For the creation and development of our online classes for entry level community managers (and others), Community Association Management 101, I’ve been afforded a wonderful opportunity to discuss line manager issues with people new to the industry and the executives who hire and manage them. It’s been a lot of fun getting back to the basics of managing communities, and for me a hop in the Way Back Machine to become reacquainted with all those things I learned in the beginning days, weeks and months as a new manager – you know, back when we had to ride horses to work(!). While dusting off my cowgirl boots I got to thinking … If I had to distill all my years of industry knowledge and experience to just 5 items and offer them up to our new recruits, what would those pearls of wisdom (memes) be? Here’s what I came up with:
1) Don’t fight the job – embrace it! First and foremost, stop comparing your job as a community manager to any other job you’ve had. It’s not retail, tech, it’s not even airline customer service; in fact it’s far more complex and it’s all those jobs and 10 more and it doesn’t stop at the end of a shift. You make your own end of shift when and how you can, there is NO time clock.
If you spend time wishing the job weren’t, well, the job that it is, you’ll waste precious time and emotional energy you could spend learning how to get better at understanding and learning the work and the people. Community management isn’t a job; it’s a lifestyle – one that can be great if you let it.
2) You don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s okay. New managers often feel like they are caught in a whirlwind of stuff they don’t know anything about and guess what? They are, and to one degree or another, always will be in that world of not knowing everything because no two days, two problems or two people are ever the same. There will always be something you don’t know about. But here’s something you should know, new managers: You aren’t paid to know everything; you’re paid to be able to find out what you need to know. Over years, that information builds up and makes many aspects of the job easier; but rest assured you will always be faced with something you don’t know. And that is okay!
3) Calmness will be your greatest strength. When tough situations arise (a common enough occurrence for us), typically a new manager’s first reactions are sweaty palms, a racing pulse and a high emotional reaction (anger, hurt feelings, general freak out). This is normal, but not productive. I’ve written about learning to stay calm many times; here, here and here (and that’s just a few of them) and YES it is a skill anyone can learn. It boils down to your acknowledgement and internalization of these 3 truths: You must 1) understanding your own emotions; 2) know you can’t control other people or events, only your reaction to them; and lastly; 3) They can’t eat you (h/t Rolf Crocker). I’m only partially kidding on that last one. Learning how to stay calm in the face of unpleasantness will be your greatest strength and armor, allowing you to do your job and do it well for the long-term and with your sanity intact.
4) Let it go. New managers are usually kind of “in shock” for the first few months – or more – of the job. It’s not just the amount of information that must be absorbed, though that in itself can be overwhelming. It’s the situations you’re exposed to and at times a part of. And because those situations are so ridiculous and the people (select one or all) maddening, embarrassing, crazy-making and downright stupid… A new manager is tempted to allow those people and events to live rent-free in their head for hours, days and sometimes months.
STOP! and LET. IT. GO. Whatever happened was bad enough and that’s 10 minutes or two hours of your life you’ll never get back, so don’t give it anymore time! If it happened yesterday, it’s over. Move on.
5) Stay with it 3 months longer than you think you can. About 90 days in, most new managers go through an evaluation: Should stay or should I go?! If this is you and you’re just about ready to pull the plug on your community management career (even though you are good at it), give it another 90 days. Now you’re 6 months in and still wondering if you should keep on keeping on…. Give it another 90 days because by the time you’ve been around for 9 months you’ll have a very good sense of what is going on, what’s expected of you, how to organize your work day and wrap your mind around your working relationships (residents, vendors and Board members). By hanging in just that little bit longer, you’ll be able to more accurately evaluate whether or not this business is for you, because you’ll actually have an idea what community management really entails. More importantly, you’ll know how great it can be.
What… “great”?! Yes indeed. Community management is a wonderful business. It’s about as close to being an entrepreneur that you can be without owning your own business. You learn something new every day all the time. Your job is recession resistant. You can be a manager almost anywhere. You can go as far as you want, there is nothing holding you back. And it’s never boring.
I could go on and on and in fact I have here and here and there’s more where those came from! So, if you know someone new to the business, make sure they get a copy of this newsletter. If you’re an industry veteran – think of the things you wish someone had told you up front – and share them with the new folks as it carries on, in real terms, the professionalism you have developed in and for the industry.
c. 2019 Julie Adamen Adamen Inc. all rights reserved.
Julie Adamen is the principal of Adamen Inc., a national consulting and employment firm specializing in the community management industry formed in 1997. She is a recognized expert in community management, community management compensation and association and management company operations. She is a prolific author, educator, motivational speaker and trainer for community managers and Boards of Directors. She is the author and publisher of online classes for managers, Community Association Management 101, a series of online classes for community association management professionals and volunteers.