One of the great challenges companies have faced during the pandemic is this: How do you keep all your employees in the same library, much less than on the same page?
Remote work has become the norm, and while that has gone a long way toward keeping everyone safe, it has also resulted in greater detachment and a greater possibility of disconnection among teammates.
Technology has, in many cases, come to the rescue, as it has enabled teams to remain tethered. Zoom in particular has proven to be a valuable tool in that regard.
At MZ Capital Partners, the Northbrook, Illinois-based real estate private equity firm I once founded and for which I now serve as managing principal, we have been able to stay in near-constant contact with those who manage our properties in places like Texas and Tennessee. In addition, we can track key performance indicators (KPIs) via our dashboard.
At the same time, truly staying connected goes well beyond tech. There are steps companies must take to make sure everybody’s pulling in the same direction. Here are four methods I would recommend.
1. Build a solid foundation
We are truly fortunate at MZ Capital Partners. Our corporate team is comprised of eight individuals, and we have been together for a long time. Like a good sports team, we know each other’s moves. We operate seamlessly within our niche — the multifamily sector — and think as one when contemplating and executing strategies.
None of that happened by accident. When we are looking to hire someone, we are more interested in their personality than their resume. Are they committed? Are they passionate? Are they mindful of long-term outcomes? Are they willing to put in the work? Are they team players?
Skills can be taught. Personality traits are ingrained. We adhere to an old saying: “Be slow to hire and quick to fire.” In other words, it pays to really get to know someone before you bring them into the fold. And if things don’t work out, it is best to cut the cord as quickly as possible.
2. Adapt to the times
I followed my grandfather and father into the real estate business, but I came by my leadership style not so much by osmosis as by availing myself of advice offered by my peers at seminars and the like.
That’s because the management role has evolved so much over the years, from a top-down, no-questions-asked model to one of collaboration and consensus.
Through my involvement in groups like the Young Presidents Organization and the National Multifamily Housing Council, I learned how important it is to be inclusive — to make each and every team member understand that their opinions matter. That they matter, really.
I also think one of the things that needs to be stressed to team members in this day and age is that no matter what conclusions are reached during any decision-making process, they need not feel threatened.
Their passion and commitment to the organization will be rewarded, as opposed to jeopardizing their careers or standing within the company, so they should never hesitate to provide input.
3. Be yourself
Nothing matters more than being genuine, as team members can sniff out a phony leader in an instant. And right alongside that quality is transparency.
In our business, we constantly buy and sell properties, and there are those in the business who would think that when you’re exploring a deal, you should hide your interest from the employees who are on site.
We do just the opposite. We tell them exactly what the plan is and include them in the marketing of the property. In fact, we welcome their suggestions on how the property should be marketed, to the point of providing a financial incentive for them to stay at the property level.
And if we successfully and profitably sell the asset, they receive a substantial bonus. In short, we take steps to ensure that their interests are aligned with ours. If we reap a benefit, they do, too.
4. Enhance emotional intelligence
Simply put, emotionally intelligent leaders — i.e., those who are self-aware, self-motivated, self-regulating, empathetic and socially skilled — are difference-makers. They use their emotions to their best advantage, and bring the best out in their employees as a result.
It has been found that such leaders encourage creativity and risk-taking, and are unthreatened by opinions that run counter to their own. Rather, they welcome any and all opinions (see above), and use them to the organization’s best advantage.
And this can’t be emphasized enough: Savvy leaders can in fact improve their emotional intelligence by managing stress effectively, servicing friendships, curtailing negativity and expressing emotions in a constructive manner.
The bottom line is that team cohesion, as much as it mattered before, matters more now. Team members want to be engaged, want to be in the loop. It falls upon management to ensure that that happens, that everyone is in fact on the same page.
Michael H. Zaransky is the founder and managing principal of MZ Capital Partners. Founded in 2005, MZ Capital Partners, based in Northbrook, Ill., deals in multifamily properties.