Check out this NAA discussion on leadership skills in property management.
The best managers have great leadership skills. Some seem to take to the role naturally while others take more time to learn the tricks of the trade. It doesn’t matter where you start, though: it’s how hard you’re willing to work to support your people that counts. As we say in tip #6, leadership requires you to be intentional about how you build trust — the key to retaining talent. These tips are meant to help you build a team that complements your strengths, makes up for your weaknesses and enjoys each other’s company.
We’ll cover things you can do as a professional (and even add a personal touch).
1. Be a servant leader
A servant leader seeks authority for the sake of bettering the team. They do not seek power. Once you understand that power and authority is implied with a leadership position, you can become a servant leader by empowering your team, fostering their independence, helping them become leaders themselves and listening to what everyone has to say.
While this is a great leadership skill, it doesn’t work in every situation. When it comes to disciplinary action, for instance, you need to be the decider. You’re not going to see this in hierarchical structures like the military either. But that begs the question: do you want to be a micromanager in the style of a military leader, or do you want to be a kind, motivating team leader? We have a good guess as to which style will build trust and retain talent.
2. Show empathy
If someone seems “off” or is just having a rough time, give them the benefit of the doubt. This person who was a standout team member is still that person, they’re just going through something that requires a little understanding. Empathy means putting yourself in their shoes. It’s not a leadership skill that requires anything more than patience, listening and emotional understanding.
3. Recognize & prioritize mental health
Think of this one as “demonstrate empathy, part two.” We live in a stressful time (e.g., social and cultural shifts, political turmoil, the pandemic). One study showed the pandemic caused a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide. It’s important for employers to work with their teams to show empathy and prioritize mental health. A little bit goes a long way.
- Watch for signs of burnout: Exhaustion, frustration, lower quality of work, forgetfulness and other changes in attitude/performance don’t necessarily mean you have a “lazy employee.” These are signs of burnout. Show empathy and talk to them, making it clear in your words and approach that you’re on their side.
- Be available on a personal level: Property managers (all managers, for that matter) are in the people business. While it’s easy to ask people to “leave your problems at the door,” this isn’t possible to do all the time. When something personal is affecting someone at work, try to be there as more than just a boss. Maybe there’s something small you can do: offer a ride if there’s car trouble, let them off early, adjust their work hours for a little while, etc.
4. Lead by example
Leading by example is the most basic fundamental of being a leader. That means you care about doing the right thing, even the little things, even when it’s hard. Don’t expect someone on your staff to go out of their way for residents, you or their own teammates if they don’t see you putting in the same effort. When you show up to work, how you show up, your attitude, dress, demeanor, habits, interactions with residents and third parties — all of it gets noticed by your team.
5. Be prepared & intentional
This is a great follow-up to leading by example: being prepared is the key to working with intention. And when you’re intentional, you’re more likely to be successful. Whether it’s an early Monday morning team meeting or a property inspection with a resident, preparation matters.
Always take a beat to think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Leave yourself time to mentally prepare for a discussion, task or meeting before jumping into it. It’s when we’re busy that we tend to make little mistakes, cut corners or stress over being unprepared. Your team will notice this in you, and it’s not something you want them to reflect in their work, much less your own.
6. Reach out to create moments of connection
Some people will reach out when they need help or to simply build stronger bonds. Others are less likely to approach others first. As the team leader, it’s up to you to be able and willing to create connections. Even if it’s not in your comfort zone, the more you practice, the more natural it will feel. With more people on virtual calls and fewer in-office or in-person connections being made, this one is especially important.
7. Concern yourself with the needs of the one
It would be so nice if one universal policy could cover everyone’s needs. And yes, we need one policy to apply to everyone when issues of fairness, equality and the law are concerned. For instance, you probably shouldn’t (or can’t) give individuals a regularly scheduled extra-long lunch break in the name of mental health.
But in many cases, the needs of the one matter just as much as the needs of the many. Addressing an individual’s preferences and personal style of communication may take a little more flexibility on your part. A simple example: some people want to meet in-person for important meetings, whereas others prefer the remote environment. Is it possible for you to be flexible? If the answer is yes, try it. A great leader needs to have the emotional intelligence and bandwidth to manage many different personalities.
But what happens when you can’t do something that you wish you could? Try being open about that with the person. Be open about why you can’t accommodate them in this specific instance, then try to find a compromise. While not every preference can be catered to all the time, there are certainly ways to make every person feel valued. That means personalizing your managerial style to set everyone up for success.
8. Don’t dismiss emotional reactions
Emotional reactions are nothing to shy away from or dismiss. When you embrace this as true, you can lead people through thick and thin with confidence and positivity. Get to know your team. Predict how they’re likely to react to a piece of news, good or bad, before delivering it. Use that knowledge to guide your communication with them. On the other hand, if you take the stance that “this is work and there is no room for emotions,” you just might find yourself with a morale problem and high employee turnover.
By the way, it’s okay for someone to take some time to process unwelcome news. Be patient and understanding of each person’s process: some people internalize, and others make it very clear what they’re feeling. To get past any issue you’re having, work with the emotions, not against them.
9. Invoke a “24-hour rule” to address conflict
Conflict happens. Unless it’s an emergency, giving all parties involved time to process can be a good thing. This is where the 24-hour rule comes into play. By waiting a full day before addressing conflict, everyone has a chance to calm down, step away from the situation and better establish common ground. While it might be irritating to have the problem hanging over your heads for a day, it’s good to reflect before attempting to resolve the problem. After all, cooler heads will prevail.
Remember, when you’re anxious to speak or address something, that’s actually the worst time to do it. Give yourself and others some space to reflect.
10. Treat kindness as a strength
It is so important to be kind to your tenants and employees. You give them a place to live or a paycheck, respectively, but that’s no excuse to be a tyrant. It’s possible to be a straight shooter without being rude. If you can manage that, you can manage any communication issue that comes your way.
11. Don’t get pushed around
We put this one next on the list because it complements “treating kindness as a strength.” It’s important to balance out kindness with assertiveness. Property managers must be fair to their tenants and employees, but they don’t have to cater to every whim. You’ve heard “the customer is always right,” but that’s unfair to you and your employees.
You don’t have infinite time or resources, and you shouldn’t have to give up your dignity just to please a customer. Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand. (But do it kindly.)
12. Be consistent
There are so many leadership styles. Hands-off leaders trust employees to set their own schedules and routines. As long as each team member is reaching the team’s objectives, this leadership type doesn’t get too involved with day-to-day operations. This lets experienced employees feel more independent, but newer employees may feel they don’t have enough direction.
Autocratic leaders demand that things be done a certain way or in a certain order. As you can imagine, this works well in the military or an operating room, but it may not be effective for team morale in other settings.
Very few people have one leadership style, so it’s not like you have to pick one. Some people become more demanding under stress, while others never wear their emotions on their sleeve. You don’t have to be loud or bubbly, nor do you have to give inspiring speeches. And you certainly don’t have to run around giving everyone in the office high fives. Be you—just be the same you, consistently.
Regardless of your personality and leadership style, it’s important for employees to know what to expect from you.
13. Have a sense of humor
Your employees are going to spend more time with you at work than they will with friends and loved ones at home. Imagine spending that much time in a place that’s mostly dead silent and serious. You’d probably have a hard time recruiting the best talent.
People want to enjoy their surroundings. Just because someone is laughing does not mean they are goofing around. If the work is getting done, let the laughter live.
And if you don’t have employees, you still have your tenants to consider. They’re most likely to reach out when there’s a problem, so a touch of lightheartedness might go a long way.
14. Be yourself
This one ties back to number three. Consistency is important, but so is authenticity. If you’re always “acting” at work, eventually your true self will come out. More than likely, it’ll happen in a time of stress.
You don’t have to pretend you’re bubbly when you’re reserved. Or vice versa. Do everyone, yourself included, a favor and just be your most natural self.
15. Be okay with being wrong
As the property manager, you’re going to be looked to for answers. You’re not going to be right every single time, so be humble enough to admit when you’re wrong. People want honesty more than they want perfection.
16. Give credit where it’s due
One of the worst things a property manager can do is take credit for someone else’s idea. If someone comes up with a unique solution to a problem, be sure to recognize them. If the property owner is impressed by someone else’s idea, make sure that employee knows they really shined. People work harder and better when they feel valued.
17. Provide incentives & rewards
If you’re giving people credit for their work, they’re going to feel good. Eventually, however, they’re going to expect a reward. The reward should be based on the employee’s time at your company, as well as their effort and contributions.
If an employee doesn’t feel justly rewarded for their work, verbal praise will just feel hollow.
18. Set realistic goals
It’s one thing to think big. It’s another thing to think so big that you never reach your goals. Let’s say you offer employees a quarterly incentive for getting 90% positive reviews on social media. That’s a challenging goal, but it’s not impossible.
But what if your goal is even bigger: 100% satisfaction? Are you a better leader for setting bigger goals? Not necessarily. If just one tenant leaves a negative review, your incentive is shot for the whole quarter.
At that rate, you’re unlikely to reach your goals, and employees won’t want to work harder for the incentive.
19. Be versatile
If you’ve ever watched a basketball player do a layup, you know that every basket is a little different. It all depends on where the defender is standing, how fast they’re moving, etc. The player has to be versatile each time they do that one simple move.
When you get a maintenance request in Yardi Breeze, the process will always be more or less the same. You and your staff will get the request, call any contractors, schedule the maintenance activity, track the progress, etc. The steps are the same, but it will feel a little different each time. That’s why versatility is important. If the solution you used last time isn’t working, you’ll need to think on your feet.
20. Stay accountable
When something goes wrong, good property managers hold themselves accountable. They don’t blame their staff or the computer. Instead, they look at what they need to do to solve the problem. The solution could be to offer more training. Every good leader is willing to hold themselves to the same standards they hold others.
21. Honor your commitments
Property management is a people business, so follow-through is important in every aspect of the job. Did you tell a new employee that the business would pay for training or certification? Are your residents expecting a new amenity because you said it was in the works? Did you promise your owners that they would see individualized reports at the end of each month? You’re setting the example for your team, so your commitment to those around you should be unwavering. This is how reputations are built and maintained.
22. Don’t procrastinate
Some people consider themselves procrastinators. They say, “I work better under pressure,” and sometimes this is true. After all, pressure can be a motivator, and people tend to work better when they’re motivated. But, procrastination can also come from fear or anxiety. In other words, it’s about putting off unpleasant things to avoid having to do them.
Whether it’s a difficult conversation you’re not looking forward to or an expensive maintenance task that’s going to hurt your bottom line, procrastinating won’t change the end result. Great property managers align their goals with their top priorities, tackling difficult problems when they come up, not when it’s the 11th hour.
23. Be a forward thinker
Great property managers keep up to date with the latest trends and tech in property management. If you look back at the state of PropTech over the last decade, it’s shocking how much has changed. In 2011, a mere 35% of American adults owned a smartphone. In 2021, that figure increased to 85%.
Property managers who saw the importance of this technology 10 years ago are probably in a better position to take advantage of it today.
This forward-thinking approach applies to the use of property management software as well. Great property managers need to think about what their software does for them today as well as how it can help them in the future.
24. Get your paperwork in order
Payment records, inspections, eviction notices, lease documents, credit reports … what’s a property manager to do with all this paperwork? In the old days (which weren’t that long ago), you’d need a well-managed paper filing system. Luckily, property management software now keeps all these records safe in the cloud. They’re easy to access and impossible to misplace or lose to fire, floods, etc. Breeze even helps ensure that pesky 1099 forms are easier than ever to file.
Reducing paperwork helps your business go green, save money and of course, stay organized. Which brings us to our next point.
25. Be organized
Proper organization goes beyond keeping your paperwork in order. What about your daily routine? Breeze Premier’s CRM queue is the ideal way to organize your daily workflow without having to sort through a mess of maintenance requests, appointments, payment notices, etc.
And online portals don’t just simplify life for tenants and owners. They connect people straight to your office in a single secure, professional system. That includes all email and text communication, rent payments, maintenance requests, financials, owner reports, etc.
26. Manage your time
Great property managers have a daily routine. For instance, you might be the kind of person who likes to ease into the day. That’s a great time to drink your coffee and catch up on email. If you find that you can’t get to all your emails in a single day, it might be time to delegate that task or bring on someone new to the team.
Cloud-based property management software can help here as well. Yardi Breeze and Yardi Breeze Premier offer built-in calendars your team can access from anywhere. They let you add recurring maintenance tasks, color-coded activities for easy identification, important reminders and more.
Pro tip: Break up your day into half-hour or hour-long blocks so you never spend too much time on one activity.
Bonus pro tip: Breaks, including lunch, are absolutely part of a smart daily routine. Don’t forget to eat!
27. Join industry associations & attend industry events
Just like all great leaders, property managers aren’t born. They’re trained. Property management associations help you stay up to date with the latest software, trends and training tools to help you succeed.
With that in mind, be sure to check out the national and regional events Breeze is attending throughout the year. We’ll keep adding new ones as they come up.