Solving Problems in Property Management
Story by: Dee Allomong
Let’s face it. The property management profession is essentially about relationship management; property managers mediate relationships between owners, tenants, and vendors. While knowledge of industry laws and best practices is critical, it alone is not enough to make you successful as a professional property manager. You must also be able to deal with people.
In a perfect world problems never occur. You do everything you are supposed to do. You put important property management systems in place to “stop the fires;” you train your management team in proper procedures (and they follow them without fail); you educate your clientele and vendors about your processes (and they accept and respect them). It’s a great plan! Putting strong systems in place does reduce risk and keep problems to a minimum. But (as you know) the “human factor” can stir things up and sometimes issues do crop up. The way you deal with these situations can set you apart as a property management company (or put you out of business).
The way you approach a difficult situation can impact:
- how long it takes to work things out
- the emotional interactions that take place
- the end result
- the tone of ongoing relationships
When faced with an issue perspective is important. You have choices about your own behavior and the choices you make influence the behavior of others. As the primary party (remember… YOU are the relationship broker) you can establish, and to some degree control, the tone of the discussions and negotiations that take place. You can either focus on the problem or focus on the solution.
I discovered this quote from well-known psychologist, Abraham Maslow:
I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.
I think this represents the problem-focused mentality pretty well. When you focus on a problem, it’s often because you feel like there is only one viable solution. While problem-focused thinking can sometimes achieve resolution, the process of getting there can be less pleasant because:
- You (and possibly the others involved) feel like you are a victim. This makes the interaction more personal and emotionally charged. You feel “put-upon” rather than empowered.
- The goal may become “victory” instead of consensus (“my way or the highway”).
- The process can be chaotic and confusing because you dig deep into the “dirt” of the problem, surfacing peripheral details and issues that aren’t really all that important.
- Everyone wants to blame everyone else, which can lead to lengthy discussions, defensiveness, and circular arguments.
- The resolution process becomes mired and moves slowly and painfully.
Focusing on solutions is an alternative and more positive approach. It takes the emphasis off of the past, which can no longer be controlled, and places it on the future, which you can control. This shift can make the resolution process more objective and logical by de-emphasizing the emotionally charged elements. When you focus on solutions:
- The language and interaction is more positive because there is no need for defensiveness.
- The real issue is identified and the peripheral ones are ignored.
- The parties involved take ownership of their actions and involvement and don’t fear accountability.
- All acceptable alternatives are considered, which empowers the people involved to make choices.
- The goal becomes a win/win solution even if small compromises or concessions are required.
A solution mentality engages your property management team, clientele, and vendors in a more professional interaction that earns respect, trust, and loyalty. It is important to participate in industry training that helps you operate your company ethically, legally, and efficiently. It is equally important to develop people and problem-solving skills within yourself and your property management team.
I’m going to end this article with another quote, this time from former U.S. Secretary of State, General Colin Powell:
Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.