Staff Management 101 The Art of Team Building

Staff Management 101

Management of any property requires a varying degree of resources and skills. Materials, capital, and personnel are required for everything from ordering supplies to the complete overseeing of a multi-unit, high rise condominium. Above all resources, human resources, are typically considered the most important asset of any business or company, and managing those living resources is an art, and a science, and a very necessary skill set.

“I believe in the context of property management human resources are absolutely important. It’s vital that the best fit candidates or candidate employees fit with the right skill set with the right positions when they are initially hired,” says Marc Mallet, a property manager with the Miami corporate office of Atlantic | Pacific Management in Bay Harbor Islands. “When this is done it is a more cohesive team and it typically results in a more streamlined operation for the property which typically saves the property thousands of dollars in the long term.”

“HR can mean a lot of things such as interviewing, hiring, firing, training, supervision, taking responsibility for payroll and a great deal of other responsibilities as the employer,” says John Tight, CEO of Campbell Property Management in Deerfield Beach. “These things may seem simple, but making a mistake can be costly. I think it is in the best interest of the board of directors to turn over the HR role over to a professional property management company. They tend to have a much better feel about how to properly maintain a healthy employer-employee relationship. Often a board member and or members can cross the line and inadvertently ruin a healthy professional relationship.”

Well trained, motivated employees enhance the appeal and ambiance of a property, adding to both the real and perceived value. Who does the hiring, the training, and the evaluations may vary between properties, but generally speaking the board of directors, and the property management company will work together to achieve the best results. When an effective system is in place, and working well, the board will delegate to the manager on the staff’s performance expectations, the manager will develop and enforce the policies, and be held accountable to the board. The manager will generally act in an advisory capacity, before, during, and after new staff is brought on board, while the actual hiring of new employees is usually a board function.

“I believe the role of an association’s board is very important when it comes to the management of their building’s staff,” says Anthony Rodriguez of Florida Advanced Properties, Inc. in Miami. “First and foremost, I have found it more efficient when the board internally selects one individual board member to be the one communicating with staff members of the association. In some cases the entire board will need to be involved, especially when it comes to the day-to-day managing. It’s best when handled by one person in order to avoid confusion and mix-ups. The actual staff management itself should not be that complicated. When proper policy and procedures are in place, the staff basically needs to just follow their scope of work which should then just be revised from time to time by the property manager.”

“Typically board members are responsible for the administrative business of the property,” says Mallet. “They offer these items that are outlined in a property or association’s governing documents or bylaws, which are like standard budget adoption and financial oversight contracts for management or any professional service, but in general boards provide oversight and direction to management based on the short term needs of the community or a strategic vision of the board. For example if they want to do a future project and this would be in their long term vision for the community.”

“I encourage our managers to get a clear understanding of the board’s expectations and then ask the board to stay out of the day to day and let us manage the staff,” adds Tight. “I think the managers should communicate on an as needed basis with the board, but not less than quarterly.

Common Mistakes

Mallet, for example, has 15 years management experience in the luxury residential industry specializing in business operational start-up and project management for new high rise condominium developments. He has seen numerous rookie mistakes made by property managers. “Personally I’ve found that the major mistake that managers make is not communicating the board or the managers’ expectations and vision of the property to the employee,” he says. “Other things, for example, would be not sufficiently praising employees, not holding regular staff meetings where employees can share concerns and be part of the decision-making process. Managers should develop more employee incentive programs which would ultimately produce inner team harmony and productivity for the building and ultimately outstanding customer service.”

“The most common mistake I see is a manager that starts to play favorites among the unit owners,” says Tight. “That’s a huge mistake and they do it in an effort to make friends and be nice. They often accommodate one owner at the expense of others,” he says.

“Often inexperienced managers make the same mistakes over and over. The main inexperienced manager quality is the lack of management in itself,” adds Rodriquez. “It is important that these mistakes do not occur in order to properly run a community association. The word ‘manager’ says it all. Although we managers do work under the supervision of the board of directors, I believe it to be the obligation of a manager to take action and protect the association as much as possible. An example would be in a personal past case of mine: a building that suffered a major water flood from a sewer backup. Several units were being affected by this occurrence and it needed immediate remediation. At that time, one of the board members wanted us to begin obtaining three bids, which is the normal procedure for your common projects in this particular circumstance. But the time spent in obtaining three different bids could have been much more costly than remedying the situation immediately. Therefore it is the job of an experienced manager to take action and educate their boards in order for these obstacles and possible lawsuits to be prevented.”

Another problem property managers may come across is an apathetic or unmotivated staff.

“Running into conformed or otherwise dysfunctional staff is often seen in this industry mostly when the staff has been at the same building for a long period of time—it seems then they become complacent,” says Rodriguez. “Although this is not the case across the board it is seen. I have found that several methods can be used to correct this issue—one which is simply talking to the staff member in such a way where they do not feel attacked. You request that they help you in that particular area where they lack. Another method that I have always used as a property manager—as well as in my personal life—is to always recognize the hard work and improvement that I have seen in the staff followed by the main topic of discussion. I have found that to smoothly operate a business, and in this case, an association building, it requires a group/team effort. The building can have the most qualified manager but if every member of the staff does not do their part then the association will begin noticing flaws.”

Learning on the Job

Education and training for managers is available from a number of sources. Rodriguez stresses the value of peer learning, mentoring and roundtable discussions with industry experts. “The best experience is hands-on experience,” he says. “I find it extremely useful to attend as many learning seminars that are offered. Similar to other fields, this line of business is one where you always learn something new which can significantly help in the managing of the building.”

“On the job training and lots of mentoring from-co workers and supervisors are good sources,” adds Tight. “Experienced managers that are fortunate enough to work with an experienced professional management company can get lots of support in areas where they lack expertise.” This is known as the “team concept” of professional management, he says. In this way, while one manager may be an expert when it comes to painting, he may require the support of another manager who is more knowledgeable in other areas, say, insurance. “This ‘team’ experience makes the manager more knowledgeable as they learn new skills,” Tight says.

“There’s nothing quite like practical real world experience, which is in my opinion the best teacher,” adds Mallet. “But in the event that that they have not had business technical courses in a college or a university setting, experience is definitely gained in on the job.” Also important, he says, is working under a senior manager or a mentor to learn all aspects of property management, and how best to communicate with a diverse clientele.

For education, networking within the property management arena, and leadership training, there are several South Florida-based CAI chapters that offer board member and management education as well. Jayme E. Gelfand, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, a property manager and the executive director of the CAI Gold Coast chapter in Boca Raton (, says that free certification classes are offered throughout the year by CAI, ranging across a variety of topics. “Renewal is once a year after their annual meetings.”

Other resources are the CAI-Southeast Florida chapter in Cooper City ( directed by Jill Prioetti, and the CAI-West Florida chapter in Sarasota (www.caiwestflorida .org) headed by Karin Mayfield. All eight chapters in the Sunshine State offer conferences and continuing education seminars throughout the year. Other events include monthly hot topics breakfast, golf outings, casino nights, an annual expo and much more for its members. As a national organization CAI is dedicated to assisting community associations in promoting harmony, community, and responsible leadership leading to more prosperous and safer communities.

Overall, managing human resources is about providing excellent service, working as a team, sharing successes, failures, and training to continually improve performance—and of course, a dose of humor never hurts. Humor and recognition for a job well done are both excellent teachers and motivators, and the best managers know that. When individuals learn to work together as a group, and/or a team, cohesiveness is often experienced as a result of mutual positive attitudes.

Experts agree that in the end, the only thing that matters is what should be done for the greater good of the property and doing whatever is necessary to get the job done.

Anne Childers is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The South Florida Cooperator. Staff writer Christy Smith-Sloman contributed to this article.

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