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The Team Approach to Community Association Management
Before reading this article, I want you to grab a pen and paper and write down the top five to ten things that make you a successful manager. What skills do you bring to the table that make you unique in your job? I know, I know, it’s more paperwork, just trust me.
Now write down the top three things you want to work on. Maybe it’s time management, maybe it’s your organizational skills.
Now think of your colleagues, work partners, and staff. How many of them seem to possess the skills you seek to improve? How often do you seek advice from them?
The point I am trying to convey is that we are not perfect. Where we come up short in one area, others may gracefully succeed. In these times where managers are expected to be lawyers, architects, engineers, CPAs, and sometimes miracle workers, it is not always the wisest thing to go it alone, guns blazing. Sometimes we need to pause and take into account the pure talent that you as a manager have at your fingertips. You have your colleagues, your staff, your boss, and, if you trust it, maybe even your magic eight ball.
When a complex situation comes up, I know I can go to one of my colleagues for their thoughts. Different personalities and experiences often dictate the answers I receive. Are you an A-type personality? Get the opinion of a B-type. Are you a good cop? Ask the bad cop for what they would do. Oftentimes you will get an idea you would not have thought of on your own. From there you can give your community an answer or a plan that suits (and hopefully benefits) them.
The Recipe for a Successful Team
A hint of humility, a dash of insight, and a cup of faith…
“A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize his/her strengths and minimize his/her weaknesses. Team members need to learn how to help one another, help other team members realize their true potential, and create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond their limitations.” (Davis, 2009)
Let’s dissect this description.
As stated earlier, the team needs to have complementary skills and synergy. Where I may be good at handling and scheduling the aspects of a building-wide maintenance project, my team members may have ample communication skills available to assist with notifying the residents and coordinating with the vendors. In utilizing their skills, I am able to provide the level of service expected by my communities.
In order to have a successful team, you need to also have open communication. Everyone involved needs to be on the same page. There is nothing worse than being partially responsible for a project and being left in the dark. As stated in this description, team members need to help one another. Open lines of communication are an integral part of that. The best way to do this is to hold regular meetings with your team members to bring everyone up to speed.
Another integral part is a) being able to admit when you need help; and b) knowing when someone else needs help. As Community Association Managers, we are often expected to have a dense backbone, backed up by thick skin and an uber-A-type personality. This presents a huge obstacle when it comes time to ask for help. Pride can easily become a factor, and that pill can be hard to swallow. If you do manage to keep it down and seek help, you will find that it can take a huge weight off of your shoulders. Delegating tasks to a willing and capable team member can be a beautiful thing. Just make sure to return the favor. Be sure to say thank you. And smile.
Finally, you need to be able to tell when someone needs help. Sometimes all it takes is the gesture of asking to get them back on their feet. If someone knows they can rely on you in their time of need, that refreshing energy gives them the strength to press on and ultimately succeed.
As stated earlier, human beings are not perfect. Not all of us are meant to work together in peace and harmony. However, that does not mean we cannot avoid conflict. There are signs to look out for when choosing your team members. One of the questions I ask is “would I get along with this person outside of the office?” The answer, for the most part, is “yes.”
If you are of a more detail-oriented mind, there are five things to really look out for.
According to Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, these are:
- The Absence of Trust
- Fear of Conflict
- Lack of Commitment
- Avoidance of Accountability
- Inattention to Results
Some of these speak for themselves. If you don’t trust the person, don’t work with them. If they are not committed to the team effort, then there is a lesser likelihood of success. Some of these are fairly ambiguous. Fear of conflict pertains to going along with the team’s flow, even if you disagree with the team’s path. If you feel things should be done differently, speak up. Make your voice heard. Even if your ideas are shot down, you may gain a better understanding as to why the rest of your team is heading down that particular path. Avoidance of accountability also sets the stage for failure. If the plan goes awry, don’t point fingers. Remember, it is a team effort. Instead, focus on how to make things right. The idea of inattention to results brings to mind the famous business fable, The Stag Hunt. In this fable, a group of hunters are tracking a stag and must work together to capture the beast. If they are able to work together, they will conquer the animal and all will eat. However, the hunt is not guaranteed to succeed and could take days. The hunters also have the option of individually hunting a hare, which makes itself present and available for the taking. The chance for success is greater, but also not guaranteed. The hare can also only feed one as opposed to the group. If one of them breaks off and hunts the hare, the stag will scare and the rest of the hunters will go hungry. In summation, this idea is about the problem of going for personal success before team success.
These can all be huge detriments to the team dynamic, so be on the lookout.
With everything taken into account, having a strong team of willing and experienced individuals backing you up can help you and your communities succeed. Their combined experiences and personalities offer a unique perspective into almost any problem that may arise. Just be sure to avoid the potential dysfunctions that may come up.
The most important take away from this: You are not alone.
Davis, Barbee. 97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts. Beijing: O’Reilly, 2009. Print.