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Mind your gaps

Reinforce strengths and transform weaknesses with a Personal Leadership Action Plan

By Myrna Traylor
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So often we are given the responsibility of training and mentoring others, helping them develop their leadership qualities. Maybe it’s time to give ourselves that same coaching and leadership development.

Where to start

First, you need to do a rigorous self-assessment. Make a list outlining all of your job responsibilities. Rate yourself on each criteria. This doesn’t have to be finely tuned—just give yourself a simple ranking system, like a three for excellent, two for acceptable and one for needs improvement. While you can use your most recent performance evaluations or casual feedback that you have received, you must also be brutally honest with yourself. If you have access to the job descriptions of positions you aspire to, include those skill requirements in a second list and perform the ranking exercise again.

Once you have a road map for competencies that you would like to improve upon or acquire, think about typical work situations in which you have used the necessary skills. What prevented you from succeeding—or excelling—in those situations? Think about the performance shortfall as a gap that you need to fill.

Develop a Personal Leadership Action Plan

Being a property manager is all about executing plans—for leases, maintenance or otherwise. So creating a plan for improving your leadership skills should flow seamlessly from skills you already have. Before you dive in, though, you might want to take some time to develop a personal vision statement that can guide you as you work through each step in your plan. The vision statement should have three parts, defining what you want to be, what you want to achieve or contribute, and the principles, attributes or values you will use to make decisions. Here is an example: I want to be a regional director by adopting cost-saving measures across all properties, using my keen eye for detail and ability to rally my team members, while ensuring the safety and comfort of all residents/tenants.

Once you have your vision statement to inspire you, it is time to draft your plan. Remember that your plan can be fluid; you can adjust your goals and how you will achieve them as you proceed. Decide whether an online format or hard-copy notebook—or a combination of the two—will work best for your project. The guidelines listed below should help you approach each aspect of the plan.

Outline specific goals. Review your self-assessment, and set a goal for four or five areas that are the most important for you to improve and that support the vision statement you drafted. (Too many goals might be unmanageable and cause you to dilute your efforts.) For every goal, list one or more activities or tactics that will boost the quality or skill you need to master. If your goal is to become an outstanding motivator, for instance, one tactic might be to review literature on successful leadership methods. Remember that goals can also include soft skills, such as becoming a better listener or speeding up responsiveness to staff or resident communications.

Set a time frame. Your plan should have an overall schedule. That also should include interim milestones for certain work activities, like quarterly meetings, or learning opportunities, like a class offering, seminar or workshop.

Change your behavior and/or increase your knowledge base. Growth will come from modifying existing behaviors or learning entirely new skills. For example, a shoot-from-the-hip communication style might be problematic when you should be showing mastery of complex information. You can still be honest and forthright—you just want to demonstrate that you can back up your assertions with facts that support your position.

Where you don’t have the skill, figure out how to get it. Say you’re great with tenant relations, but your knowledge of financial management could use a boost; you could enroll in one or all three of IREM’s Asset Track courses to get a solid foundation in asset analysis and use of the IREM Financial Analysis Spreadsheet, or sign up at irem.org for a live or on-demand Accelerator about budgeting. Or, you could read books by thought leaders who have expertise in financial practices (also available at irem.org).

Enlist others. One good way to learn leadership skills is to find a mentor who can offer guidance. The mentor can be someone within your organization, whether a peer or someone in management. With a peer, you might be able to mentor them in return, sharing tips on a skill you have mastered. Seeking a higher-up’s advice is a compliment to their management style, plus they might have organizational knowledge that could help you avoid pitfalls.

Think back to your self-assessment and the situation where you noticed a performance gap. Have you seen others handle that situation successfully? Even if it is a small, specific situation, the person who aced it might be willing to share a few pointers.

Measure progress. As you implement your plan, it is important to measure your progress. Make notes in your plan document about how you have grown or met the goals you set. If you feel that you have accomplished one goal and are up for a challenge, cue up another area for improvement and continue to work on your plan.

When you have achieved a number of your goals, take stock of your accomplishments. Reward yourself for making this investment in your own success.

the Journal of Property Management staff

Myrna Traylor is a contributing writer for JPM®.

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