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3 Ways to Boost Sales Confidence at the Leasing Desk

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Confidence plays a significant role in the leasing process. It is nearly impossible to persuade a customer to purchase your product and service unless your leasing professional believes in them, too—including his or her own abilities. The assumption is often made that if someone has chosen sales for their profession, they are “naturally” confident. Not true. I have met many leasing professionals who do not display confidence in their leasing presentation, and it is clearly reflected in their results. Interestingly, the ones who are often the least confident are the employees who didn’t actively choose sales as their career, but rather fell into it by default. Confidence is one of the most important sales skills worth developing. But let’s face it, it can be challenging to stay confident when customers tell you “no” over and over again. It is no secret that the role of leasing professional requires mental toughness to withstand the good and the not so good weeks. Leasing professionals who lack confidence will always struggle to close sales, build rapport with customers, and demonstrate the value of their product and services.

Here are 3 ways to boost sales confidence at the leasing desk and achieve success:  

1. Prepare them for rejection

Rejection on the leasing floor can be tough, but it is going to happen sooner than later. It can immobilize leasing professionals and affect their motivation and performance.  One of the best ways to prepare leasing professionals for rejection is to teach them to expect it and how to process it. Not every customer is going to want or need the product they offer. Many customers will say no. Many will say yes. The balance won’t always work in their favor. While you want them to focus on those who will say yes, they need to know how to react to those who have said no.  When the rejection comes, teach them to prepare and practice a few good responses.

“I think that you have to believe in your destiny; that you will succeed, you will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours – so enjoy the view.” -Michael York, Actor

Every leasing professional should be given the tools to construct words, phrases, and responses to “no” to redirect or reframe the conversation with their customer. Exploring the difference between a rejection and an objection and role-playing multiple scenarios in a classroom is a great way to build confidence in your leasing professionals. Remind them that the customer who says no today can quickly become a valuable customer tomorrow simply because conditions have changed in the person’s life. Prepare them for rejection and encourage them to enjoy the view.

 

2. Teach them to resist the comfort zone—take risks

When leasing professionals feel stress or experience failure, they have a tendency to return to their comfort zone which is quite often a lower level of performance. Encourage employees to spend time in the awkward and uncomfortable zone until it becomes their new level of comfort.  This is where new confidence is born! In his best-selling autobiography, Jack: Straight from the Gut, Jack Welch writes, “Self-confidence is what I’ve looked for and tried to build in every executive who has ever worked with me. Confidence gives you courage and extends your reach.” I love the concept of teaching leasing professionals to extend their reach! This begins by asking questions. How can they adjust their presentation to improve customer engagement? How can they vary the tour in the apartment? How can they quietly close the sale at least 5X during the tour? How can they follow up with customers in a unique way? What can they do differently next time? This would make for another great activity for a formal leasing training or workshop.

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”  -Brian Tracy

Remind your employees that leasing apartments is similar to playing a game – sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The loss should reveal their competitive spirit to get back out and try again rather than fall back to their comfort zone of playing it safe. This idea of extending their reach excites me as a trainer. In the article “The 15 Laws of Growth Part XI: The Law of The Rubber Band”, the author writes, “Take a few seconds and think of all the possible ways you can use a rubber band. Now try thinking of all the possible ways to use a rubber band without stretching it.” Growth stops when you lose the tension between the comfort zone and risk. Are your trainer wheels turning? How will you teach employees to resist their comfort zone?

3. Encourage them to set early weekly goals and win early

Timing is everything and success breeds success.  Teach your employees to set two realistic and achievable goals early in the week. It could be as simple as placing a follow up call to every customer who visited their community before they leave for the evening. It is highly likely that once they complete this for day one and two that they will continue on day three through five, too. When they receive their first positive response from a customer for their follow up efforts, it will boost their confidence and inspire them to do it again!

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” -Pablo Picasso

Over the years, one common denominator I have observed in leasing super stars is their willingness to invest in the continued improvement of their skills by repetition. They set their own goals, seek out learning opportunities, and love to win. In the article The DNA of Top Salespeople,  professional trainer and coach Colleen Stanley pens, “Top salespeople are “buggers.” They bug people for wisdom, help, and guidance.” We need to fill our leasing desks with confident buggers!  Coaching leasing professionals on how to plan their weekly progress is just another way to boost sales confidence at the leasing desk.

As a trainer, you can instill confidence in your leasing team by preparing them for rejection, teaching them to take risks, and encouraging them to set early goals and seek early wins. Knowing how to build confidence in your leasing team is crucial for any company of any size.

 

 

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

 

3 Tools to Avoid Compassion Fatigue in the Leasing Office

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Are your on-site employees at risk of suffering from compassion fatigue? If you have hired the right people, the answer is yes.  One of the greatest strengths a leasing professional brings to their position is the capacity to engage customers and develop a compassionate connection with them. Yet it is also their greatest vulnerability. Compassion fatigue is a type of high stress burnout resulting from the constant demands of caring for and servicing others.

According to a 2017 Udemy Report, “Workplace Confidential: The Real Story Behind Stress, Skills, and Success in America,” all generations are admitting to having increased stress levels at work, and Millennials and Gen Z employees feel more stress at work than any other generation in the workplace. Property management revolves around servicing a customer who lives with us. Their geographical closeness can compound stress, as their personal lives often creep into our leasing offices. On a daily basis, our employees are engaging with customers and often get sucked into their emotional ups and downs.  As trainers, we are in the business of filling up those leasing professionals’ compassion tanks and hoping our employees have enough in reserve to make it to the next class. How can we help?

Here are 3 tools to avoid compassion fatigue in the leasing office:

1. Set Boundaries

The challenge for trainers is to teach employees to remain compassionate, empathetic, and supportive of others without becoming overly involved. They need to learn how to draw the line rather than build a wall between personal and professional. This is not a common topic taught in leasing classes, but it is an important one.

  • Keep it Professional. A leasing professional does not have to be friends with everyone to be successful, but they should have a friendly demeanor. Those who confuse the two may find themselves in the middle of sticky situations. While getting to know customers on a personal level can be beneficial in some cases, there are also times when it can prove to be a problem. Customers are not looking for a friend. They want someone to help them navigate through the maze of confusion that is in front of them. They need a consultant, not a pal.
  • Choose Empathy. There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. Knowing how to communicate empathy in sales will strengthen rapport and grow the connection between the leasing professional and the customer. When we sympathize with the customer we become part of the problem, but when we empathize we are still outside of the problem and can offer solutions. In other words, we can stay out of the emotional side of it. Leasing professionals must maintain a level of detachment to be able to objectively guide the customer and not get too caught up in their emotional baggage.

2. Manage Stress

Managing stress is an essential job skill for the successful leasing professional. High stress environments are not uncommon and can result in a less compassionate team who is responsible for servicing customers on a daily basis. This is a high-stress business, and those who learn how to minimize and manage stress are more likely to be survivors.

  • Realize it’s not personal. It is important to remind employees that the customer’s frustration has nothing to do with them. While a customer might explode while in an emotional state, they often do not realize the impact they are having on the leasing professional. We should never take it personally even if the outburst is personally directed at us.
  • Remember this, too, shall pass. Sometimes even the reasonable customer crosses over into unknown irrational territory. Something sets them off and they start screaming. Remind employees that there is a nice person in there someplace, and if they keep calm and work with them, they will uncover that nice customer again.
  • Do what you can do. When customers are frustrated, their behavior is often a reaction to unmet expectations. Uncovering their expectations will help defuse the emotion and keep the conversation focused on problem solving. Keep focusing on what you can do to close the gap between their unmet expectations and reality.
  • Walk it off. A simple change of environment can do wonders for a person’s mental state. Remind employees that whatever they leave behind will be waiting for them when they return.  They will be amazed how much happier and nicer they are when they return from even a short break.

Stress cannot be entirely eliminated, and a healthy amount of stress leads to productivity and creativity. The goal is to manage it so that compassion fatigue does not set in and go on display for your customers.

3. Recognize the Issue

Compassion fatigue does not appear overnight. It builds up over an extended period of time as the reserves of empathy and energy begin to drain from the employee. Unfortunately, without empathy and compassion toward customers, the customer experience is severely damaged. The good news is that according to the Udemy survey mentioned earlier, Americans are actively addressing the problem by learning new skills. Nearly 58% are turning to company-sponsored skills training to combat this stress epidemic. Expecting employees to recognize the issue on their own is unrealistic because self-reflection is not one of everyone’s strengths. Having systems in place such as the Ellis Mystery Shopping and Ellis Resident Surveys programs provide a snapshot of employee performance and their level of customer focus. Are they simply going through the motions or lacking lack excitement in their presentations? Are they impatient or rushed with customers?  If so, it is highly possible they are experiencing compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is not a common topic of discussion in our industry, but it lurks around in many leasing offices. Compassion fatigue takes a toll not only on the employee but also on the entire team, causing decreased productivity, more sick days, and higher turnover.  Among other stressors, leasing professionals must cope with terminal illness or deaths of residents, fallout from hurricanes, con artists, broken marriages, FBI surveillance, and death and bomb threats. When you work and often live at your place of employment, everything feels personal. As trainers, awareness and sensitivity to compassion fatigue is vital. By helping leasing professionals find ways to manage and overcome this problem, we help them attain and maintain the essential skill of compassionate connection with customers and help avoid compassion fatigue in the leasing office.

 

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

 

3 Habits of a Highly Memorable Leasing Professional

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When your customer walks out of your leasing office, they will often remember the smallest of details. Was the leasing consultant nice to me? Was the bathroom clean? Did I see any trash outside? Was the staff as pleasant to the current resident as they were to me? These are just a few tiny factors that can cause a person to feel good or bad about their customer experience. According to a Walker study, by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Regardless of how small, all experiences are significant and evoke emotions and responses in your customers. Customers don’t necessarily buy a memorable product. They buy from a highly memorable leasing professional. While there are many unique habits of a highly memorable leasing professional, here are three to consider.

1. They Listen, Watch, and Learn

According to Roy Bartell, online business and sales thought leader, “Most people think ‘selling’ is the same as ‘talking.’ But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.” Memorable leasing professionals go far beyond asking qualifying questions and simply checking off the boxes on their guest card. To create a memorable experience, they seek to know what their customers want and need. They effectively accomplish this by engaging with their customer through thoughtful and insightful conversations that reveal their true needs and desires. Then they listen, watch, and learn. They listen to the customer’s responses. They watch their body language and reactions. They store this new knowledge as they continue to learn more about the person they are trying to help. They ask insightful questions which produce candid feedback and reveal more about what the customer is thinking and feeling.

Here are a few insightful conversation question starters:

  • What other communities have you visited? What did you like or dislike about their community and the experience?
  • Tell me about your cat, Jackson. Have you considered where you would place Jackson’s bed and litter box in this apartment?
  • You mentioned that kitchen counter space is lacking in your current apartment. Can you tell me more?
  • How would you utilize this closet space?

2. They Relieve Pain Points

Mary Kay Ash shared, “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important’. Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” Successful leasing professionals ask their customers about their pain points. Pain points attributed to searching for a new home often include frustration, disappointment, confusion, anger, and fear. Highly memorable leasing professionals understand how to tap into these pain points and listen to their customer’s responses. Then they give them some actionable advice and options. They look for opportunities to share their own personal experience or the experience of another customer to help solve problems. An insightful thoughtful response strengthens the relationship.

Here are a few examples of pain relieving questions which quite often include “why”:

  • I realize moving is not always fun. Why are you moving from your current community?
  • Why do you prefer an upstairs to a downstairs apartment?
  • Why do you need a second bedroom? How will you utilize the space?
  • You mentioned that you wanted to move from your current apartment location. Why is our particular location appealing to you?

These questions along with similar ones allow a leasing professional to determine what the customer is going through and what they are struggling with. Only then can they deliver products and services to relieve the pain and struggle. Your customer’s pain points are the driving forces behind their need for your products and services. They are what spark the leasing process. When you solve problems for people, they walk away delighted.

3. They Personalize

Memorable experiences depend on relevancy and personalization. These are the pieces that add value and instill loyalty. One of the easiest and most overlooked ways to personalize a conversation with a customer is to use their name. A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. Some, including Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People, say “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  Carnegie was so keen on remembering a person’s name that he came up with his own system for remembering names.  According to a study published in Brain Research journal, when people hear their name, there is a unique reaction in the brain which triggers greater brain activation. Customers crave customized experiences.

Another easy and extremely overlooked way to personalize is to send customers a handwritten thank you note. As a whole, our industry is failing in this area, yet the highly memorable leasing professional is using this simple tool to differentiate, win over the customer, and beat out the competition. According to the 2017 Ellis Shopping Report Data, only 4.6% of 48,935 shopper customers received a handwritten thank you note. Strikingly, according to research, it is the most emotionally impactful method of follow up.  It’s time to get on board the personalization train! Here are a few additional ways to personalize the customer experience:

  • After setting an appointment, write the customer’s first name on a “welcome board” at the entrance to your leasing office.
  • Quickly customize a water bottle label with a paper sleeve which includes their name.
  • If they are bringing a pet, put a treat in a zip lock bag with a name label on it.
  • Offer children coloring books, hidden picture books, crossword puzzles, etc. Write their name on it, and sign it as a gift from your team.

It’s the little things that often differentiate. Customers notice and appreciate these “little things” that will either lead them to loyalty or out the door to the competition. Listening, watching, and learning, relieving customer pain points, and personalizing the experience are easy to overlook and very tempting to dismiss. Yet, when you add up a number of seemingly minor details, you end up with something of far more value than you would without them, a highly memorable experience.

 

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

 

3 Simple Ideas For Delivering a Great Customer Experience

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The property management industry like many others is quickly becoming a highly commoditized industry. As the customer walks in and out of each leasing office, the apartments begin to blend, and the bells and whistles begin to sing the same tune. There is little to no differentiator from one conversation to another. Today’s customers are armed with information and savvier than ever. Many will enter the leasing office knowing as much about the product as the leasing professional does. Customers have power, thanks to social media, at their fingertips. They can share their opinion of your products and services with their entire social network in an instant. Most importantly, customers have a choice. At the end of the leasing presentation, what will be their determining factor? Why will they choose one community over another? The answer is customer experience.

According to Walker, a customer experience (CX) firm, “Customer Experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020.” Are your leasing professionals prepared?  At a time when the customer is placing more of an emphasis on a positive experience than on price or product, leasing professionals must be prepared to deliver an exceptional customer experience. While the road to failed customer experiences is paved with good intentions, few employees understand how to deliver a great experience rather than simply push what they consider a great product.

While there are many ways employees can differentiate and improve their customer’s experience, here are 3 simple ideas for delivering a great customer experience.

1. See Your Competitors Through Your Customer’s Eyes

It doesn’t matter what employees think about their competition; it is what the customer sees and thinks that makes all the difference. Customer perspective often comes from a different angle, and the only way a leasing professional can understand what that looks like is to ask the right, open-ended questions. If we take the time to audit the customer’s experience, it will help us improve the experience by differentiating the presentation and positioning our product to match the needs of the customer. This is how you build perceived value in the eyes of the customer!  Here are a few example questions and responses:

  • Have you visited any other communities today? Did they show you an apartment comparable to our two bedroom? What did you like best or least about their two bedroom? How does the size of their master closet compare to ours? Does it offer this much storage in the bathroom and bedroom?
  • Did you meet with Jamie over at Sunshine Apartments? Did she show you the fitness center? What was your favorite thing about it? You mentioned a workout facility was really important to you. Let me show you how ours is similar and different.
  • You told me that the kitchen is where you spend the most time in your home. What did you think of the kitchen at Deer Valley Apartments? If I recall correctly, that particular two bedroom kitchen offers a large amount of counter space, but the storage cabinets are limited. Did you find that to be true as well? How will you utilize the storage in this kitchen? As you can see, this apartment also has an abundance of counter space that you can take advantage of for preparing and presenting food.

2. Duplicate Fantastic Customer Experiences

Pablo Picasso had a saying, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” In 1996, Steve Jobs reflected on that famous quote and said, “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Many believe what Jobs meant by “steal” was that you learn from others and history. If we study what others have done and what they do best, and consider how we can incorporate that into our product or presentation, we can take it a step further. Chick-fil-A is a master at customer experience. They have a practice of studying what other companies do best and adopting great ideas into their business.  There is a reason they are consistently ranked as one of the top companies in Customer Experience by Temkin Research.

  • Chick-fil-A employees ask and use your name in conversation. The manager visits your table to make sure your food is great, and you get to enjoy the scent of fresh flowers at your table. The employees respond to every request with “my pleasure” and call you by your first name rather than by a number. Small changes in vocabulary, employee behavior and scenery, allow their employees to deliver a completely different experience to their customers. They have learned how to turn their $6 chicken meal into a memorable fine dining experience. Where did they get all of their ideas? Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer at Chick-fil-A, says his father got the “my pleasure” idea from Ritz-Carlton because he wanted to offer service that you might expect at a more expensive establishment. Admittedly, many of his ideas were borrowed from other businesses.

Chick-fil-A’s average sales per restaurant in 2016 were $4.4 million, according to a new report from QSR magazine. Kentucky Fried Chicken sold $1.1 million per restaurant that same year. Apparently, the 11 herbs and spices just aren’t enough. This is a prime example of how customer experience overtakes product and price. So teach your leasing professionals to build their own repertoire of surprises for the customer, and encourage them to recall and borrow ideas from their own personal customer experiences.

3. Lead Customers to Their Ideal Product Rather than Leading with Your Product

There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than being the victim of a product and service dump by a leasing professional. If you don’t ask the customer what they need or care about, you are simply throwing everything you have at the customer. We call this leading with your product. The customer on the other hand is searching for someone who can become their trusted advisor. They need someone who will seek to understand their needs and fulfill those needs with their product while delivering a very personal and customized experience. Here are two examples of how a leasing professional might lead a customer to their product rather than simply leading with their product.

  • Jamie, you mentioned the kitchen is very important to you. What do you like/dislike about your current kitchen? Do you bake, prepare family meals, entertain? How much storage space will you need for food? Do you typically need a lot of space for produce, drinks, meat, etc.? Let’s take a look at the refrigerator capacity.
  • Francis, let’s take a look at the master bedroom and see if we can place your large furniture. You mentioned that it was a concern for you. This wall is 11ft and that wall is 8 ft. Your bed could easily fit on either wall. What additional items will you be bringing with you? A large television? I have seen residents use this wall for their television because it doesn’t face the window.

Apple doesn’t sell computers or cell phones; they sell experiences. Disney World doesn’t sell theme park tickets; they sell experiences. Amazon doesn’t sell products; they sell experiences. Teach your employees to deliver an exceptional experience and the product will almost sell itself.

 

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

 

Three Reasons to Role-Play in the Classroom

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Can you imagine taking a team of basketball players, drawing their plays on a whiteboard without practicing on the court, and then expecting them to perform on game day? Just like athletes, leasing professionals need to rehearse the actions of their jobs to perform at their highest potential, yet very little time is spent in the leasing class role-playing. Why? It seems that there are mixed emotions when it’s announced in the classroom, “We are going to role-play!” Some leasing professionals will embrace the opportunity to role-play, pulling off stellar performances, while others will perceive it as a form of legal torture. Whether your students love it or hate it, even some trainers will question its usefulness. Can taking employees out of their comfort zone and displaying their strengths and weaknesses in front of their peers improve performance and the customer’s experience? Yes!

Consider these three reasons to role-play in the classroom.

1. We All Have a Role to Play

Typically, a sales role-play activity is designed with one person playing the customer, the other playing the leasing professional, and the remaining group observing the process. It might seem that the only person benefiting from the role play is the individual playing the leasing professional, but there is a hidden benefit to the person assuming the role of the customer and the observers. When your leasing professional takes on the role of the customer, they often see a reflection of their own productive and unproductive behaviors. This provides an opportunity to acknowledge and self-correct when necessary. If done properly, the observers will also learn to provide constructive feedback to their peers, which in turn will transfer back to their own community. Quite often common struggles bubble up during the role-play, giving the trainer an opportunity to demonstrate ways to overcome obstacles. This is when real learning takes place! Role-playing has a way of increasing the alertness of everyone in the room. All parties involved will quickly realize that everyone has an active role to play in improving performance and the customer’s experience.  

2. Learning to Fly on the Leasing Floor Can Damage the Customer Experience

Would you feel safe in an airplane if you knew the pilot had only a few flight hours logged? Of course not! You expect that he or she is not still learning to fly when you step onto the airplane. The same is true for your new leasing professionals. Even if they are not new to the industry, they are new to your company’s “airplane” and they need to practice their new knowledge somewhere safe. “Learning on the fly” in the leasing world is a great way to lose the employee and damage the customer experience by treating them both as guinea pigs. It has been well documented that customers will switch brands because of a poor experience. Are you willing to put your customers at risk? According to a survey conducted by The Sales Executive Council in Washington, D.C., there are 5 things customers want from their salespeople: market perspective, ability to navigate alternatives, insightful advice, understanding their needs better than they do, and education on their issues and potential outcomes. Each one requires study and practice for effectiveness. Role-playing in the classroom is a safe place to test and strengthen each of these five areas and improve the customer’s experience.

3. The Better the Feedback, the Better the Practice, the Better the Learning

Feedback is the most powerful, yet most underused sales tool we have at our disposal in the training room. When a leasing professional participates in a role-play exercise they are bound to fail at some point. The impact of failure is where a learner truly gains self-awareness.

“Feedback is the process in which part of the output of a system is returned to its input in order to regulate its further output. It should be an essential part of education, training and personal development.”  -Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland

Role-playing in a group setting can ignite insight from peers who the learner respects for their knowledge and experience. The danger is when you have leasing professionals who believe they have no areas in need of improvement. Winston Churchill once said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” The best trainers know when and how to correct and to encourage. Too often we find leasing professionals working at communities where they experience a feedback famine. Their only performance measurement is the number of apartments leased. Few are receiving regular informal feedback about their performance on a daily basis. The leasing journey can be very frustrating without a roadmap. While many leasing professionals have a clear sense of direction on the leasing floor, this is not always sufficient to keep them on track. Instead of solely relying on events (e.g. leasing numbers) to gauge performance, role-playing can be the best way to practice, give feedback, and improve learning.  Why is my role important? What am I supposed to achieve with the customer? How do I compare to others? How do I handle that objection? Feedback is the information we all need to be truly effective in the leasing office, and role-playing provides the perfect safe setting to fine tune and practice new skills.

Role-playing has been a common training method among military branches, healthcare agencies, the aviation industry, emergency response teams, and companies where quick decision-making is highly valued.

Are you ready to take your employees out of their comfort zone to improve leasing performance and the customer’s experience?

 

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

Cross-Training: Increase Strength, Agility, and Collective Success

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Cross-training is an exercise routine that uses several styles of physical training to develop a specific component of fitness. While varying workouts, a person can target different muscle groups, which helps them reach a higher level of fitness. While most leasing office teams do not participate in whole-body fitness workouts at work, by the time 6 PM comes around, it can sometimes feel like they did. In an industry notorious for operating with sparse office teams, the concept of cross-training job functions can improve on-site employees’ proficiency levels in roles outside their current responsibilities, increase team strength and agility, and ensure collective success.

Build Team Strength

The goal of cross-training in the leasing office is to help single-job-focused employees develop new skills for other types of tasks which are beyond the parameters of their role, consequently allowing them to become more valuable employees and increase overall team strength. A community manager’s responsibility is to ensure every employee performs their best at their job. The leasing professional leases the apartments. The service team prepares the apartments. The assistant manager collects the rent, and so on. Employees are often heroes on their own island. They are simply concerned about their own job and not how each position in the company fits together to create the total experience for the customer. A cross-training plan can change this.

While there are many starting point options, it can be as simple as asking employees to document a list of functions and daily tasks for their particular position. These functions and tasks can then be broken down into an achievable daily schedule. Then it’s time to create a plan. Which employees could benefit the most from learning from each other? When should employees meet to train and for how long? What specific tasks do you want each employee to teach/learn? As employees begin to perform tasks in new areas and take a hard look at the way they do things, problems and suggestions for improvement are often identified.  These discoveries open dialogue and create opportunities for employees to build new relationships and strengthen bonds with people in other departments they might not otherwise have daily contact with. According to a Workplace Dynamics study, strong bonds at work are fundamental for creating a workplace that is organizationally healthy, long-lasting and efficient. Connected teams are stronger teams.

 

Improve Agility

In his famous 1982 book, Out of Crisis, Dr. W. Edwards Deming offered 14 points for leaders to follow to significantly improve the effectiveness of a business or organization. It was his belief that only through deep immersion in the many areas of the business could an individual hope to competently manage the business. “Institute training on-the-job” is point 6 in Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s 14 Points for Total Quality Management. If you break this point down a little further, you will find these additional supporting ideas can be attained through an effective cross-training program.

  • Train for consistency to help reduce variation
  • Build a foundation of common knowledge
  • Allow employees to understand their roles in the “big picture.”
  • Encourage transfer of knowledge

Cross-training through practical on-the-job training is one of the best ways to improve your team’s agility. Consider presenting a monthly individual case-study based on an actual business problem to all employees regardless of their position. These mental exercises will put some employees outside of their comfort zone – that is the goal. They will also stretch others and reveal qualities you have never seen before in some of your employees. Leasing professionals should have opportunities to evaluate maintenance process issues while service employees can tackle resident or customer process issues. Every individual should be given the opportunity to present his or her results to the manager in a quick face-to-face meeting. Be prepared to be blown away by the results of this exercise!

Another way to improve agility is to assign a new task to an employee and schedule a practice session. This allows the community manager to evaluate the progress and examine performance as the employee moves through the task.  If successful, the manager has the ability to expand that employee’s role or even offer an incentive. Improving team agility and flexibility can be a win-win for everyone in the case of employee turnover, illness, or vacation absence. Learning by doing helps employees internalize new information and appreciate the importance of their skills to the team’s overall needs and success.  Do your leasing professionals know how to change an air filter? When presented with a simple office task, is your service team capable of jumping in to help a resident? Agile teams are better equipped to quickly deliver seamless service to their customers in times of disruption, which can protect the customer’s experience.

 

Ensure Collective Success

When certain employees “own” certain tasks, your community is not positioned for sustainability. It is also a fact that when employees become too comfortable in their areas of expertise, they are more likely to reach a point where the job presents no new challenges. A recent study by Udemy uncovered that 46% of employees cite limited opportunities to learn new skills as the top reason why they are bored in their current roles and looking for a change. Your community will be able to move at a much faster pace when everyone is aligned in the same direction and follows the same goals. On the flips side, research shows that when employees are willing to go beyond their formal roles by helping out coworkers, introducing new ideas and work practices, attending non-mandatory meetings, working late to finalize important projects, and so forth, their companies are more efficient and effective.

Collective success can be felt when…

  • The skills gap is eliminated and the skill set is expanded.
  • You reveal what your employees are capable of beyond their job descriptions.
  • Managers are able to leverage their internal talent when opportunities for promotion present themselves.
  • Familiarity with key tasks allows all team members to easily cover an absence or vacancy.

Once your employees feel comfortable with their new skill sets, create a contingency plan.  Who will be taking on a specific task when a particular person is out of the office? Create a strategy for every scenario and every combination of absence. Communicate your plan with the team.

Cross-training can be the answer to introducing new challenges and revealing fresh perspective to old problems. Your employees will become teachers, and they will be forced to answer questions, explain their processes, and see the duties they perform daily through a renewed set of eyes. This progression will result in a stronger and more collective team spirit. Sometimes, the best motivators are non-monetary rewards.  Do you have a cross-training plan in place at your community?

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

 

The Wizard of Oz Approach to Leading Millennials

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Born between 1978 and 1995, Millennials are causing many leaders to rethink their leadership approach in the workplace. How can we retain them? How do we communicate with them? Are we leading Millennials to prepare them for the next step? Like any other generation, Millennials do not fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all package. While there are generational trends and tendencies, each individual is unique in their likes, dislikes, and behaviors. In 1939, MGM produced one of the greatest films of all time, The Wizard of Oz. Many leadership books, articles and training classes have been designed around this storyline. A young girl named Dorothy took a man with no heart, one with no brains, and one with no courage and turned them into a team that successfully accomplished its mission. That was quite a leadership feat! The Wizard of Oz is a timeless, classic movie with many lessons embedded in it.

Here are 3 ways to use The Wizard of Oz approach to leading Millennials on your team:

1. Purpose. “If we walk far enough, we shall sometime come to someplace.”Dorothy. Millennials want clarity of purpose as they journey down their yellow brick road. In a recent Gallup survey, respondents revealed, “They want their work to have meaning and purpose. They want to use their talents and strengths to do what they do best every day. They want to learn and develop. They want their job to fit their life.” If you leave them alone wandering down what they believe is a dead-end path, they will leave. Let’s not forget that many Millennials are at a stage in life where they are still figuring out what they like, don’t like, could do, won’t do, and love to do. We were all there once. Dorothy was a great leader who sought to understand the personal needs and motivations of her team, presented them with a vision of what that “someplace” looked like, and helped them to align their individual purposes with the overall mission.

What can you do? As a leader, you can create goals and give Millennials the flexibility and freedom to move on and off the path as they determine how they will reach them. Inspire them to take ownership of their daily success and failure by simply checking in with them for five minutes at the end of each day. Whether they believe their day was a success or not is irrelevant. What matters is that they learned something, and they need you to help them realize what it was.

2. Preparation: “True courage is facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.” – The Wizard. If you have worked in the property management industry for any period of time, you can attest to the fact that the flying monkeys, falling houses, and wicked witches will rear their heads in the leasing office. As a leader, it’s important to prepare Millennials and mentor them through each obstacle. The sink or swim approach that previous generations lived through won’t work with Millennials. In spite of the dangers, Dorothy kept her team people moving down the yellow brick road. She helped them deal head-on with obstacles to stay true to their values and mission, and she encouraged them along the way. This is how you develop this talented generation into future leaders. Unfortunately, few leaders are preparing these employees for their next step. According to Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Leadership Development Study, only 20% of organizations identified the Millennial leader segment as critical for development, and few companies are investing in coaching or mentoring. How can this be when researchers estimate that Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025?

What can you do? The good news is that you can take action right where you are because Millennials don’t need classroom-based leadership training. In fact, many will tell you that they prefer to practice new behaviors without leaving the context of their day-to-day work-life. So, expose them to those daily flame throwers walking into your office and the occasional house falling out of the sky. Allow them to soak in the failure, but coach them to come up with creative solutions. Don’t deprive them of learning how to problem-solve. When you cultivate courage and confidence, they will be ready to take on the next new challenge with or without you by their side.

3. Potential: “You are capable of more than you know….” – Glenda. Millennials grew up in an environment where they were very close to the authority figures in their lives. They were told they were special all of the time and they could have and be anything they wanted. They were launched with a very high self-esteem, and they often carry it into the workplace. While they are exploding with talent and have so much to offer employers, they are often paired with leaders who don’t have the confidence in their own ability to help another reach theirs. This often stems from insecurity and fear for their own job.

What can you do? Millennials work best with leaders who can help them discover what kind of impact they can make and then seat them in the right place, even if it is in their own chair.  In a 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey conducted with more than 7,800 participants, six “true leader” characteristics were defined.  Each one gives you the ability to uncover the true potential hiding within your employees. They worked for Dorothy, and they can work for you too.

  1. Strategic Thinking. Take the right action at the right time and see the big picture but still be able to focus on the small areas.
  2. Make employees love what they hate and make the undesirable desirable.
  3. Interpersonal Skills. Excel at communication, building partnerships, and fostering success.
  4. Cast a vision and execute it. Do not think in terms of “this is the way we have always done it” but instead “how can we improve to be even better”.
  5. Stay true to your word.
  6. Focus on purpose and passion more than financial results and profit margin. While results are important, Millennials want to work for someone who is passionate as well.

Millennials really do want a place that they can call “home”. They want to work for a leader who has their well-being, growth, and development as a primary focus. If you want to retain, improve communication, and prepare your Millennials for the next step, start leading with The Wizard of OZ approach.

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

 

3 Ways to Quickly Find Common Ground in the Multi-Generational Training Room

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The exchange of information between employees as they reflect on their past and present work experiences can enhance classroom learning while stimulating fresh perspectives. Extracting this knowledge and fostering productive conversations during training is essential.  When you sprinkle in multiple generations and different work styles, behaviors and expectations, it can often lead to a perfect training room storm. A trainer’s success will be determined by their ability to remove generational tension, leverage complementary skills and diverse perspectives, and quickly find common ground.

“It’s important to be aware of generational tension – loosely defined as a lack of respect for someone who’s of a different generation from you – among colleagues. It’s your job to help your employees recognize that they each have distinct sets of skills and different things they bring to the table.” -Jeanne C. Meister, Founding partner of Future Workplace and coauthor of The 2020 Workplace   

Here are 3 ways to quickly find common ground in the multi-generational training room:

 

1. Address the Elephant in the Room

Whether you are a new trainer, or you have been training for many years, understanding generational differences and the evolution of training can be a valuable tool which can be used to choose the best content and delivery method, as well as the most effective ways to engage learners.  It is sometimes best to address the “elephant in the room” by acknowledging the fact that most participants would rather be on a beach in Hawaii than sitting in your class. Inserting a little humor is always helpful. Paint a picture of what the 5 day, 8 hours per day training class might have resembled years ago and how your class will strongly contrast that – hopefully.  Tell them what their training day will look like and what it is designed to do for them. All employees will appreciate this regardless of generation. Here are a few points to consider as you manage your multi-generational classroom:

Baby Boomers (1946-1964) bring their experienced-based learning with them. Encourage them to share their real-life scenarios, practice their knowledge, and to be a mentor to those who are new to the workplace. Most of their early training was delivered orally and in a classroom setting, so they tend to be comfortable with lecture formats, printed materials, and team building activities.

Gen Xers (1965-1977) expect their trainers to exhibit their expertise in the training room. They appreciate frequent feedback and value autonomy. Create opportunities for them to draw from their experience, discuss observations, and participate in active Q&A sessions.  They appreciate organized and condensed presentations, and they can adapt to multiple learning environments.

Millennials (1978-1995) view trainers as knowledgeable mentors with a depth of real world experience that is often missing on their resume. They are seeking a coach and mentor. Instant practical application speaks loudly to them, and they are very reliant on feedback. Give it sooner than later. Millennials often prefer informal collaborative settings with constant stimulation to hold their attention spans. They tend to be eager and very open-minded and ready to be paired up with more experienced employees.

While no person fits perfectly into any generational box, it can be said that less experienced employees often desire more acknowledgement and feedback whereas veterans tend to be competitive and motivated by the work itself.  Seek to understand as you manage your classroom, set expectations, encourage sharing, and engage all in productive discussions.

 

2. Rub and Polish

The French philosopher Michel Eyquem de Montaigne once said, “It is good to rub, and polish our brain against that of others.” Once you understand your audience, it is time to create a recipe for success by creating small groups where students can share and “rub and polish” ideas. While some students could offer their industry knowledge and experience, others could shed light on current customer trends, technology, outside perspectives, etc.  Task your students with figuring out how to apply their knowledge and experience to day-to-day challenges in the leasing office. As you moderate the groups, you will quickly see that some employees are more comfortable with rattling off the “how” and others are more willing to share the “why”. You need both.  Done right, the “rub and polish” approach can be a powerful engagement technique that affords everyone to participate in a manner they are most comfortable with and encourages the sharing of old ideas and discovery of new ones.

 

3. Ask for Feedback to Continue the Conversation

One size does not always fit all in the multi-generational training room, and you need to know when it isn’t working. While it is important to ask for ongoing feedback as you progress through the training, it is also a good idea to provide multiple outlets for participants to share feedback and suggestions, and to continue the conversation in other areas. Not everyone will be comfortable with writing an evaluation. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers might be very natural with open classroom discussions, while Millennials might prefer sharing ideas and thoughts online. Being able to solicit quality feedback gives companies valuable information to use before, during, and after training sessions.  It allows adjustments to be made that will enhance the session for future participants.  Consider asking your class to “Like” pages that you might suggest, live-tweet the “best” ideas on your training feed, or even participate in a Facebook Live Video session a few days after they leave training. Seek alternate communication methods that will allow collaborative ideas to be shared with those beyond the classroom and avenues where the conversation can continue.  The Millennials will love it!

Start employing these three simple approaches and you will quickly find common ground with any diverse mix of individuals. Understanding the various generations and how their past experiences affect their learning will help you as a trainer to design a class that is effective for all participants. A successful trainer is always ready and willing to change direction if it will benefit the student. Strive to quickly find common ground in the multi-generational classroom.

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

 

Edge2Learn Announces Partnership with IMS Management

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IMS Management and Edge2Learn Embark on eLearning Journey Together

Irving, Texas – September 15, 2017 – Edge2Learn, a Multifamily eLearning company launched in February 2017, is pleased to announce that IMS Management has chosen Edge2Learn as their new e-learning partner.  IMS’ firsthand experience with Ellis Partners in Management Solutions, an affiliate company of Edge2Learn, brought immediate credibility and confidence that their new eLearning partner would deliver the same kind of expertise, experience, and support to their growing organization.

Greg Wood, President and COO of IMS Management, selected Edge2Learn to bring a fresh and creative approach to learning in today’s environment.  “We have a fantastic, talented team and our goal is to motivate and encourage them to continue their journey in the multifamily world.  The Edge2Learn platform gives us the ability to capitalize on industry-specific courses as well as create our own custom content, all of which contributes to the personal growth and development of our people.  Providing an environment where our employees can thrive is critical to our success.”

“We are thrilled to work with the team at IMS; a company committed to the future of their employees.  We thank IMS for the opportunity to build a legacy of multifamily professionals together.  Our announcement is a true partnership in which we strive to deliver an experience that makes a difference in the education and development of your people,” commented Joanna Ellis, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer for Edge2Learn.

About Edge2Learn
IMS specializes in developing, constructing, and managing multifamily conventional and student properties across the Southeast, created with the vision to be the most successful multifamily provider in the industry without compromise. Learn more at www.imsmanagement.com, which showcases the meticulously maintained portfolio of communities.

About Edge2Learn
Edge2Learn is an e-learning company specializing in training for the Multifamily industry. With over 30 years of experience via its partner Ellis Partners in Management Solutions and a commitment to increase industry performance, Edge2Learn is passionate about delivering education that maximizes benefits for both companies and employees by engaging learners and preparing them to deliver a superior customer experience. For more information, please visit www.edge2learn.com.

Contact Information
Joanna Ellis
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer
1-844-206-6742
jellis@edge2learn.com

3 Ways to Bolster Soft Skills in the Multi-Generational Leasing Office

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While many property managers would like to believe their leasing offices are overflowing with employees who effectively demonstrate soft skills, such as spectacular verbal and written communication, amazing problem-solving capabilities, an attention to detail that is second to none, and the ability to think critically, the reality paints a much different picture. Today, finding employees who naturally display a high level of soft skills is rare because while the hard skills can be learned, the soft skills are often earned over time through trial and error.

Yet, a high percentage of turnover often reduces the opportunity for teachable moments on the front line. Fortunately, for those newbies who are willing to stick it out, and those who are willing to mentor and pass on knowledge, the multi-generational leasing office is the perfect place to impart soft skills wisdom and transfer those experiences from one generation to the next. Says Smooch Reynolds of DHR International, “I think any time two generations can exchange their unique ‘secret sauce’ to success, it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship. Certainly, the Millennials can offer a tremendous amount of knowledge and insight about the impact of the digital world, while the Baby Boomers can offer a little coaching about the most effective way to build relationships across generations.”

Consider these 3 ways to bolster soft skills in the multi-generational leasing office    

 

1. Recruit the Right Attitude

The best person for the mentoring job isn’t always the individual with the highest leasing percentage, or the one with the most years of service. Albert Einstein once said, “Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.”  While the deep knowledge transfer of soft skills might flow naturally from the tenured generation to the new, there is much to be learned in the reverse direction, too.  Boomers and Xers for example, tend to connect “soft skills” to communicating in a physical space, while Millennials better understand the conversations that start with a tweet, email, text, or instant message. In both cases, it will require a neutral attitude, willingness to gain new understanding, restraint from rushing to judgement, and patience. There is much to be learned and explored on both sides.

Idea: Communicate to the selected individuals that the goal is to transfer knowledge and wisdom in both directions. No employee should feel superior to the other—they are both mentoring.  Set-up a “snapshot” meeting where the two employees can spend 15 minutes each sharing their general work/school experience, knowledge, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Establish a few 30-day goals, and then allow them to share with their supervisor the knowledge and experience they gained from their mentorship. Repeat.

 

2. Create a Feedback Loop

Somehow a process which was designed to be positive is often perceived as fear provoking and time consuming.  Giving and receiving timely feedback in a loop is the most important communication that will take place in your leasing office.  It is a process that requires constant attention and open exchanges. George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  A daily feedback loop should be activated as observations occur. The giving of constructive feedback and receiving of new directions should feel natural and continuous. In fact, the act of giving and accepting feedback is a soft skill, and like all others it takes practice to get it right.

Idea: There should be few surprises when you implement a day-to-day feedback loop. Encourage your entire team to build a feedback culture that crosses titles and positions. What did your coworker do well? What improvements can they make to their soft skills that will positively impact the team? Consider creating an anonymous “positive feedback” box in your office where all employees can catch their coworkers doing great things throughout the day. Don’t store feedback up – give it often.

 

3. Infuse Intrapreneurship

Front-line employees are the ones directly interacting daily with customers. Infusing intrapreneurship is encouraging employees to act like an entrepreneur within your company. The goal is to encourage employees to be highly self-motivated, proactive, and action-oriented even within the boundaries of your leasing office. Their ability to self-reflect on how customers respond to their soft skills, seek feedback from a mentor, and then offer their own ideas, is priceless. This experience-based learning style boosts confidence and drives ownership.

Idea: Present a soft skill you want your team to improve upon, for example ‘how can we make our first impression in-person greeting stand out from the competition?’  Present the challenge to all of your employees (office and maintenance) and let it incubate for a week. Ask each person to present a written solution or ideas for improvement. It is likely that each employee will tackle the challenge differently based on their perspective, generation, experience, position, etc. Intrapreneurship encourages employees to take ownership and gives them the freedom and support to succeed. They need to own the problem and the solution!

The ability to express ideas with clarity, to effectively engage customers one-on-one, to confidently present problem-solving solutions, to patiently listen to customer needs, and to comfortably communicate with all generations are the kinds of soft skills you’re not going to learn in school or on the Internet. A multi-generational leasing office will strengthen these soft skills by blending fresh insights and energy with wisdom that comes from rich experiences and perspective.

 

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

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