Rodney Dangerfield's famous comedy routine could very easily have been written for Community Association Managers.
Community Association Management is service career - you are serving many masters, all of whom want 100% of your attention. Naturally, you want to please them all. You're just that kind of person. But at the end of the day, you simply cannot do it all. From night meetings three days a week, to your 'regular' 10 hour work day, you wind up feeling drained and out of control. Between your boss, your boards and your homeowners, the mantra of the CAM could easily be "I just can't get no respect!"
It probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that the average new community manager burns out within 18 months of starting the job. If you're still in it after that, you're part super hero, and part masochist.
But it is possible to pull it together. To get to the point where you can actually go home at the end of the day and feel fulfilled and still have enough energy to spend with your family. And you don't have to change jobs to get there. In fact, you can do it in just six simple steps.
1. Respect Yourself
If you've been in community association management longer than 18 months, if you've taken the time and energy to get certified in your field, this isn't just a job. It's a career. And that makes you a professional in this field. Own it.
2. Set Boundaries
Got an email from a board member or homeowner at midnight? Resist the urge to send your reply right away! Corresponding via email at night (or taking phone calls that aren't for emergencies!) is like holding up one of those spinning signs to all of your clients saying, "Take advantage of me!" And they will.
I am not saying you cannot work at night. Sometimes, it's unavoidable, and one of the best things about this business is the ability to set your own schedule. But that is YOUR time, for YOU to choose how you spend it. Not them. If you use Gmail, get Boomerang, so you can schedule emails to only go out during office hours. Or write out your email responses and save them in the drafts folder to send out in the morning. (The added bonus is that you can read them over by the light of day before you hit send!)
3. Know your Value
Just got out of a three-hour board meeting where you were only contracted for an hour? Charge the community for the additional time! Even if you don't get a commission on overages, by charging, you are sending a clear and distinct message to your clients that your time is valuable, and they need to respect that by paying for it! Do you think an attorney would have given those two hours to the community for free? No. And neither should you.
4. Show You Respect Them
When a homeowner stops you to complain, do you tune out? Start thinking of all the things you need to get done today? If you want to be respected, you need to present yourself as the kind of person who is worthy of respect. One of the easiest ways to do that is by taking a true interest in the people whose respect you wish to earn.
Actively listen to what they have to say. Show that your hear and understand what they are telling you. Show that you have respect for their knowledge, experience and wisdom. Too often I think community managers tend to dismiss owner concerns as petty and disruptive without hearing the passion behind it. They care about their community enough to complain. Respect their passion by truly listening to what they have to say.
5. Surround yourself with other CAM professionals
It's easy to neglect networking. There is no immediate obvious benefit. Plus, you're so busy dodging land mines and putting out fires, you don't have time go socialize with a bunch of your peers. Right? Wrong.
As a professional, you need to provide yourself with constant sources of feedback, recognition and kinship. The kind that can only come from other soldiers who are in the trenches just like you. They will understand what you're going through in a way that no-one else in your life could. And the relationships you form will carry you through your career when something goes wrong (as it invariably does).
6. Always be Improving
Remember when you were a teenager and you knew everything? As you got older, your world view broadened and you began to realize how little you actually knew then. The older you have gotten, the more you realize how much you don't know. That's wisdom. And with wisdom, you realize that you can never stop learning and improving yourself.
There is no such thing as a pinnacle. Even the most accomplished folks in this industry will be the first to tell you that they have a lot to learn. So keep pursuing your education. Take classes online. Go to events sponsored by trade groups and partners. Read blogs online and participate in online discussions. You never know what you might learn.
You cannot demand respect by telling someone to respect you. It just doesn't work that way. But by implementing a few small changes in your life, you will become the kind of person who commands respect naturally.
Have you had a situation where you were not being respected and you were able to turn it around? Share your story with us in the comments!
*Image credit: Karen Mardahl via Flickr