were talking about the VSGM, as we call it internally, you know, we understand our strategy, we’ve set our goals, we understand what we can do, we have worked with our team members to make it clear and transparent what each person can do and what’s expected of them and how we’re going to measure it.
EF: But I think another aspect that we didn’t talk about that I want to circle back to is what happens when they do hit all of those goals and we are moving the company forward in the right direction and, as I jokingly said a second ago, everybody is “oaring” in the right direction and we’re making progress. I think how we acknowledge and recognize our team members is so important and I know you’re a huge champion of this. You have come up with many creative ideas over the years and have pictures for some of them, I’m pretty sure, based on what you’ve shared with me recently. And anybody who is at ResMan who knows what the ResMan orange tie is will know exactly what that’s in reference to.
AM: We’ve come a long way. So it’s exciting to talk about recognition because we just talked about some tough conversations, right, those honest tough conversation. But a good, positive, exciting honest conversation is when they’re doing an awesome job. At Resman, one of the things that I love is our commitment to those shout-outs. And getting it from peers is awesome, getting it from your leader or your supervisor is just incredible. The feeling that you get is just indescribable when you get a shout out, especially when it’s in front of other people, especially when it’s in front of the entire organization, which is something that we do at Resman.
But it’s also something that we don’t do enough of, right? We don’t do enough recognition. I think it’s very important that our team members know just as when they’re not doing well, they need to know when they are doing well. Not only because it is good for their self-esteem and feeling like they belong and then getting to that point of self-actualization in their role, but it also can lend itself to training opportunities for others on their team and it helps with growth in their own career. If they’re doing something well, they get a shout out and then their leader says hey why don’t you train the other people in your group to do what you did and share with them how you did this? And that’s even better than getting a shout-out.
EF: Yes, I completely agree. I love our shout-outs, too. I wish we were back in person to do them which, hopefully we will be again soon. But I love that, how creative we’ve gotten with utilizing our virtual platform that we do our stand-ups on. And one of the things I’ve noticed is how engaged people are with the clapping.
EF: Because you don’t want to take yourself off mute to clap, but these little virtual clapping things that they are now doing, oh my gosh, we’re wearing those out. I love it.
AM: The virtual clap and the chat feature within a Teams meeting or even Slack or Zoom is awesome. I know you know when we used to be in person, I loved the applause and the shouting. You know when we first started doing these virtual meetings, with our weekly stand-ups—we call it ResMunch, which is a once-a-month company lunch—and it was hard for me because I didn’t feel that connection, the connection and the liveliness of the group. It was there all along and so I’m glad that there are ways now that you can really feel the love and I don’t ever want it to stop. I want to continue giving our team member shout-outs.
The other thing, too, is that you don’t have to invest a lot of money into recognition and awards and things like that. There are so many organizations out there that that’s their priority, to sell recognition platforms and creating social platforms for the business. And while those are wonderful—and we utilize Awardco, which is a wonderful platform—the easiest thing to do is just ask for an email, right? Ask for a message. Ask someone to send you a message so you can share those shout-outs. It does not have to be an expensive venture, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. We’ve done things related to our organization where our mascot Roy wore a tie, so we created a tie program. We’ve given out acrylic tiles for promotions and things like that, but I think when it all comes back, people just want to know, and they want to be heard. They want to feel like they belong in an organization. So, words means so, so much, and I think mean even more than a tchotchke or a thing that you can take home at the end of the day.
EF: Yeah, and, again, this goes back to honest conversations. It’s a lot easier to have honest conversations and for an employee to believe you care about their success and you’re dedicated to seeing and for providing them an opportunity to do their best when you acknowledge when they’re doing their best. If there’s one advice, like you said, we can all work on, it’s this. We can, at Resman, I’m sure others can, too, if they really take a step back when you are so buried and there is so much work and especially when you go from a startup scaleup to high growth mode like we’ve been in here, I look up and I swear it’s not just 8 hours … like I don’t know how the sun was up and now it’s down, right? And you don’t even realize that much time has gone by. But you’ve got to look up, whether it’s virtually or in person, and you’ve got to look for what’s being done right. Because I think what happens is, we get too ingrained into what we’re all doing individually and so then the only time that you, unfortunately, maybe see something is because it’s the opposite. Something has come up, something isn’t going right. And if that’s all you ever acknowledged, then you’re going to deflate and demotivate your teams incredibly quickly. Because it’s not fair to them and it’s not warranted. Because there’s, like I said, there’s a book about it—The One-Minute Manager is the one I’m thinking of—that if you take the time every day to look for something being done right, you will see something done right. And I think sometimes we just lose sight of that.
AM: The worker’s greatest motivation is the ability to succeed, right? And it is their success, so let’s empower them. Let’s give them that feedback and encourage their success. And they will continue right on that path.
EF: One of the things that I love that we have done is have a very flexible time-off policy. You’ve been talking about this internally, that we know the last 12 months have been incredibly difficult. Not only do we have our own challenges in the organization in response to the pandemic, but we know our team members faced personal loss, unfortunately, so many of our team members. That was a difficult situation and I think a lot of people wanted to lose themselves in work. I know I did. You only can take so much of it on the news and so you wanted to dive in. And we wanted to encourage people to step away. Maybe they couldn’t go about the country, you know, like Southwest Airlines likes to say, not then, anyway, but they weren’t taking the time off. We were noticing this and, while we appreciated that productivity was off the charts, it was taking, it does take a toll. You have to unplug.
And I know that you know, we have these ongoing—I’m going to say this incorrectly, we have one coming up next Friday, where we’re basically helping our teams unplug by what we call the ResMan holidays or the …
AM: ResMan Recharge.
EF: ResMan Recharge—forgive me for that, but the ResMan Recharge is such a cool idea and people take advantage of it. Otherwise you wouldn’t have seen them schedule off, right? And so, kudos to the leadership team and I know you were helping spearhead that. And we still, to this day, see that for those of you out there considering a flexible time-off policy, when you have the clear entrance, the clear, transparent goals, and they know what they need to achieve so that they can get their recognition and, potentially, merit increases at the end of their year, what we’re seeing is people still want to get the job done. And so even though we have the flexible time-off policy, we don’t see people really taking advantage of it. There’s no abuse of it. It’s really been surprising what we’ve seen, so I would say for those organizations out there that are considering it, you probably have a misconception about what it will actually be. If you have the right team members, which I think we do, you’ll still need to force them to… we have to designate time that is not your standard national holidays to have our wonderful team members unplug occasionally.
AM: And you’re seeing this all across at least the tech industry. And it may be more difficult for our site leaders, the people who work onsite, but being able to have a little bit more flexibility is so important. And I think that’s part of the evolution that we’re a part of right now. We are part of a transformation of the workforce. And so, as we continue to move forward, I believe that people will continue to work longer and harder hours every day, but it needs to be tempered with this ability and the feeling like I am able to take off without what we call Resman FOMO, which is the fear of missing out. And it happens in every organization, so our responsibility as leaders is to continue to normalize taking time off and to continue to promote taking time off by taking time off ourselves, as leaders. And it doesn’t often happen, so as an organization, I think it’s important, yeah, for me … I’m taking my first vacation, my first time away in over a year and I’m nervous about it. It’s going to be very weird to not be in my office at in my home working so …
EF: Well, if it makes you feel better, I will personally keep notes so that you do not have a fear of missing out when you get back. I will personally go over everything that happened.
AM: And that’s a good point: It’s also the leadership’s responsibility to know that their team member is out. So if they can avoid sending a message, if they can avoid sending an email and maybe just have a recap afterwards. I know that it is almost physically impossible to do that, but the less that we contact team members who are out on vacation, the more that they will have a chance to relax. So, I recommend doing that, as well, when your team member’s out, is to try to avoid reaching out to them.
EF: It’s another subject, but one of the things you brought up was thinking about the site level and because, again, being a true partner, and the passion we have for the industry in multifamily and affordable housing in general, is how do we help our frontline teams? And I was thinking about this because I was listening to a seminar yesterday through the National Multi -Housing Council and the guest speaker was talking about how women in the workplace have taken a huge step backwards through the pandemic because they are the caregivers. And where it’s not just nurturing our children, now it’s the caregivers for the family members.
And there’s a lot of concern about what that’s going to look like going forward. I know within our organization, with our flexible policy, we definitely try to lead by example and hopefully our teams know that we want you to take care of your family. We found ways to be very flexible with our teams, but I think I would challenge our base of customers to think about that one day, that somebody doesn’t have to come in, and maybe they can work remotely. That time out of traffic, having breakfast with your kids, having lunch with your kids, having a zoom meeting with Maggie on your lap—who’s my favorite small coworker—I think that that also is an important part of recognition and sense of belonging in a company.
AM: It’s all about care personally. Showing your team members, personally showing your team members hey you can come in late. I understand, you know, take the morning. You’re covered. Those little senses of and nods are about recognition. They’re about that care personally and it gives them that sense of belonging. And it goes all the way back to having their basic needs met, right? I shouldn’t feel guilty or feel like my job is at risk for taking time off. It is there to use. And it just lends itself all the way up to getting to that point of self-actualization.
EF: Awesome. Well, that’s a great thing to end on. Alright guys. Well, thank you for joining us today. And we hope that you will take that step back and think about how you’re working with your teams and how to empower them to be their very best and put their success ahead of yours. And your company will be on an inevitable path to success.
Thanks for listening to the first episode of PropTalk. We hope you enjoyed this episode and that you’ll join us again next time. Be sure to subscribe to PropTalk on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or whatever you use to get your podcasts.
To learn more about ResMan’s property management platform and get more insight into the multifamily ecosystem, visit myresman.com.