Two Skills to Prepare Employees for Great Opportunities

As a property management professional, your ultimate responsibility is to prepare employees for great opportunities. My oldest son and I were recently discussing Thomas Edison while preparing for his school debate assignment. We were both familiar with Edison’s early work as a telegraph operator, which inspired some of his first inventions. Interestingly our study and conversation led us to an event in Edison’s life which is not as well-known yet is of great value. While Edison was working for the railroad, a near-tragic event led to an unexpected learning opportunity. History tells us he saved a three-year-old child from being killed by a runaway train, so the child’s grateful father rewarded him by teaching Thomas how to operate a telegraph. By age 15, Edison had learned enough to be employed as a telegraph operator. Consequently, he became a traveling telegrapher as he filled in for those who had gone to the Civil War. During that time, he continued to read, study, and practice telegraph technology while becoming more familiar with electrical science. Because someone took the time and gave him the gift of growth, Edison went on to accomplish notable things.

I wonder what it would feel like to be a tiny bit responsible for the success of a Thomas Edison?  What about the success of someone on your team? Could the future multifamily training director, regional vice president, or president of your company be sitting at your leasing desk? We work in an industry where these types of stories are not uncommon. I know many executives in the multifamily training industry who had very humble beginnings. Like Edison, they were mentored by people who freely gave the gift of growth and prepared them to eventually lead great companies in impressive ways.    

So how do you prepare employees for great opportunities? You give them the multifamily training tools they will need to be successful now and in the future. Certainly, this could cover a plethora of areas, but when I reflect on my on-site career from the leasing desk to the corporate headquarters, I recall twoskills as paramount to my success in multifamily training, both of which involve time management.

Time is a precious commodity. It is more valuable than money because it is fixed and non-renewable. You only get what you get and when it’s gone you cannot get it back.  What is time management? It is the ability to use time effectively and productively, especially at work. Time management is comprised of a set of skills that allow tasks to be completed as efficiently as possible. Ultimately, being productive with time creates ongoing opportunities to improve how work is done. Improving time management in the leasing office allows an employee to boost their performance and achieve desired goals with less labor and more successful strategies. On the flip side, weak time management skills tend to result in procrastination, mediocre work, unproductive workflow, unnecessary stress, and sometimes a poor professional reputation. Trust me – if you struggle with time management skills, it is not a secret in your office. Good or bad, time management skills are on display for all to see.

Thankfully, there are many ways to strengthen time management skills including attending multifamily training classes, but your team can start exercising their time management skills immediately right where they are. Here are two skills to prepare employees for great opportunities:

1.  Be a Planner. The idea behind time management is to work smarter than harder and to make time to do other things as well. Planning plays an important role in time management as they go hand-in-hand. You can make the most of your time only when it is thoroughly planned. You don’t necessarily have to follow a strict routine, but rather it empowers smarter decisions of knowing the right time to tackle a task or an activity. “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy.”  – Brian Tracy

Early in my career, I attended a multifamily training class where I learned the skill of time blocking which is simply making an appointment with yourself in order to complete a specific task. It seems easy, yet it can be difficult to execute. It is so natural to move tasks aside or just cross them out altogether. I found this great post on Lifehack.com where the author Mike Vardy, a productivity specialist, offers 3 easy ways to lock down time blocks on the calendar:

  • Screaming. Blocked times should scream out at you when you look at your calendar. Vardy suggests using a vibrant color for time blocks.  If you are like me and still use a paper calendar, write the blocked activity in capital letters, use Washi tape, stickers, various marker colors, etc., anything to make it stand out among your other items.  In a task manager, label or flag it with tags or a similar method that highlights it for you. The bottom line is that you need to make sure that your eyes don’t miss your blocked time. Blocked time takes priority, and it should be protected. Just because it is your time, doesn’t mean that it should be moved. This is a great way to fight the time bandit in the leasing office, who whispers in our ear, “I just don’t have time to write thank you cards.”
  • Sharing. It is important to hold yourself accountable. Share your blocked times with those who need to know. Vardy mentions that he allowed his wife to subscribe to his Google Calendar so that she can see when he was absolutely indisposed. She knows when he is busy in an area that’s been blocked out and doesn’t even try to reach him during that time. He recommends this same type of connection with close colleagues.  His final point to share is that it is better to let your team know when you can be reached rather than when you cannot. Obviously, there are many ways to share time availability, and one size does not fit all, so it is important to determine the method of sharing on an individual basis.
  • Sticking (to it). In order to make time blocking a habit, it needs to become sticky. A 2009 study conducted by the University College London determined that it takes an average of 66 days to create a habit to the point where it becomes automatic. The author encourages blocking times for 30 instances in order to make this a habit. Repeat the blocked time for 30 instances.  Blocked time should become an important part of the flow of your week and remind you of how important it is to the time management process.

2.  Delegate. Delegation of authority is very important to any organization as it empowers team members. It means that you are willing to entrust a task, authority, or responsibility to another person who is often in a less senior position. There are many myths about delegation which run deep, especially for property management professionals. Less seasoned and even some experienced managers aren’t aware that it is practically impossible to do everything effectively on their own, the key word being “effectively”. Many resist the possibility of delegating some of their tasks. While this can be a pride or control issue, we also know there are property management professionals who feel the need to protect their position out of fear that someone might take their job someday. They are terrified of succession planning and fall victim to myths surrounding delegation, including: 

  • Lack of trust in employee ability,
  • Everyone else is busy too,
  • When I delegate, it does not get done right.

Everyone benefits when tasks are delegated. Not only does it help with time management, it also aids in team development, so when the manager is not present there is no lack of progress or confidence.  Smart leaders know the wisdom of surrounding themselves with people whose skills strengthen theirs, and then setting them loose to get the job done.

But handing over the responsibility to carry out a task is only one aspect of the delegation equation. Have you ever heard someone say, “[he/she] is a micromanager”? Delegation is often a balancing act because it means making sure there is just enough control to monitor the work without stifling the leasing employee’s ability to do it effectively, or even worse, pushing them out of the way and taking back control of the project. When we delegate, the goal is to assign responsibility and authority to directly complete the task while still retaining oversight for its success. Again, it is a balancing act that takes time to perfect.   

Not all tasks are suitable for delegation. Managers must ask themselves a few questions before they take the plunge:  What tasks should be delegated? Who is the most effective person to delegate to? What expectations do I have for this task?

Every time a manager delegates authority and responsibility they are putting their employee to the test. Like any test, it is important for the person taking on the task to have some path to understanding what is expected. While each task is unique, they should all be preceded with the following conversation led by the manager:

  • Communication: What needs to be done? When is it due? What tools will they need to accomplish the goal? Where does their authority begin and end?
  • Trust: The employee should be well-trusted, and they should know you trust them.
  • Honesty: The expectations should be very clear and open. What do you expect from them? When the project is finished, honesty is also critical in the evaluation. Without it, development will be hindered.

Benefits to the person who is delegating, beyond developing their employees, include:

Efficiency. While team members are carrying out routine projects and activities that have been delegated, the property manager can plan and strategize for the next big thing. It reduces stress and opens more blocks of time.

Leadership. Managers become better leaders because they are practicing their coaching skills. When employees can accept a task and accomplish it with or without supervision, the property manager has achieved great success and have saved time.

Giving the ‘gift of growth’ through delegating is a sign that you are willing to invest in the success of the employee. Delegating is a great way of encouraging your team members to develop themselves, developing your own multifamily training/coaching and mentoring skills, and preparing employees for great opportunities. Developing time management skills can be an experiment. Your goal is to figure out how much time you really need to do a certain task, whether or not it realistically works for you, if blocking time out will allow you to successfully complete the task, or if it’s a candidate for delegation.

Read more like this from Edge2Learn

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

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.

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