Good Management is 90% Leadership and 10% Supervision

Topics: Landlording

     What do we mean by 'leadership'? Military manuals describe it as 'the art of influencing others to willingly accept and achieve defined objectives'. There are some special words there. The first one is art. Art usually refers to one's ability to do things rather than to know things. You can study management books until the cows come home and still be a poor manager unless you're able to do what the books say. That requires lots of practice putting into effect what you learn. When we talk about learning, it's the process of changing behavior patterns to incorporate new information. In short, find out how a good manager does business, then start using successful practices in your everyday property management.

     Skipping ahead to another term, what do we mean by 'defined objectives'? If you don't know what you expect of yourself and of those who look to you for guidance, you can't expect them to do it? Good managers set down in writing goals which relate to how they'll manage and maintain a property, and how the tenants will be able to help them meet these goals. When they manage for others on a fee basis, they'd define these goals in concert with their employers to be sure they both understand and agree with them. They should do no less with their tenants.

     Start with the premise that a tenant wants to meet his obligations to the property and to the owner. That he needs to know what's expected of him for the entire term of his residency. That he would prefer not have to ask permission of the landlord to do things in meeting his obligations. That he wants the freedom to do things which aren't specifically spelled out in the rental agreement. That he would like a report card every couple of months so he can see how he is doing and where he could do better. He doesn't want to wait for the end of the term only to get a failing grade. As the Manager, you should be getting the big picture. You're going to have to start being as responsible as your tenant, communicating your goals in written form and getting your tenants' agreement to work toward them. (In the trade, we call this your rental agreement.) Moreover, you're going to have to work consistently to follow your own rules too.

     Let's look at the middle part of the definition of leadership. You've got to influence your tenants to want to do what they've agreed to do rather than to merely coerce them with threats of eviction and lost deposits. Several of my tenants have renewed for over 10 years. Others have been with me for many years. Why? Because they've become comfortable both in the home and in their relationship with the manager. I've found that tenants often make the owner's objectives their own once they thoroughly understand and accept the mutual responsibilities between landlord and tenant embodied in the rental agreement. The connection has to be made as to how the rental contract terms ultimately will provide them with long term residency in a decent home at a price they'll be able to afford.

     I promise my tenants never to sell their home out from under them so long as they keep it maintained and pay the rent on time. How could an owner make such a commitment? Ask yourself, how could you expect a tenant to remain in the property and to continue to renew his contract every year without your commitment? Besides, why sell a rental if it were occupied by a good long term tenant? Margaret Woodhouse taught that the key to performance is to be firm, fair, and friendly. As a long time employee, I found I performed better under the leadership of those who more or less followed Margaret's dictum. So do my tenants. Maintaining a formal amicable, relationship, scrupulously following the lease, and sticking to what you've agreed to is the key. Good tenants are like gold. They don't want to let you down. A wise landlord won't let them down either.

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