The future is bright in Multifamily for people that give a damn. Good leadership is about developing strong relationships, supporting and developing other leaders. Stacy Stemen and Sarah Saglam highlight those who really care, are engaged, are involved, and how they manage their daily duties to stay so involved.
Carrie Antrim, the Chief Operating Officer of Multifamily Leadership and Co-Founder of Multifamily Women®, kicked off Day 2 of the Multifamily Women® Summit by inviting Sarah Saglam and Stacy Stemen to discuss what sort of things they truly care about.
Sarah Saglam is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Operations at LeaseHawk. Stacy Stemen is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Development with a real estate investment company called Passco. Both are extremely focused on relationships and creating a sense of family within the office.
The three are dressed in matching shirts that read in a graceful yet playful font, “I give a damn.” The word “damn” is underlined. The font and design match the lettering used as a centerpiece for the summit, with the words “Multifamily Women” hanging overhead between the chairs when the presenters sat.
Giving A Damn
Antrim starts the discussion by getting right to the point: “We’re talking about giving a damn. What does that mean?”
For Sarah Saglam, giving a damn means being passionate about the people you work with, the things you work for, and creating a culture of kindness. That requires recognizing milestones and being aware of what people are going through. Something as simple as a sticky-note showing your appreciation for someone can make a huge difference in someone’s day.
You often spend more time with your work family than you do with your own spouse or children, so you should celebrate those relationships. Do things to lift each other’s spirits and support one another.
“It’s a very competitive market right now, so the more things you can do to create a culture of kindness and a feeling of family will really resonate in retaining and attracting talent,” Saglam explained.
Stacy Stemen says passion is the most important element of all this. It requires you to go outside the box, go beyond the norm, and create a powerful energy that people want to be around. Stemen says that needs to start from Day 1, and that you should always be welcoming and encouraging toward your teammates.
Having an attitude like that helps people to be happier in the office, which makes them more excited about work and therefore more likely to stay with the company for a longer period of time. There are all sorts of ways to do that. Passco, for instance, has charity drives that give money to organizations chosen by people within the company and engages their employees with charity walks or runs. Things like that can make people feel bigger than themselves, as well as making people feel closer. A plus from that, Saglam says, is that people are more likely to buy from or contract with companies that are involved with nonprofits.
Stemen says she gives a damn about giving back to the community.
“It’s just important that you make yourself stand out. Everybody can be the norm. I live by a saying: ‘Live beyond your desk.’ You may be given a job – you may be in accounting, you might be in acquisitions, but do more than that. Get to know other departments. Get to know what they do so you can broaden your horizons and actually go and do a bunch of different jobs.”
Stemen says there’s a difference between a sponsor and a mentor, but both are necessary in every industry.
“When I think of a mentor, I think of somebody that is educating and training somebody maybe within your specific field. Whether it’s marketing, acquisitions, it’s someone you can look up to and actually feed off of their knowledge. You maybe have a call with them a week or a month, maybe go to lunch and do all that kind of stuff. Mentorship is definitely needed,” Stemen says, and brings up that her mentee was present in the audience during the presentation.
“A sponsor, on the other hand, is somebody that’s out there promoting you when you’re not around. We’re here sitting here talking about people in this industry and they don’t even know it,” Stemen explains. “There’s sponsors that sponsor the event, but then you’re sponsoring an individual.”
Saglam adds that being accessible to people in the workplace so that you’re available if someone needs to talk is important. You should offer yourself as a resource and support others.
Stemen builds on that, suggesting you build groups within larger groups to build your network and knowledge base. For instance, she has a group that gets together monthly to brainstorm ideas, consider what conferences or meetings to attend, and feeds off each other’s energy.
Stemen says telling people something isn’t your job is limiting. By doing other jobs, you can find what you’re passionate about.
Antrim takes a pause to hand out cards that look similar to name tags, but instead say, “I give a damn about” with a blank space for people to fill out. They’re handed out amongst the crowd, inviting people to reflect on their values and their focus. Then, she uses that time to pivot the conversation.
“I also wanted to touch on when you can tell – when you just know that someone in the organization doesn’t give a damn, and managing that, whatever it is,” said Antrim. “Either transition into a different position that maybe gets them fired up, or transitioning out, a different career path. How do you guys manage that type of – at least for me, it’s a little more difficult. I’m not one to have those types of conversations. How do you do that but maintain the relationship?”
Saglam says being aware and noticing that person is struggling, and not being afraid to have a conversation about it is helpful. Often, people are going through something in their personal lives that’s distracting them. It’s all about communication, but the key is to go into the conversation with the right mindset.
You should also try to meet them on their terms. For instance, if they’re a quiet person, they might not be comfortable talking in a large group. So instead, you could send them a note asking them to catch up, or invite them to lunch. That doesn’t have to come from a manager; anyone reaching out and showing they care is a good place to start.
“Finding your advocate in the company, I think is big,” said Stemen. “That way, you become their confidante and you become that person who they come to and you can be the voice. This actually gives you more power, going and speaking to these executives and really understanding what the company is going through.”
A common problem, Stemen says, is that people feel overworked, underpaid, or underappreciated. Those feelings can be exacerbated if certain employees’ bosses treat them differently than people in other departments are treated.
“If you’re in a company where you don’t believe in the culture, something has to change,” Stemen says. She encourages you to be that change.
The Power of Moments
Stemen brought a book called “The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath. They go over “Why certain experiences have extraordinary impact.”
An example Stemen liked in the book is a Popsicle Hotline at the Magic Castle Hotel in Los Angeles. You pick up the phone and someone brings you a popsicle, delivered on a silver platter. Stemen says that’s a perfect example of thinking outside the box to create something that will make people happy in an unforgettable way.
“I think everybody should have a Popsicle Hotline. Make it something cool that people will remember. It’s those moments that stand out.”
Both Stemen and Saglam’s companies have something similar that’s meant to lighten the mood. Passco has breaks where the boss will pay for cookies and whatever else employees have their eyes on; Lease Hawk does impromptu ice cream parties.
“It’s something to take your mind off everything that’s going on,” said Saglam. “And then we start talking. It just creates some fun.”
Saglam points out that it’s always important to celebrate milestones, but it’s just as important to celebrate tiny moments. That can change your view of the workday and make you more invested in the workplace and your work family.
Hearing from the Audience
Antrim invited everyone from the audience – either in-person or watching the stream of the conference remotely – to share their own perspectives. Some people had questions, others had bits of wisdom they hoped to share that they believed others might benefit from. Saglam and Stemen offered free “Give a Damn” books or shirts to anyone from the crowd who participated in a discussion.
A woman named Teresa from the crowd at the summit had a question for the presenters. On a badge handed out during the conference where people were told to write what they give a damn about, Teresa wrote “inclusion and diversity.”
Teresa asked, “What are some ideas or some things you’ve done to create culture when your team is not in the same place or the same office?”
Saglam suggests having a name for the team, which makes people more excited about the unit they’re part of. Then, have regular meetings with that team. Start those meetings off by talking about three good things that happened in the past day, which encourages people to have an attitude of gratitude.
A woman named Rebecca, who works with Chadwell Supply, says she sent a hand-written encouragement card to each employee and mailed them out, since the team is spread out across the country. She says it made a huge difference.
“We have the Amazon Business Incentives Program,” said Stemen. “So we will send gift cards out to our teams. I also made a partnership with Uber Eats. If we’re going to have our monthly call, we’ll send out gift cards to them to let them know we’re thinking of them.”
Stemen says it can be hard to spread the company culture across the country and keep people engaged even if they aren’t in the same office. She says it’s important to take the time to ask people what they want. Thinking outside the box to create events where you can bring people together is great, and you can often get them sponsored by other companies.
In the crowd, Stephanie from Leonardo 24/7 says they find out what sort of music people like and create a playlist that they’ll turn on as they’re working. “It’s a neat way to create a moment that carries on.”
A woman named Tina texted in saying they do virtual tailgates with contests throughout.
Jules in the crowd said that she’s in a male dominated-company. “In our organization, we don’t have a Women’s Leadership Council. So myself and an attorney and a VP, who is the most powerful woman at our company, are creating one. We’re just in the beginning stages. So I want some solid advice from y’all on what we should do.”
Stemen says coming to the event she’s attending is a good first step. You could also bring in speakers or go to other conferences together to further their education on how to become better leaders. You just have to make sure you have the support from your executives.
“You’re going to see things evolve. The company culture will start changing, and people will notice from the outside. They’re going to start talking about you and go, ‘I want to work for that company. I see myself fitting in here.’ That’s who you want to be in this industry,” said Stemen.
Linda, an audience member, works with Saglam. She says a thing that was fun for her was the invitation to bring their pets to their virtual meetings. “It created a fun way for us to get to know one another.”
Kristina with Trust Hub said from the crowd that she mails everyone on her team a cute purse, wallet, or lanyard. She’s into pump-up songs as well. At the end of the day, rather than asking what each person did, she asks, “How did your day go? Is there anything you need from me?” That creates a personal connection and makes sure you aren’t micro-managing but can still get questions answered about work.
Saglam says those check-ins that aren’t totally focused on work are a great idea. It breaks the ice and gives a new way to connect.
Brooke, a woman from the audience who works with The Management Group, says any time there’s a death in the family (human or animal) they send a peace lily. She says that surprises people and creates a good moment in a hard time. They also do weekly maintenance meetings and make sure the refrigerators are stocked with beverages – small things that make a big difference. During the pandemic, Brooke started a women’s leadership group, where people were allowed to pick bracelets from the Little Words Project. They have small messages, and once you feel the message has been spoken to you, you can pass it on.
Kim Cross says her team is remote as well, but sends gifts out twice a year. For Christmas, she sent small gifts and had a virtual party where they played music and opened their presents and cards. She wants people to understand that the team comes first.
Tracy with Watch Tower Security started a monthly lunch where people from the industry can meet up and form connections.
Paula from the crowd has monthly dinners with other women from the industry in Atlanta. “It’s amazing, because we get to share our challenges. We get to share our good news, bad news, and also during the pandemic we did it virtually.”
Stemen says after hearing all the input from the audience, she wants to go back to her company and do a personal survey trying to find out what makes everyone tick. That way, you can tailor certain things you do for that person in the future.
Stemen is trying to start up something called Living with a Purpose, where people are encouraged to help with charities or individual causes. Rather than having floors be named A, B, C, she has her leasing agents tell people specific stories about floors and launch community events with each center.