Driving Action and Innovation at the Seriously Easy-Going Community


In the past, many apartment communities have been able to survive even with very limited amounts of innovation. They focused on providing quality products and services, and simply updated them to a level that maintained their competitiveness in the market.

Today, customer expectations are placing more demands on company innovation. They are used to products that continually advance and make their life easier and they don’t expect any less from your team and community. If you are not up for the challenge, they can always go somewhere else.

Innovation is one of the main ways to distinguish your product and services from the competition. If you can’t compete on price, you’ll need innovative products and ideas to make your community stand out from the crowd.

In a previous post, I covered what it is like at a “Hell on wheels” community. This time, I’ll discuss the second of the three community types, the Easy-going community.

1. Hell on Wheels: A difficult, demanding, back-breaking, problematic community.

2. Easy-Going: An average, occasional challenge, mostly pleasant community.

3. Push Button: A simple, no sweat, uncomplicated, “daily vacation” community.

This is a very blissful place to work. Maybe you remember this community? It was on every manager’s radar. It was euphoric—a Push Button community with an occasional apartment flood, theft, or even surveillance on a resident… just enough disruption to add a little excitement to the day.

But like all of the others, spending too much time at the easy-going community has its disadvantages, too. It’s called complacency—that warm and cozy feeling of being satisfied. This type of community needs someone with a fresh pair of eyes who can produce new ideas and new ways of tackling projects in the workplace.

If you are currently managing an easy-going apartment community this post is for you! Let’s take off the rose-colored classes and begin driving action and innovation!

Question: Are You Really an Innovator?

Encouraging your employees to be creative with their ideas and to take risks in their work is one of the more difficult leadership challenges—especially when everything is going so smoothly. But teams who do not ever generate new ideas are often surpassed by more innovative competitors. You can’t force creativity, but you can encourage it. Creating an environment where there is a constant exchange of ideas involves finding the right formula and making certain that everyone is on the same page.

Sadly, an eye-opening study conducted by the Talent Management Expert provides some insight into a disconnect between the message managers believe they are sending to their employees about innovation and what is truly being conveyed. Approximately 1,000 professionals were surveyed about innovation in their workplace, and in particular their own experiences of the innovative cultures where they worked. Half of those surveyed were managers and the other half were not. Did the opinions of the managers match up with those of their team? No.

Does your leader have an unwavering openness and appreciation for unique ideas and opinions? 43% of employees agreed vs. a whopping 78% of managers.

Does your manager encourage you to expand your understanding of business trends and emerging issues? 51% of employees agreed vs 77% of managers.

Does your manager help you learn from your mistakes? 47% of employees thought managers helped them learn from mistakes vs. 77% of managers.

Does your manager take your ideas and champion them to upper management? 42% of employee thought their managers took the ideas they produced and championed them to upper management vs. 75% of managers who believed they did this very well.

If you want to be an innovator and drive action you must be a manager who is truly innovative rather than simply thinking you are. You play a key role in driving action and innovation at the easy-going community.

1. Lead By and Inspire Curiosity

Curiosity is the root of innovation and creativity. Being curious is a constructive leadership characteristic. Curiosity is often squashed by implementing rigid rules, having sacred cows and dismissing questions that could lead to new discoveries.

  • Is curiosity encouraged at your company?
  • How many things are taken at face value without being more open minded to seeing new opportunities?
  • Do you employ a team who only thinks like you or a multi-generational team who see things differently?

Since the dawn of time the world has been shaped by leaders who understand curiosity is the gateway to the future. The real key to curiosity begins with an open mind – recognizing that those who think differently aren’t inferior, nor are they a threat. An open mind is a sign of confidence which allows managers to recognize diversity of opinion and leads to better thinking, better discovery, and better outcomes.

How curious are you?

2. Challenge Current Perspectives

When was the last time you conducted an internal audit of policies, procedures, or processes at your community? When was the last time you asked yourself, “Why do we do this?” When was the last time you asked someone other than yourself to complete the daily property inspection? Did they see things differently? A healthy lack of fear regarding change is an important leadership skill. If you don’t have it, you won’t support it in your team. Diversity of thought and approach makes a team stronger. If we all thought the same way, we would never develop new ideas, embrace change and move forward. Conduct weekly “new idea” meetings with your teams in various community locations (fitness, pool, laundry, etc.). Ask each person to write one idea down that could improve the product/offering and experience for the customer.

Complete an audit of printed policies and procedures. Choose one each month and ask your team:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Does it help the customer?
  • Does it improve or damage the customer experience?

Seek ideas from communities that are outside of your competitive zone. Branch out and identify some new trends in product, presentation, processes, programs, etc. Consider adopting something new and innovative at your community that fills a customer need or desire.

Break down each customer touch-point (new customer, existing customer, maintenance calls, etc.) and identify opportunities to make small tweaks that could have a huge impact.

  • Simplify the move-in process
  • Improve resident communication throughout the year
  • Streamline the service call process

3. Make Mistakes

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.” Unless you and your team feel free to make mistakes, you will not feel free to take bold actions. Innovation is impossible to achieve without taking a necessary amount of risk. To increase initiative and innovation, you have to encourage and even embrace failures and mistakes. Yes, it’s OK.

Innovation requires a culture of risk, opportunity and challenge. There are plenty of failures and plenty of mistakes waiting out there for you to pursue. What’s important is that you have a tolerance for failure, encourage risk-taking, and support the risk-takers.

  • Promote well-reasoned risk-taking
  • Trust yourself and your employees to pursue new ideas
  • Test, measure, and account for what’s been learned – in success and in failure

Don’t settle for “what is”, instead think “what if?” and seek out “what can be”. This mindset will help you drive action and innovation even at the seriously easy-going community.

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Ellis Partners in Management Solutions