Remember the game we used to play as children? There was always one less chair for the amount of players, and the objective was to make sure you were seated once the music stopped? This left one player without a chair, and they were out of the game!
Community manager musical chairs is nothing like that game, and it is not fun. In manager musical chairs, the manager ends up with a chair that several managers before them abandoned in rapid succession due to a common denominator. Sometimes the common denominator is the board, the residents, the vendors (read: nepotism), or a combo platter of all three.
I once worked at a community that had eight managers in the previous seven years, and I accepted a temporary position through my company, CAMTemps, to assist while they found “the right fit”. Naturally, I was curious about why the other managers had such short stints? I was the ninth manager in seven years! It quickly became clear that the community was difficult to manage. One of the problems was that the board was not cohesive, and often went off to work on their own agenda(s). In addition, the staff was divided by class and job description (administrative versus maintenance/janitorial) and there was frequent, open dissention that spilled outside of the management office to the general community population. The residents were up-to-date on the internal problems with the board and the staff!
Aye, yai, yai! The question was; should I also bolt for the door, or could I help? I was asked to stay, permanently, and I accepted the challenge. The first step was to fix the internal management problems. There was to be no more “class divide” of staff members. If anyone was on the bottom, it was me. Slowly, the staff began to trust me, the crying (yes, crying) greatly diminished, and the disagreements were kept “in-house.”
The board began to see the changes, and also began to trust me to help them with some major projects that had been long overdue. As a team, (the board, the staff and the new contractors) we completed twelve major projects in the first year! It was a great experience. I did eventually leave to run my own business, but I believe I left the community better than I found it, which is all one can expect. I still have great relationships with the staff and board members today.
Managers: If you are asked to serve in a community that has had the manager musical chairs, don’t dismiss the opportunity to serve. You may be exactly what they’ve been missing!
Endeavor to persevere.
Tanoa Lynne Poirier is the Managing Principal at Poirier Enterprises Inc., specializing in the management of community associations, commercial and investment properties, and individual residences in South Florida.
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