Just over a decade ago, I wrote this post about the need for savvy operators to build brand loyalty with their residents because of the impact the great recession would have on apartment occupancy. Today’s battle for market share is all about talent. Companies are fighting to fill the holes in their teams with the best available people. Facing a tight employment market where recruiting is becoming more difficult, it is time to fine-tune your culture. When everything else is the same – wages, benefits, etc. – culture is the tiebreaker. Smart job seekers know this, and it is critical that your culture stands out. Be vigilant about course-correcting any cultural dissonance. Your existing team and your future team are holding you accountable for it.
Swipe Right for Culture
Now is the time for innovations in recruitment and hiring. Potential candidates speed date through the endless options for employment and if you want to be the company that causes them to swipe right, you need to think in terms of the team member experience and how you ensure that your company lives up to the hype.
Zero to Ten – Where is your pain level?
Every company has some form of financial review process. It is an important measure of business health. I encourage you to add a cultural review to your routine. Ask good questions. Listen thoughtfully to responses. What is the story behind the story? Where are the cultural pain points and what can you do to relieve them? What is the temperature of your current team members? How connected are they to your culture?
The current employment market is not a call to hire whoever you can get. Top talent is still available and those are the people you want to attract. Avoid the panic hire – the one that you knew in your gut wasn’t the right fit for the position or the company. That path leads to an inevitable painful exit which further tarnishes the opportunity for brand loyalty. It isn’t fair to anyone and shakes the confidence of your team.
I don’t have a magic wand to produce key talent in this unusual market. But I do know that it is my job to ensure that our culture is healthy. It is the sort of work that is harder to quantify but it pays the biggest dividends in the end. My parents’ generation favored the stability of lifelong careers at one company. Workers today are less afraid of uncertainty and want to do work that feeds their spirits and their bank accounts. Passion is the name of the game. You don’t have to change everything about your culture, but you do need your company to be who you say you are.
What are you doing to ensure your culture delivers on your brand promises?
The Year of Yes
Shonda Rhimes is well known for her slate of highly acclaimed Shondaland television series. She is a hit maker of the highest caliber producing around 70 hours or television a year. In 2015, Shonda surprised fans with her book Year of Yes where she forced herself to say Yes to everything that scared her for a year. Public speaking? Yes. What about acting? Yes. She talked about her experiences and the important lessons learned in this Ted Talk. The very act of doing the thing that scared her undid the fear. Shonda expanded the practice to saying yes to the requests of her family. When her small children wanted to play? Yes. To throw an impromptu kitchen dance party? Yes. She credits Yes with changing her life. There is a genuine benefit in the intentional practice of pushing past fears and excuses to find your own place of yes.
The Upside of the Opposite
We are a nation of people who love the word yes. Entire photo albums are filled with the Yes! moments of our lives. But – there is as much to be gained from the word No. Recognizing when to use the word no is empowering. It lets others know what to expect from you. For those in our industry who built careers on saying yes to all the difficult assignments, working all the extra hours, and taking it home when finally leaving the office, no feels like a negative thing, almost like a dirty word – something taboo. NO can feed the fear that it reflects badly on you.
The Honesty of Boundaries
I encourage you to re-examine the story you may be telling yourself about the word no. Saying yes when the real answer is no – is a lie. And you are the person that is telling it and doing harm to yourself in the process. The martyrdom of taking work home with you and laboring until late at night only to begin again before the starting bell of the next day only serves to perpetuate the problem. It disguises the true cost of doing business and contributes to personal burnout, which can be the hardest place to come back from. Telling yourself that you don’t have a choice is probably another lie. There are almost always choices. The other choices can feel scary, but as Shonda said, doing the thing that scares you undoes the fear. I shared a vlog on this topic last week with some tips on saying no.
Saying no sets reasonable expectations. It creates and supports appropriate boundaries. The answer might be “No, I can’t do that today, but I can fit it in later this week.” which provides the person making the request with the power to either accept your revised timeline or to find another resource to do the work. It isn’t magic but it does have the power to change your life and to reorder your priorities. No gives back time in your life – time to spend with loved ones and to pursue the things that bring you joy.
Yes is important. It can expand your experiences and each bit of personal growth builds on the last. It forges new relationships and enriches the ones you already have. But, yes is at its very best when it is balanced with the judicious no.
This engaging chat starts and ends with the great Dolly Parton and there is no better bookend when it comes to creating thriving human-centric companies and communities.
What can Dolly Parton teach us about leadership and building human-centric communities? Our guest today unpacks this and many other fascinating insights. Melissa DeCicco is a veteran in the Multifamily space, and I’m excited that she joined me for this wide-ranging conversation. Buckle your seatbelt as this one starts fast and doesn’t slow down!
“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life” | Dolly Parton
In his Oscar acceptance speech for his role in The Gladiator, Russell Crowe famously said, “…dreams like this seemed vaguely ludicrous and completely unattainable. For anybody who’s on the downside of advantage and relying purely on courage – it’s possible.” It is true that most of us won’t win an Academy Award. We are each one nonetheless capable of stretching towards a destination that seems impossibly out of reach. Somewhere between where you are today and your impossible dream lies a journey filled with incredible lessons and stories worth sharing around the firepit.
In the quest to achieve your ambition, I offer you a few nuggets to keep, use, or toss along the way.
Failure is Inevitable
You will fail. Not completely – failure is only complete when you decide it is. From a quiver full of arrows, only some will hit the mark. The rest could be called failures, but I prefer to think of them as practice shots.
Set your Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal. Then set some more – realistic near-term goals. If your goal is to win that Oscar, you can’t get there without attainable, actionable goals. I wrote about this topic ten years ago in this series. Even Russell Crowe had to start somewhere. Take an acting workshop or class. Volunteer at your community theater. In the world of multifamily, that could mean signing up for classes wherever you can find them – Internal L&D departments, LinkedIn Learning, or in any of the countless free webinars made widely available by vendors across the industry.
Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Embrace nervous anxiety. Lean in to it. Greatness was never found hiding in the blanketed cocoon of comfort. Willingly put yourself into uncomfortable situations. Reach out to someone you don’t know to ask for a call or video chat to talk about your project. You may be surprised by how often people who have achieved success are willing to share their time and stories with others on the way up.
Be True to You
Be accountable – to yourself and to someone else. There is a reason people hire personal trainers or life coaches. It’s because those people hold you accountable to your commitments. It’s incredibly hard to duck out of a 6 am workout if you know your trainer got up early to meet you at the gym. Accountability is key.
Repetition Builds Muscle Memory
Put in the reps. It can feel boring or pointless at times but in every endeavor, practice the reps that build up your skill, strength, and confidence. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a teenager when he started lifting weights and learned the fundamentals of completing and marking the reps. From Mr. Universe to Governor of California, the practice of repetition served him well.
Measure and acknowledge your progress. It feels like fuel in your tank to have reached even the incremental markers of progress towards your bigger goal. Dave Ramsey has a debt snowball philosophy that helps people get out of credit card debt that involves paying off the smallest balance first. It feels good and it frees up cash to put towards the other debt. Celebrate your progress. Tell the world. Share it on your stories. It’s powerful stuff.
Celebrate the Win
When you achieve your big goal – take it in. Breathe the moment of accomplishment. Then – set your next goal even as you turn around and help someone else who is just getting started on theirs. For every person who heard you out, cheered you on, and celebrated the markers with you, pay it forward.
Congratulations – you’ve reached the upside.
Upon purchasing a winning lottery ticket, a fortunate man was made instantly a rich one. His new wealth enabled him to realize his dream of traveling the world. During a visit to Versailles, France, he became enamored with their world-famous gardens. When he returned home, he was determined to have gardens that would be the envy of all who visited. He hired a garden designer and instructed him to spare no expense in creating his personal Versailles of immaculately landscaped grounds.
The gardener laid out a beautiful and thoughtful design and set to work bringing the plan to life. He labored long over the installation of trees, flowers, ponds, hardscapes and wandering paths. When he finally completed his work, the garden was an idyllic escape. The man was overjoyed with the result and paid the garden designer handsomely.
Eager to show off his newly landscaped garden, the owner planned a lavish party in six months, by which time he expected to return home from yet another trip. He invited friends, family, and dignitaries to come and experience the beauty created at his request. On the day of the event, he walked to his gardens. With shock and dismay, he noted the condition of his once beautiful grounds. The flowers were dead, the grass overgrown, the new trees drooping, and the pond filled with algae. How could this have happened? His garden was once sheer perfection, and now it was in ruins.
In a furious rage, he called the garden designer and demanded an explanation! The gardener asked him, “What did you do to maintain the garden? Did you weed it? Fertilize it? Prune it? Water it? Did you hire someone to take continued and careful command of the daily work in the garden?” Sadly, he had done nothing to ensure the maintenance of his garden. He wanted all the beauty and glory but none of the labor. The most beautiful garden in the world is nothing more than a plan. It is the daily care and work that makes a garden a success.
It is the same with the people in our care. Attracting top talent is fundamentally a marketing tool — the very first steppingstone. As leaders, we must take care to nurture our team members, to engage, to course correct, to build up, and even to prune back – all of it done with a beautiful intentional human-centric approach. People are at the heart of leadership. The best marketing and onboarding experience quickly becomes like the dying garden when team members are left to fend for themselves in the absence of fully engaged leadership.
Have you tended your team lately? What steps are you taking to ensure that your people take root, blossom, and thrive in your organization’s garden? Are you doing the daily work to grow world class talent?
What are your thoughts on this topic? We love to hear you so please share your experiences below.
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