Retired USMC LtGen George Flynn has a test for leaders and it’s insanely simple.
“If they ask you how you’re doing they actually care about the answer.”
How many people above you have asked how you were and not cared a whiff? How many haven’t even asked how you were doing? In my experience, it’s most. And I think that’s why we’re so passionate about the leaders we’ve had in our lives that have truly cared about the answer to that question.
In another quote, LtGen Flynn says “The cost of leadership is self-interest.” I don’t think you cease to have self-interest, but you check it at the door when thinking about the well-being of your people.
Who was the last person you asked about their day? Did you care?
I’m revamping a takeover & due diligence tracker today. It’s one of a few things I set out to get done this week and it went differently than I expected.
As I’m working, I have this Seth Godin video playing in the background. He drops several gems while giving this speech in Stockholm but among my favorite is a line about design. Starting around 16:36 he drops this:
“Ask yourself two questions: 1. Who’s it for? 2. What’s it for?
I found this apropos as we’re designing a lot this week. New systems, new ways of conducting and pulling inspection data. A new logo is being created by our friends at Pixelriot.io and they gave a fascinating presentation on the principles of good design to get us in the right headspace to assess the work they’ll submit. We’re designing pre-leasing trackers, databases, you name it. I’m excited, to say the least.
“Leaders are required to take responsibility, not demand authority.”
The other gem in this video is Godin’s acknowledgment that leaders solve problems even if they’re not on their agenda by taking responsibility. Taking a moment to solve a problem effectively and beautifully, now, will provide reoccurring benefits as long as that system is used. These opportunities are investments and they don’t show up on balance sheets or quarterly reports. Leaders take responsibility, they’re not given it.
I’m taking responsibility for making this action-item tracker useful and also beautiful. It doesn’t take much longer on the design side, but the extra effort and intentionality will make it more useful and efficient for every takeover we ever do.
I hope you continue to have a great week! Take a moment to take responsibility for something in your life this week that you can solve. Take an action to make your life, and those that come after you, easier.
Oh, and throw this video on and take a 40 minute inspired talk full of insight. You won’t regret it.
Captain David Marquet of the USS Santa Fe turned his ship from worst to first by pushing decision making – and with it, commitment, innovation, passion – down the org chart.
As I’ve written about before, the default position of most in charge is “no.” There’s precious little upside to saying yes, especially if you’re not completely versed in the scenario or stakes. And who has time to get versed in the scenario? So, the response is silence; static at the other end of the line. “No” wins the game by default.
In this video, Captain Marquet discusses how he went from a “permission-based” system to an “intentions-based” one and the results that came with it.
The captain decided to reverse the polarity of the decision-making. In a conventional organization, the top gathers data from the people closest to the product/service, mull it over, and then dictates back what is to happen next. They are always reactive, and usually reacting later than needed to be of much use. Most of the time management didn’t know a problem existed until it had already been solved by the front lines, or at least a patch had been created that allowed the mission to continue.
I watched my former mentor, Nathan Collier, wrestle with this first hand. He lamented early in my career that as we continued to grow as an organization we’d face new challenges in communication and decision making. How could we react swiftly and competently if we decision-makers in the organization couldn’t or wouldn’t make timely decisions? The first time I heard this was in 2004 and it became a theme that ran for years and haunted most conversations with general managers and up. Few had good answers.
In one moment of quiet introspection with 35 or more stuffed into a conference room someone slammed the table and shouted “Get ‘er done!” The room was silent for all of twenty seconds before this interruption and that was enough to kill the mood. They didn’t get it – this wasn’t something to be muscled through.
Nathan liked that quote and I understood why he’d employ it week after week. The acumen and systems that built the backbone of a local company were all but useless for managing a decentralized company that would span cities and states. He found Captain Marquet’s book inspirational and the era of “I intend to” (or “IIT”) was launched around 2008.
Now, all a GM needed was to send an email to their Regional Manager with IIT in the subject line and their proposed course of action. They’d flesh out their reasoning in the body, but that was it. If not responded to 48 hours later they were free to proceed.
And then it ended as quickly as it began.
There were 4-5 Regional Managers inundated with “IIT” emails from 25-30 GMs declaring their intent to do everything from approve capital repairs to changing marketing campaigns. Regionals had 48 hours to respond with a reason not to do whatever that thing was or the GM was free to carry it out. Regionals couldn’t keep up as a backlog of delayed projects suddenly sprang back to life. Someone had to pull the plug and a massive financial crisis was the hard yank needed.
I think the problem was due to two issues:
There was such a backlog of things that were ignored/delayed that it was too much all at once. Especially for too few people to vet in any meaningful way. People that were still responsible for the outcomes of these decisions.
The GMs were young. The vast majority of us were under 30 and experience was in short supply. One of the perks about the early days of working for the Collier Companies was that one could gain a ton of experience very early in one’s career. It wasn’t uncommon for PT leasing agents to become a GM within 12 months if they were bright and motivated. What they lacked in experience they made up for in enthusiasm and energy. That lack of experience fell on the Regional Managers who were very experienced, most having worked in the industry for at least ten years at that point. Put simply, the system was unbalanced.
I write all this now as our new venture has me pondering the right approach to leadership, culture, and how we want to build our new enterprise for success. What got me here won’t get me there. I can’t be the guy in the room solving problems. I can’t take every phone call, create the daily agenda, or decide what’s best for every moving piece of what I’m sure will become a sprawling empire in the coming years.
As we hire our first GM, how do we build a culture that will keep decision-making close to those affected by the decisions? What areas do we focus on controlling and what do we encourage the site staff to innovate and create?
I have some ideas and I’m realizing that not knowing is pretty exciting. I’m ready to be surprised by what we find and what we decide to do as an organization going forward.
In this undated video (probably 2008), Best Selling Author Malcolm Gladwell explains how we have a fundamental mismatch problem in how we assess which people will be successful in a given field. He starts with the differences between NBA scouting combine results and how players actually wind up fairing in the league and then goes on to point out all sorts of other gaps as only Gladwell can
The whole talk is fantastic as Gladwell may be the greatest storyteller of our time. I could listen to the man read a Swahili phone book and I would swear it was Les Miserables.
Gladwell’s point here is that we absolutely suck when it comes to using criteria that will give us a meaningful incite to the how well a person will perform in a given role. For Teachers, we require all manner of certificates only to find these have virtually no impact on the actual performance of the teacher. Job interviews are generally only good for finding out if you’re attracted to someone, it turns out. Or perhaps they’re only useful for discovering if someone is very good in social interaction, but for all sorts of other jobs, how well one does in an interview translates poorly to the ultimate role they’ll have should they be hired.
Around ten years ago we had a major issue in a tough market where our newest Community Managers were getting their clocks cleaned. Their teams couldn’t sell to save their lives, and these new Managers were grossly incapable of teaching them how to sell as they’d never done it before themselves. How did this happen?
It turns out that we’d been promoting “Rental Managers” aka “Assistant Community Managers” who were responsible for collecting rent, running reports, and that’s about it. They avoided sales related work like it had two types of the plague. So, of course, when they got promoted to their own ship they had no idea how to hire for sales ability or how to teach it.
Why would we do this? Because the people in charge of minting the new Community Managers were people who lived in glass offices and who dealt a lot with reports. Guess who typically had great reports? Rental Managers. They were two peas in a pod. Of course, the Brass new that sales mattered, but they overlooked this factor when hiring because they liked the cut of the RM’s jib. They could see a bit of themselves in these up-and-comers, and did you see how clean their reports were? Plus they tended to LOOK like Community Managers.
The most vital component in a Community Manager at the time (in the toughest student rental market in the country) was the ability to rent units, the ability to hire people who could do likewise, and the ability to train the uninitiated on their team. And here we were hiring without any real regard for that fact. The people we should have been promoting to these roles were our best salespeople who lacked any of the care or ability for the paperwork reporting. That’s a relatively easy problem to solve – at least far easier than a whole team at a community that can’t sell ice water at noon in Phoenix.
Maybe the answer would have been to split the job into equal halves; give two nearby communities to a pair of Managers. One would be in charge of the sales and training for each while the other handled the books and reporting. The two would compliment one another and with any luck, some of their skills would rub off on each other. Maybe an Area Manager would have been the way to go, with a couple of executive salespeople put in place to cover the selling and training. There’s any number of solutions, but we were wildly wrong on our criteria for assessing a simple promotion and it cost us big.
I’m sure this mismatch is all too common for you as well. How many times have you experienced one in your life, where you or your organization made decisions on things by assessing criteria that mattered not a bit in determining the outcome or the best course of action? What blinded you? How did you eventually see past it, or have you?
Immanuel Kant is a boss. Like, the boss of bosses.
As far as philosophers go, he’s like the RZA of this here ethics game. He’s the one that really summed it up nicely, and gave everyone the central cornerstone of modern ethics: The Categorical Imperative!
Put simply:Act so that the maxim of your actions should be made universal and necessary.
Ok, put even simpler:In whatever you do, act in such a way that you’re advocating that all people, everywhere, should always act in the same way, in that same situation.
So, if you shoplift, you’re saying by your actions that it’s in the best interest of all people everywhere to do the same. If you disagree, and think all people shouldn’t shoplift, neither should you – so don’t do it. Duh.
If you hold the door for people walking 10 steps behind you and let them in first, you’re saying everyone else should do the same. Also a good idea.
Or, philosophized? Whatever.
Kant’s other central points were:
People are an ends in and of themselves, not a means to an end – so treat them that way. Don’t intentionally harm them.
A good act is a good thing in and of itself, regardless of the outcome. Even if you failed, a good act is its own reward.
Taken altogether, if practiced, you have the lion’s share of what it takes to be a good leader – or at least not a giant-garbage-person.
My take away?
Love people. At the very least, respect their humanity. Every one of them. Treat them decently, even if you don’t like them.
Do a good thing because it’s a good thing to do. That means being honest, keeping promises, give your best effort, learn from mistakes. Even if you fail, you did the right thing and that’s all it needs to be. Success received for doing the wrong thing isn’t any success at all.
Be a model for what you think is right – make sure you agree with what your actions say you believe in.
I wish I had another Kant pun to throw in here to close this thing out with, but I Kant think of one.
Waitaminute… I see what I did there. I just Kant get enough of these puns.
You’re talented, you’re just not industry-famous. Yet.
You’re probably not even looking for your next opportunity. But wouldn’t it be nice if your next opportunity was looking for you?
That’s why we exist.
We’re student housing veterans, curating talented candidates for industry leaders. By pre-qualifying candidates and presenting only those we feel would be a great fit for the culture and location of the job at hand, we save time and effort for employers seeking to find their next rock star.
We’re confidential, free to talented candidates, and focused solely on the student housing industry.
Hiring Managers: You have incredible turnover, and the process of finding talent is tedious, and often unfruitful. We seek to help you quickly identify talent where you are, that’s pre-qualified, and a great fit for the culture you’re trying to build.
We know all of this because we have around 40 plus years of experience at all levels of the industry. Creating a space for top talent to congregate just sounded like an amazing opportunity, so that’s what we did. We’re continuously refining our searchable criteria, and working on ways to best help your new career move find you.
Not a rock star yet? Are you a Leasing Agent, or CA, and thinking you want to make student housing a career? We want you too! Among the toughest gigs to fill are Leasing Manager and Marketing Manager positions. We’ll be looking at you if you’re interested in making that step up.
Because privacy is essential, we let you make the decisions. Don’t want to put it on blast that you’re open to a promotion to the next level? Great. Sign up with us and let us know to contact you first to gauge your interest. It’s that simple. Or, if you’re wide open to having us share you with the world, we’ll do so when we find a job that sounds perfect for you. The point is, we’ll only share what you want us to.
It’s a new age, with new rules. You deserve to be recruited.
Let us know about you in as little as sixty seconds and we’ll be in touch for more info. Know someone in student housing? Send this to them to share the love. TalentPath.com
I hate when things break around the house. Having bought my first one three years ago, I’ve often found myself in the position of trying to figure out how to repair various issues on the fly. With YouTube as the Time Life books of our generation, there haven’t been many things I’ve needed to call someone for.
A light bulb came on: quick access, to short videos about common maintenance issues, would be wildly helpful to our Residents. Housing college students means that necessarily a good number of them have never; done their own laundry, run a dishwasher, or unclogged a toilet. A website that explains how to do it themselves is a non-starter. Ditto for a manual or handbook. For Millennials, video is king. Even better, every one of them come with a mobile video player permanently affixed to their hand. How do you leverage that?
We worked on a series of videos with important questions in mind: What’s the vital information we’d want someone to know in a moment when they need it most? What are the types of calls we get all the time that take seconds to fix? Resetting a breaker, a GFI, unclogging a toilet, resetting a garbage disposal – all the easy stuff that a Resident could do themselves in seconds, if they only knew how.
Important to the project was making sure we didn’t make each video too long, or make it complicated in any way. A three minute run-time would kill our click-through rate. Most of our videos are 20 seconds or less and specialized to whatever you’re looking for in the moment.
Knight Circle’s new magnetic QR code/short URL sheet for fast video maintenance tips.
You can either scan the QR code with your phone or type in the short URL for each area of the apartment, and then you’ll get a playlist of videos to choose from on our YouTube page. At first, we toyed with the idea of stickers on each appliance or area of the home with a quick link to a video specific to that item, but this quickly proved unwieldy. We settled on a 6″x9″ magnet that could be placed on the fridge in each unit – an area where it’s likely to survive and be ever-present in our Residents lives, but not intrusive.
Starting this August, we’ll be placing them on each Fridge as we complete our final inspection walks prior to move-in and dropping some info to look out for them with our new move-in email.
Our mission states that we seek to simplify the complicated and we think this is a huge step in that direction. By allowing our Residents to quickly learn easy lessons about apartment maintenance, and by relieving the work load for our Technicians and CAs, we can free up time better suited to proactive items that really deliver value.
Another year and another order of “Renew your lease now” banners and bandit signs. Ah, student housing – you have few predictable moments, but this is certainly one of them. Last year we wanted to mix it up and do something that would catch an eye because face it, no one is reading your plain text “Renew and save!” signs. They’re not, so stop lying to yourself.
So, we came up with these. I really enjoy them and was proud of the fact they had no contact info on them -they weren’t supposed to. You know where you live and you know where to go if you want to renew. The signs beg you to read them all as you’re not exactly sure what’s going on. Plus, everyone loves memes – that’s why they’re memes.
This one still sits in my office.
I love it. Still cracks me up a little every time.
Our new in-house, Marketing-Strike-Force-of-Awesomeness have been laying siege to the plain vanilla world of the tired & trite student housing adverts of old. Ben & Jerry themselves have trembled under the audacious show of flavor perpetrated by these skilled ninja-confectioners-of-imagination.
Calling themselves the Triple Threat, these three complimentary legs of the tripod are the razor’s edge of our marketing outreach to our; 2500+ Residents, future clients, and the rest of the Orlando market.
So, seeing as how they go into the field plain-clothes style for the bulk of their media making, we decided they’d benefit from press passes – as that’s what they are in so many ways. Lanyards made sense since they could be easily slipped on, so I told them to go ahead and whip up something for themselves.
I wasn’t disappointed…
Fabricio Torres makes some of the most amazingly shot and edited videos you’ve seen, and he does it with blazing speed. We can conceive, shoot, edit and upload timely content in a matter of a couple of days where before it would have taken weeks.
Chantell Cruz took these photos and a ton of amazing shots for our Resident events and advertisements. She’s a true artist behind the lens and we couldn’t be more impressed with her ability to capture it all, from the sublime to the stolen moment.
Danae McDermott designed these passes and all of our graphics for flyers, ads, Resident announcements, and anything else we may put out. She’s insanely talented with Adobe Suites and can crank out a professional design in no time.
I was beyond blown away by the quality and the personal expression they put into these passes. They’re conversation starters for sure and show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. The rest of the team liked them so much they’ve been spoiling for their own. Ultimately, I can’t say no.
Special thanks to our very own Gregory Eisenberg for finding such a remarkable team, bringing them together, and letting them do what they do best. I couldn’t be prouder or more excited to work with such a stellar cast.
It works, unfortunately, because we’ve all been there. Some of us are there right now.
“Ah! You see this bulk? This bulk is great. Mmmmm. Look at it go.”
If you’re responsible for other people you have a sacred duty to not waste their time. You have an obligation and a trust to make sure that anything you require from them, that pulls them away from their mission, has value.
If you’re thinking about having a meeting, please ask yourself the following questions:
1. What do we want the participants of this meeting to come away with?
2. What’s the most efficient manner in which to do that?
If you can’t answer the first, or the answer is convoluted, then wait to have a meeting until the answer is clear. If you’ve answered the second question, but that’s not what your plan is – change your plan.
The irony would be humorous if it weren’t so disgusting.
Lastly, if you know the answer to number one, and you don’t know the answer to number two, seek outside help and ask members of the team. Involvement breeds commitment – the bored members of your team that are eye-rolling their way through meeting hell will jump at the opportunity to become part of the solution.
If you’re a manager, by all means, keep doing as you did before. You’re not reading this anyway.
If you’re a leader, you understand and respect people and you want to protect them. There is no greater evil than wasted time – start by doing everything in your power to kill it.