A friend of mine shared a story from her youth. Her dad was not a fisherman, although he was known to fish from time to time. He taught her how to bait a hook, cast a rod, and reel in a fish. And though she landed a fish once in a great long while, no one would call her competent at fishing. She was taught to fish, but she rarely caught a thing. Listening to her story led me to think about the statement: “lessons are caught, not taught” and how that applies to the multifamily industry.
Every company I have ever known had some form of a mission statement and core values thoughtfully crafted and immortalized on websites and promotional presentations. These statements are foundational – the organizational DNA. They should be the touchstone of the human experience both within and outside the organization. But – often those lofty ideals were created by third-party marketing or PR firms who never worked inside the organization, never experienced the beating heart of what it felt like to labor amidst the internal workings and decision making. No – the wordsmiths crafted beautiful statements filled with noble intentions and once the committee hit the approve button – Bam! Mission and Core Values were established and they moved on to the next thing.
One such company listed integrity, respect, and urgency as their core values. A newly hired employee heard the mission and values during the orientation. One might say, they were even taught the mission and values. The new team member took a deep breath and whole-heartedly believed that they had found a place to work that aligned with their personal value system.
As time went by, the core values eroded. Bills went unpaid and vendors were cut off. Upper management were disrespectful to residents when they actually bothered to return their calls. Managers gossiped about other team members. Employee turnover was constant. However, there was one core value that was never disregarded. Urgency. Absolutely everything needed to be done faster than was possible. Corners were cut. Regulations ignored. Safety put at risk. Hours were extended and family time unraveled. All for the sake of finding a way to get it done immediately. One year, three properties and six managers later, that same team member who was excited to find a place that felt true to their values finally threw in the towel.
They had been taught one thing but caught the truth and the disconnect was too wide to be remedied. Well spun corporate stories and precious statements are never more honest than the lived experiences of the people in our care. At our company, we instituted a practice a few years ago. Impromptu opportunities for team members to quote the mission statement and core values. Those who accurately quoted it scored a crisp $100 bill. No one is penalized for failing but the goal is to make sure that everyone knows what we believe as an organization and to encourage our team members to hold us accountable to those ideals.
I encourage everyone who has the privilege of serving others to examine your heart. Are your actions in alignment with your core values? Do you invite your team members to let you know when they see something that isn’t in line with those important ideals? Do you thank them for bringing it to your attention?
Humanity. It always comes back to humanity. How are we serving the humans in our care?
Do you have a caught vs. taught story? We’d love to hear it. Please share it below.
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