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Training and Empowering New Employees

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Training and Empowering New Employees

“Call If You Have Any Questions,” Not A Foundation For Employee Development

This short phrase, seven little words could be the first step to failure for a newly hired or recently promoted individual.

As the supervisor, the team leader, it appears that we can be available; “just call,” “call anytime, day or night,” “I always have my phone with me.”

Time goes by, critical deadlines are missed or errors continue in work product. The lament develops, “Why don’t they call?”

Why is this responsibility placed on the employee?  Deadlines and scheduled completion dates are anticipated and understood by the existing staff, more so than a new employee.


Asking yes and no questions, will not provide much information.  ”Is everything ok?” “Do you need any help?”

A new employee might not know what help to request. They could become concerned that asking questions or requesting assistance indicates they are struggling with the new responsibility.

Asking specific questions of a new employee,

-What project were you working on today?

-Was any of it confusing for you?

-Can we provide some additional background or supporting information that would give you a broader understanding of the task?

-Why don’t you show me what you’ve completed and explain the process, as you understand it.

-Which projects have completion dates for this week? Are you comfortable that you will be ready to turn in a final product before the deadline?

For trainers/supervisors not physically sharing workspace this might appear to be a difficult or time-consuming task. Placing reminders on the calendar or in Outlook, to initiate short follow-up conversations throughout the week will provide quick recaps to understand how the individual comprehends the assigned task.

How often has a project been assigned to a new employee; when the report is submitted, it’s “all wrong.” Is this the result of the employee not preparing the report correctly? Or poor direction when assigning the task?

Asking for feedback at the time of the assignment, “where will you start collecting the data needed for this? How do you anticipate organizing the results? Why don’t we meet again, at the end of the day to see how you’re organizing this project?” Could prevent frustration on a number of avenues.

Investing less than an hour a week, three or four short recaps could open doors to understanding instead of slamming them in frustration when the new employee fails, is fired or walks out.


Whether its realized or not, the call me if you have any questions… establishes a very uncomfortable win-lose balance. “I’m the manager, I have the answers.” The new employee has to “admit” they need help. It employs the power position of the supervisor:

-Acknowledge that you need me.
-Ask for intervention to fix, solve or intercede.

Creating confidence for an individual with new responsibilities, involves recognition for grasping new concepts, not limited to correcting errors. A proactive approach to employee development can establish an open and honest communication that will assist in the development of a future superstar.

Story by: Lori Hammond



Today’s work environment is a little less rigid and much more accommodating to personal devices that are often blamed for distracting employees. Before personal technology, being disengaged at a meeting usually meant leaning back in your chair and twirling your pen or scribbling on your Daytimer. Today, just the presence of smart phones, iPads, and even laptops (is he really taking notes or posting to Facebook?) distract employees everywhere in the workplace.

Photo Credit: Shutter Stock

Photo Credit: Shutter Stock

Improve Property Management Staff Focus with Face-to-Face Accountability

In January, a San Francisco-based online meeting provider reported in a survey that most U.S. information workers multitask during meetings, which research shows lowers productivity, increases errors and causes stress among workers. Of 2,000 workers polled by Fuzebox, 92 percent said they have engaged in other activities while sitting around the conference table – 41 percent said they do it all the time or often. Tops among the multitasking offenses? Checking email.

Employees multitasking at meetings or just shunning work responsibilities to check social media create challenges for managers. The root of the problem, Fuzebox says, is a lack of face-to-face communication to hold employees accountable.

That resonates with Sadovsky.

“I think we went through a period where we didn’t have to oversee people so much because people were responsible,” she said. “They did what they were told to do and the way they were told to do it, and we were successful because of it. Today, you have to oversee them. You have to watch what they are doing. You have to stay on top of it, because they are so not-focused on work.”

Distracted Leasing Staff Affect the Bottom Line

Some may say that Generation Y employees are likely to be the most distracted because of their attachment to technology and dependencies on communication through electronic devices. However, according to one survey, middle-aged women are some of the most distracted, and not because they are spending time on Facebook or surfing the net. Females tend to get sidetracked at work because of personal and financial issues as well as a lack of resources.

In the multifamily housing industry, a distracted leasing agent or someone at the site level can cost an apartment property money. The 2013 Workplace Productivity Report shows that 25 percent of people studied were completely unproductive seven or more hours a week and that 22 percent of people were completely unproductive for five to six hours a week. Translated, that’s a day’s wage paid by an employer out the window.

Bringing a distracted worker back in line can be difficult for an already overloaded manager who has more front office responsibilities than other generations of site leaders, Sadovsky says. Increased supervision just adds to the daily laundry list, but it’s a necessary tool that managers today should pack.

“It’s truly hard to find people that you don’t have to (supervise), if, and I hate to say it, you want the job done right,” she said. “There has to be accountability. And there has to be oversight because this generation of worker gets sidetracked in their own stuff.”

Training and Supervision is Key to Reducing Distraction

Camden Property Trust’s Margaret Plummer doesn’t think that younger employees are more distracted than any other generation. She says that empowering technologically savvy Gen Y workers to work whatever way best fits, knowing there may be a tradeoff with some personal activity, can benefit the company in the long run.

“As kids, we were distracted at that age,” says the 46-year-old Plummer, who is Camden’s vice president of employee development. “Part of that is managing it. This group of kids has a different way of going about how to accomplish their tasks. Let them complete tasks the way they are comfortable doing it.”

But both Plummer and Sadovsky agree that a focused worker is a more productive, and that employees should be held accountable for their work and actions. Proper training is essential, especially in a day and time when workers truly have to multitask, whether in a meeting or not, because of the hectic pace of business.

Sadovsky suggests that managers commit to tools like online training programs to help shape employees. Most of all, get face-to-face with some good ol’ fashioned supervision.

“They are going to have to go back to truly supervising and overseeing the other people in the office,” Sadovsky said. “They need to know what their people are doing and they need to supervise it. Set some goals for them and get them out there. I think it’s just kind of gotten relaxed, and everyone kind of comes to work and does their thing.”

Story By: Tim Blackwell


LEADERSHIP: Is Your Property Manager a Back Office Clinger or a Front Line Leader?

Strong leaders, who put themselves on the front line, are quite often those whom others want to follow. Weak leaders, who cling to the back office, often lack enthusiasm or personality that no amount of training will ever change.

Who is running your business? 

According to a leadership study conducted by Development Dimensions International (DDI) together with and the Institute for Human resources, back office clingers can be costly. How costly? A survey of 300 Human Resource professionals revealed the following about weak leadership:

  • 69% said it caused lower rates of employee engagement
  • 65% said it caused a loss of productivity
  • 59% said it resulted in higher turnover “of themselves or team members.”

This study also revealed that 56% of those surveyed agreed that the number one reason for leadership failure is lack of interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are the life skills we use every day to communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups.  People who work on developing strong interpersonal skills are usually more successful in both their professional and personal lives than those who don’t.  It can be difficult to practice and fine tune these skills if you are clinging to the back office.


In contrast, front line leaders often lead by walking around. The “walk around” leadership approach traces its origins back to the 1940s. Its popularity expanded in the 1980s after being included in the book, In Search of Excellence. Steve Jobs was the ultimate practitioner of this leadership approach, taking it beyond Apple employees to their external customers. At its core, it means leading from the front line, walking around, being visible, connecting with employees, sharing ideas, and inviting suggestions for improvement. It’s not so much about catching people doing something wrong, but instead, catching them doing something right.

Front Line Leaders See Things Differently

Leaders don’t always realize what an impact they make by how they act, how they carry themselves, and even where they sit. The best leaders are those who realize how motivating it is to people they lead when they roll up their sleeves and jump in to get the job done.

Joe Masueto is a front line leader. In 1984, he invested a small sum of money into a few early model computers and launched Morningstar from his one-bedroom apartment. Today, Morningstar is a global organization and a billion dollar provider of financial products on Wall Street. Amazingly, Joe doesn’t work in a big fancy corner office. Instead, he works in a very small cubicle just like the rest of the employees, where the walls are low and everyone can see him. His office neighbors are often recent college graduates. Joe wants to be where the action is taking place—not in the big back office.

Bob Jones is a front line leader. Heowns a fast food restaurant in the small town adjacent to where I live. Word-of-mouth travels very quickly in a small town. When he first opened his business two years ago, I noticed that he would rotate from the food preparation area, to the cash register, and then to the dining area. On more than one occasion, I even observed him cleaning tables, emptying trash cans, and greeting his patrons by their first name. My first thought, “This won’t last!” It reminded me of what some refer to as the “lease-up phase” in our industry—the romancing period. I was certain that in a short period of time he would be clinging to his back office desk or not even show up. Well, I was wrong. His level of engagement with his employees and customers has not changed since the day he opened the door—he is to be admired.


Front line leaders see things differently. 

  • Leadership is not defined by the size or placement of their office.
  • Leadership is not a title—it’s a mission.
  • Leadership is not determined by the number of characters that follow their name.
  • Leadership is not measured by their date of hire.
  • Leadership is not their position—not where they sit. 

In the book, “You Don’t Need a TITLE to be a leader,” the author Mark Sanborn, reveals the keys each one of us can use to improve our leadership, company, and enhance our careers. Genuine leadership – leadership with a “little l”, as he puts it, is not limited to the executive suite. Rather, it is shown through our everyday actions and the way we influence the lives of those around us. Front line leaders see things differently.

Redirecting the Back Office Clinger

I expect at this point you have probably drilled down your mental list of managers and have sorted out the ones who are back office clingers and the ones who are front line leaders. Now what? Don’t give up on your back office clingers just yet. While there are some who need to move on down the road, there are others who just might need a little redirecting. They need to understand the importance of walking the walk, working on the front line, giving credit, and taking responsibility.

  • Walk the Walk- Leadership doesn’t depend on who you are, what you say, or how you say it, but only on what you do. In the book, Walk the Walk, written by Alan Deutschman, his message is simple: “If you want to be a leader, you have to understand the impact of your actions.” It’s a great book which forces you to look in the mirror and see the type of leader you truly are or are not. It then encourages and inspires you to deliver. He mentions Ray Kroc in his book, the McDonald’s empire builder, as an example of walking the walk. Ray’s message was, “Cleanliness counts and if cleaning isn’t beneath me, it isn’t beneath you.”  Early employees of McDonald’s remember him personally picking up trash around the restaurant and scraping gum with a putty knife.  
  • Work on the Front Line- No matter how dedicated and inspired the employee, they want to see that their leaders are willing to jump in, too.Employees who are inspired by their manager’s leadership will get in the trenches and get the job done.  Working on the front line with employees sets an example as well as the hard work you put in while you are there. It’s also the place to sincerely acknowledge and appreciate everything your team does.  This acknowledgement is far more motivating than any amount of money.
  • Give Credit and Accept Responsibility- Too often leaders get caught up in their ego and the glamour of leadership. They fail to recognize the responsibility. A great leader is someone who owns the decisions he or she makes, accepts responsibility, and recognizes that it takes a team to get anything done.  This is what leading from the front line is all about. Ask for suggestions and recognize great ideas. Encourage employee dialogue about ways to improve products, processes, and even service. If someone’s idea leads to a positive result, make it known. Accept responsibility and give credit where and when it’s due.

Whether you’re the leader of a fast food restaurant, billion dollar company, apartment community, or even a country, your ultimate success will more often than not depend on the mutual respect and care you consistently demonstrate for the people you lead. People are not interested in working for someone who just shouts orders daily, conducts annually performance evaluations, or clings to their cozy back office. They want a leader who will coach them by providing either direction or support as they seek to attain their personal work goals. They want a front line leader. 

Story by: Maria Lawson