Property Management

October 21, 2021 Published by Grand River Chapter

Why Integrity Matters More in the Age of a Pandemic

Like anyone, Property Managers make mistakes. Owning it and making amends for it is more important in these strange and challenging times than ever before. In a time where information seems to be constantly changing and sometimes contradicting itself...

When Property Managers find themselves in situations where financial considerations and public trust are factors, they must take charge and assume complete responsibility. The question of “is it enough to repeatedly apologize for an error?” lingers at every opportunity when one is committed. The answer, of course, is a resounding No!  A strategic plan to mitigate harm and fix any issues arising from it must follow an apology (and one specific, sincere apology is sufficient).  These days, it can sometimes feel as though all we hear are elaborate excuses. Instead, do better by admitting the mistake and doing all you can to atone for it.  Is it really that simple though?  We have to keep in mind that although Directors are insured and protected from liability (provided they have acted honestly and in good faith and the Corporation has sufficient Directors and Officers [D&O] liability insurance coverage in place), Property Managers are not afforded such protection when wrongs are committed in the course of their work.  Therefore, they must exercise their best judgment to safeguard themselves and - more importantly - protect their integrity. 

Here are some simple steps a Property Manager can take:

1. Self-Awareness

This is by far the most difficult area for many Managers.  Plain and simple, the Manager needs to be self-aware.  What I mean by this is the ability to recognize the areas in which they are weakest and anticipate errors.  Let’s examine a possible scenario to illustrate this: Suppose a Manager is struggling with the challenges of deciphering financial statements prior to presenting them to their Board (I’m not saying blame the accountants but… blame the accountants).  The Manager has to recognize at the onset that one way or another, they must overcome the challenges set before them.  To achieve this, brutal and honest self-examination is necessary from the Manager.  Being proactive is crucial is combating the scourge of costly mistakes and the erosion of trust between the Property Manager and the Board/Condo Owners.  The benefits of self-awareness invite the Manager to seek the help they require.  Understanding and recognizing what their weaknesses are is an invaluable first step in seeking guidance from colleagues or other sources and thus avoiding costly mistakes.  Self-awareness is therefore an intricate yet integral part of preserving one’s integrity. 

2. Admitting the Mistake Openly

Captain Obvious once stated: “Ideally, it’s better to eliminate the prospects of making mistakes - but most of us are fallible beings”.  We all possess an inclination towards self-preservation, but when you “take the way out that protects your reputation at the cost of your integrity,” in the words of Louis Litt from the legal TV show Suits, it truly diminishes the value of the relationship the Manager has with their Board of Directors, especially when harmful mistakes are involved. By attempting to dismiss or cover up serious errors, Managers are only digging themselves deeper into the proverbial hole. Now is the time to stop digging.  Of course, there are professional and ethical advantages in recognizing and properly admitting a mistake.  The biggest ones are: a) eliminating the self-serving desire to continue to defend an incorrect action, b) avoiding additional pitfalls in trying to cover up the primary mistake, and c) demonstrating integrity by taking responsibility for the mistake. It doesn’t have to be made into a drawn-out public spectacle, but it does need to be genuine.

3. Move On

While owning the mistake and atoning for it is always the best course of action, sometimes it’s just not possible to truly repair the damage done. If so, it’s time to move on.  If you’re an avid sports fan like I am, you’ll know it’s a common mantra for an athlete to have a short memory or, better yet, “mild amnesia”. At a certain point, there is value in the ability to forget past blunders in order to focus on achieving current objectives. This is as true for a professional athlete as it is for a Property Manager. 

Through experience, when coming clean post-mistake, my relationships with my Boards did not diminish but indeed strengthened.  There is somehow an unspoken mystical bond between screwups.  Directors are people too and likewise prone to making mistakes.  When Managers admit we are wrong in our actions, we affirm to the Board that we’re human and fallible, just like them.  The willingness to humble oneself when you are in the wrong is a gateway to Manager/Board cohesiveness - integrity fuels trust, and those two things are lifelong acquaintances.  Admitting fault when projects and assignments go sideways often says more about the Manager’s integrity than being right in the first place.  When the Board sees you stepping up and owning your mistakes, they feel more confident that they can trust you to do the right thing in challenging scenarios.  I’ve had situations when my Boards witnessed me admitting and owning silly mistakes, and they in turn have felt secure enough to acknowledge their own errors in judgment.  The Board and Property Managers can create relationships in this way where, instead of being shamed, mistakes are examined for the benefit of growing and developing together.


Bill Lang


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