My philosophy is: if you want to lead; learn to follow. You must understand that just because you have the title of manager, you are not a leader. The only way you can lead is if your team will follow, the only way they will follow is if they trust you. The only way they will trust you is when you prove yourself to be trustworthy. Protect your team. Praise them often. Discipline whenever necessary. Apply the rules evenly. Be compassionate, understanding, available and generous. People have complicated personal situations. Each member of your team requires something different. Some will respond to more money; another to verbal praise; perhaps an extra hour or two off from work. Everyone responds to recognition, validation and respect. Be a leader they can respect by earning their respect.
Will you empty the trash, clean a toilet, sweep the floor or clean up after a meeting, or will you wait and call one of your maintenance staff to do it? If you are willing to perform the janitorial task, will you complain later, or point it out to someone who “should have taken care of it”. This is an important question, and one should consider the answer carefully. I am not suggesting that you perform these tasks routinely, but are you willing to do them, if necessary? I submit that we, as managers, should not ask anyone to do what we are unwilling to do, or have not done in the past. Do not put yourself above your staff. Without your team, you will fail. The failure will reflect on you and/or your management company’s reputation.
Please make sure your support staff is encouraged by regularly highlighting their accomplishments. I often tell them that they are vastly more important than I am because if I don’t show up for work it will take a while for anyone to notice, but if they don’t show up, everyone knows immediately! A simple “thank you” acknowledging their contribution will be appreciated. It’s important that they hear from you when they do their job well; not just when they make a mistake. This approach is even-handed, and may be perceived as fair treatment on occasions you have to discipline an employee. During staff meetings, rotate the meeting responsibilities and let every member of the team lead the meeting, so they don’t have to hear your point of view all the time (read: shut up sometimes). You may find a budding manager among your group!
One more thing… don’t judge your staff by their current jobs. We all have dreams. Often I have found that when I have taken the time to get to know our staff members who have immigrated from other countries, they are extremely well educated, capable and experienced. They are serving in a support role, when they should be in a leadership role. Because no one has ever asked, they have not communicated their heart’s desire. They’re pigeon-holed, diminished and disregarded. They are treasures hiding in plain sight! Be generous, open, kind, fair and even-handed, if you are, your staff will follow you anywhere. Now go lead!
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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