5 Essential Leadership Traits During COVID-19

Being a leader in multifamily can be especially challenging in hard times. Right now, you have more people looking to you for guidance more often and needing answers quickly. You need to know how to apply the leadership skills you already possess to help keep everyone safe and on task. Here are 5 essential leadership traits during COVID-19 and beyond.

1. A Leader Builds Trust

One key element of effectively leading during the challenges presented by COVID-19 is creating a sense of trust with your teams. You can do this when you follow these guidelines:

  • No holding back or “editing” reality. Now is the time for full disclosure and transparency. Even when there is information you are not yet free to share with your team, take care how you frame it. Reassure people the information will be disseminated as soon as possible.
  • Meet, meet, meet. Although in-person meetings are not possible right now, it’s important to be in constant contact with your team through remote channels such as conference calls, Zoom meetings, etc. Your team will feel more reassured if you check in consistently and allow people to share feelings and concerns as you would in any other staff meeting.
  • Be present, visible, and engaged!  Directly and clearly address corporate politics as soon as they come up; don’t share your own opinions, just address. Be candid about what you do and do not know and show concern while remaining in control of your emotions. Even if you encounter people you’d otherwise rather avoid interacting with, this is one time interaction is crucial. Mistakes will happen. When they do, pony up and take responsibility! Once you’ve addressed and made a correction, don’t dwell on it – just move on.

2. A Leader Displays Compassion

  • Seek to Understand. Be mindful of the feelings and emotions of your team and work that into understanding their challenges and behaviors.
  • Hyper-Appreciate. Look for ways to consistently show appreciation as your team faces the stress and uncertainty of the recent changes.
  • Always Collaborate. Whenever feasible, allow your team to have a say and listen to their ideas.
  • Heart and Feet Together. Work to be tuned in at a more emotional level as you move through the day-to-day operations in the office. Some tips to achieve this include:
    • Lean in, Lean on – Ask questions to be present in understanding your team and don’t be afraid to ask for support for yourself.
    • Empathic Listening – This is listening without judging. As you listen, repeat what the other person is saying to demonstrate understanding. This helps you get to the heart of the matter.
    • Ready with PraiseBe generous with your praise to help reassure.
    • Explain Distancing – Explain how distancing will work in your particular community and be specific so everyone understands what to expect.
    • Manage “Doers” and “Don’ters” – Keep track of the “doers” and “don’ters” and understand some don’ters may just be frustrated with the situation, which is impacting their performance.
    • Feed your own spirit – You can’t pour from an empty cup, so remember to take care of yourself as well as your team! Look for ways to give yourself what you need.

3. A Leader Models Stability

  • Show the way. A leader’s job is to help everyone find and follow “True North”. Be the guide your leasing professionals, multifamily trainers, and other team members need.
  • Panic loves company. Don’t allow yourself to be swept up in the panic this pandemic is causing as it will be contagious to your team. Manage your emotional state by:
    • Curating your incoming feed: Create an email folder for COVID-19 related input so you can look at it in controlled doses.
    • Staying off Twitter!
    • Doing what needs doing: Stay busy so you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of sensationalism.
    • Keeping your head in the game by limiting yourself to 5 minutes of news per day.
    • Emphasizing what you can do instead of what you can’t do.
    • Focusing on People, Product, and Property: There are still many things that need to be done, despite social distancing. Consider working on quarterly property inspections, preventative maintenance, general office organization, updating leasing training modules, take advantage of online multifamily e-learning opportunities, etc.
  • Create a place of psychological safety for your leasing teams and leasing trainers. Allow your team to feel like you have their back when they come to work, make them comfortable admitting mistakes and openly sharing ideas.
  • Be the Trusted Safety Net.
    • A safe team is much more willing to take risks and execute.
    • Communicate often and clearly.
    • Defend your team at the corporate level when necessary.
  • Meet Team Needs. Try to modify your interactions and communication to meet the needs of the specific team member whenever possible.

4. A Leader is Hope-Filled

A leader filled with hope can see a way through the difficulty, carving a path for the rest of the team. Being hope-filled is not about being optimistic or positive; instead, it centers on facts, not fear. Help your onsite teams understand what can be done.

Encourage new ideas and give suggestions reasonable “air time”. Never compromise safety, but ask “What if”? There may be some amazing ideas to allow you to engage your employees and residents, boost resident loyalty and team morale, and spread a sense of hope. It will be necessary to forgive failed attempts, as not every idea will work.

Proactively celebrate the bright spots. Find ways to identify and showcase the bright spots when you find them. Most importantly, remain focused on the big picture and remember long-term contributions will matter.

5. A Leader Makes Decisions!

Few things are more frustrating than an indecisive leader; it stalls the progress of the entire team! Instead, have the confidence to make the call. To do this successfully:

  • Make the best decision with the facts you have at that time.
  • Know the law and be aware of your resources.
  • Use your network. Don’t forget the value of your colleagues, supervisors, previous mentors, etc.
  • Make the best decision for the team as a whole (not just one team member).

Remember, things may not go back to the way they were, but things will be okay.

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Contributed by:

Susan Weston
The Susan Weston Company

Susan has operated The Susan Weston Company since 2010, offering consulting and training in the multifamily industry. Her industry career spans over 40 years in executive capacities in Operations, Human Resources and Learning and Development. She has served multiple years on the National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI) Board of Directors and is a Subject Matter Expert for NAAEI’s credentialing programs.

Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.