The Ideal Manager?

Cheryl Kelley Comments
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Who is the ideal self-storage manager? The answer to this question is complex, depending on many facility-specific factors: job duties, the demographics of the customer base, the personalities of the rest of the team, etc. It’s a highly subjective, debatable subject, and there really is no right or wrong answer. But there are a few characteristics that lend themselves to the role of the “perfect” manager.

Some employers argue that the most important traits to look for in a manager are previous work experience and training, technological savvy, administrative organization and a multitude of other skills. Basically, if the person knows how to do the job, then he’s the “right” choice.

I won’t discount the importance of these traits; but after 27 years of managing people and businesses, I keep coming back to the same observation: The most important qualities of an individual regardless of the job, business, customer base, etc. are not the trainable skills and knowledge they possess but their character. This applies not only to storage management but to any position, even to personal relationships.

By “character” I mean the individual’s personality, his integrity and moral fiber, his determination, drive and attitude. These are areas in which you cannot train someone. But if a person has the right traits, he can be trained to do anything and do it right.

Learning the Truth … the Hard Way

Anyone responsible for hiring and training employees has at least once made the mistake of hiring a person with experience over personality because he needed to fill a position quickly. We tend to hope that if a person is in a new environment with new team members, his demeanor and attitude will change, he will be more positive and productive. Wrong! While it may seem true at first and everything may be going well, eventually something will bring the truth to light.

Have you ever felt uneasy or unsure about an employee yet couldn’t quite figure out why? In most cases, your first impression about a person is the right one. If a candidate displays any negatives at the outset, they will generally not get better but worse. If you’re at all uncertain about a potential hire, it’s best to keep looking for a better candidate.

Interviews usually bring out the best in a person. After all, the candidate is schooled in the right things to say, what to wear and how to act. There are endless books and articles on the subject! If he does not put his best forward for the interview, how will he be later? Remember what they say about the honeymoon being over.

Some of you are asking, “What if it takes a while for a candidates’ real characteristics to come out? How do I go about filling the position?” The best approach is to go with your instinct, then monitor the hire closely through training and other company interaction. Listen to opinions of other staff members. Some employers also use pre employment personality testing. While it can be expensive, it saves considerable time any money in the long run.

If a hire begins to portray any negative attributes, discuss it with him immediately. If he doesn’t respond positively or correct the problem in a timely manner, it’s best to terminate rather than allow the situation to get worse.

Wish List

Regardless of his specific work duties, which can vary, the person who truly possesses the characteristics of a “perfect” manager will do the job right.

  • He is a problem-solver, not a problem-maker.
  • He uses common sense and makes good business decisions.
  • He admits when he’s not sure how to do something and seeks answers.
  • He is a team-builder.
  • His positive attitude makes him a pleasure to be around.
  • He is respectful of others.
  • He accepts directives positively and follows through in a timely manner.
  • He is conscientious of the financial aspects of the business, and takes pride in all he does.
  • He is energetic and takes initiative; he does not need to be told repeatedly to do something.

The above list of qualities can go on and on, and each employer has his own opinions as to what constitutes the ideal manager. But character is key. If you look back on previous decisions you have made in the hiring and retention process, you’ll find all good and bad experiences boil down to the disposition of the individual.

Remember, not all personalities work well together, and not all employees have the same motivation and goals. In any case, it’s very difficult to direct a team with positive results if you cannot lead by example. Be the kind of person you’d like to hire, and the right people will come to you. 

Cheryl Kelley is president of Innovative Management Solutions, a subsidiary of G & C Holdings Inc., which provides self-storage consulting, management and training services. For more information call, 972.396.0511; e-mail cheryljkelley@aol.com

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