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Building Your RPM Bench: Are You Ready to Rumble?

June 2021

Building bench strength on a team requires investing in people and providing them with the skills and knowledge to learn, grow and develop into leaders.

Below are some of the lessons I’ve learned during my nearly 20-year career in residential property management for creating successful teams and helping industry professionals grow in their careers.

Consequences of promoting too soon

There are consequences when we promote people too soon or hire them into roles before they are ready. These include lowered team morale and productivity, high employee and resident turnover, costly mistakes, customer complaints, poor property performance, stress, low self-esteem and HR issues, to name a few.

So, why then do people get promoted too soon? Some might say the answer lies in the Peter Principle, first identified by Dr. Laurence J. Peter in the 1960s. Dr. Peter observed that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence.” Failure occurs when someone performs well in one position, is promoted to the next until they reach a level where they do not have the skills needed in that role.

While building skills is essential, it’s only one of the three components that I think are most important to building your bench. These three components are the Draft, Coaching a Championship Team and Training for Leadership.

The Draft: Recruit and retain an all-star team

The first step in the Draft is knowing what to look for when recruiting. The top five traits most important to me in prospective hires are customer-service focused, career-minded, ambitious, professional and having a thirst for knowledge.

The second step in the Draft is about proper planning and time management. Improper planning, procrastination or hiring too quickly can lead to what I call the “desperate hire.” When this happens, we end up missing or overlooking red flags and hiring someone we wouldn’t have hired if we weren’t feeling desperate.

The third and final step in the Draft is the interview process. Interviewing is a two-way exchange; candidates are interviewing us just as much as we are interviewing them. So, we must take the necessary steps to create a good experience and make them want to work for us. There are lots of great interview techniques online. At the very least, be prepared, ask questions customized to the candidate, be present and practice active listening.

Coaching a championship team

When I think about building championship teams, I look to the experts. Phil Jackson and Pete Carroll are among my favorites.

Phil Jackson is the former head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He won 11 championships with these teams, the most in NBA history. He is the only coach who has won multiple championships with more than one team. In his book, “Eleven Rings – The Soul of Success,” Jackson writes, “The key to building a strong team is being able to overcome multiple egos and have everyone work together for a singular purpose or goal.”

Pete Carroll is the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Carroll has been called a great “players coach” because of his unique methods in getting the most of his team. His coaching philosophy can be summed up as, “If you want to win forever, always compete.” Competing isn’t about winning; it’s about the relentless pursuit of a competitive edge. He believes in challenging his team to do things in extraordinary ways.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to invest in our team members and coach them to develop the skills necessary to succeed, not only in their current roles but also in preparation for future roles.

We should always be on the lookout for these opportunities. I call it the ABC technique: Always Be Coaching. We should be doing this before, during and after promotion.

Training for leadership

I’ve learned that no amount of coaching will ever get someone ready for promotion if they don’t want it for themselves and aren’t willing to do the work to get it.

A property manager is responsible for a valuable business, which entails the day-to-day operations of customer service, leasing, resident retention, resident account management, budget control, reporting and maintenance, to name a few.

All of this requires the collaboration of a team. Whether the team is two people or 10, each team member must carry out these tasks to achieve the overall goals.

To do this effectively, it requires not just a manager, but a leader, and leadership skills need development. These skills should be taught no matter the current role of the team member; the sooner they learn, the more likely they will be ready for promotion when the opportunity arises.

Although there are many essential leadership skills, I think there are four that are most important and lay a foundation: Define your leadership philosophies; personal development; emotional intelligence; and “rumbling.”

Leadership philosophies. In his book, “Win Forever,” Carroll talks about the process of defining his philosophies and putting them together in a clear and organized template. He uses this as a guide for himself and his teams to make sure performance and behavior align with this vision.

When I am interviewing to hire or promote to leadership roles, I always ask, “What are your leadership philosophies?” The response reveals a lot about them and how they will likely perform as a leader.

Personal development. If an oxygen mask deploys on an airplane, we are instructed to put them on ourselves first. That’s because you are not useful to anyone else if you are passed out on the airplane floor.

You can’t give to others what you don’t have. Personal development is twofold. It helps you grow as a person and a leader. The more knowledge and experience you have, the better equipped you will be to help others.

Emotional intelligence. Psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman popularized emotional intelligence in the 1990s. He describes it as understanding and managing your own emotions and influencing the emotions of others.

Goleman developed the five components of emotional intelligence that are needed at work: Self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation.

Rumbling. We need leaders who will choose courage over comfort and have the skills to “rumble,” as defined by Brené Brown, a research professor who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. Her TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” brought awareness to this concept.

“A rumble is a discussion, conversation or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

Building your RPM bench is not quick or easy, but I promise it will be worth it.

Are you ready to rumble?

Jean Heier, CAM, CAPS, is Regional Manager for Security Properties Residential.