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by Chrissy Jackson, ACM, PHC

ttitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. That old saying is so true - and we all know it! But - do we practice it? How many of us make a conscious effort - every day - not only to have a good attitude; but to give a good attitude?

For some people (and we all know at least one) having a good attitude is beyond them! And giving away a good attitude is something that never enters their thought processes. These people might well be called the "Mean Marthas" of the world.

Others, however, seem almost determined in their efforts not only to maintain a good attitude but also to share it with everyone they see. These people, who might be called the "Cheerful Charleys" of the world, are always upbeat and positive.

Mean Martha appears to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. Nothing ever goes right for her in her personal life or in her business pursuits - and she seems determined to share all her problems and misfortunes with everyone else.

How do the Mean Marthas of the world do it? And, more importantly, does their attitude really affect anyone else? Can their bad attitude really make a difference in someone's day that is going right? Stop and think for a minute - if you had a Mean Martha for a supervisor, would it affect your job performance? Or would it influence the way you treat other people you come into contact with?

Our Mean Martha is constantly frowning. She is grumpy and grouchy and even when nothing appears to be seriously wrong, she never smiles. Sometimes, it even appears that Mean Martha is looking for something to be wrong - just to give her an excuse to continue her negative attitude.

Mean Martha never has a kind word, a "thank you", or a word of praise for an employee, resident, or prospect. No matter how well you do your job, how good a resident is, or how interested a prospect is, you'll never hear anything positive from the Mean Marthas of the world.

Within an amazingly short time, you'll see Mean Martha's employees begin to respond to her attitude. When they realize that nothing they do will ever be good enough, they stop trying so hard. As employees experience constant criticism and hear no praise, they shy away from active involvement in decision making. And, in time, they will even begin to stop caring about their work at all The property becomes "just a place to go" and the position "just something to do to earn a living."

Cheerful Charley, on the other hand, constantly finds ways to praise his employees, to thank his residents, and to respond positively to prospects who visit. He looks for ways to build self-confidence and improve the self-esteem of his employees. By asking for their suggestions on improving daily operations as well as their input on major projects, Cheerful Charley shows that he values them and their ideas.

Management consultants have been teaching "team building" for years as a better way to operate than the old dictator style. By actively bringing your employees onto your team rather than keeping them at arm's length, you can synergize your way to a more profitable operation. The side benefit is more satisfied employees with an attitude - the Cheerful Charley attitude!

Even a small community or sales staff can benefit from having Cheerful Charley as part of their team. Emotional baggage can be cumbersome and it is really easy to unload on your co-worker. All that does, however, is tend to bring them down to your level. Then there are two employees who are not the Cheerful Charleys they might otherwise have been.

A Cheerful Charley positive attitude is not always second nature, nor does it come naturally to everyone. Even those who fit the description of Cheerful Charley have to sometimes work at it. The difference is that a Cheerful Charley realizes the benefit of having a positive attitude and takes the time to work at it while a Mean Martha will spend just as much or more of their time working in the opposite direction.

It was once said that all the employees of a property used to gather at the front office to watch for the manager to arrive in the morning. They swear they could tell by the way she shut the car door and walked across the parking lot what kind of a day it would be.

If your employees can tell this about you, make sure they see a smile, a spring in your step, a positive, upbeat, Cheerful Charley type of day ahead. Direct your energies toward becoming a Cheerful Charley and ban Mean Martha from your life!

The trickle-down effect will allow this Cheerful Charley attitude to be seen by your residents. It may take a little longer than it did with your employees, but the difference makes it worth the wait.

To implement a Cheerful Charley attitude and put a more positive slant on your Resident Relations Program, let's look at one area that is often overlooked. Consider the appearance and wording of form letters and notices that routinely go out from your office. Does the wording appear to have come from Cheerful Charley or Mean Martha? Is it respectful to the resident, or demeaning and demanding? Does it look like a fresh, clean copy of an important document, or is it a copy of a copy of a copy with toner marks all around the sides?

Finally, ask yourself this question: If you were a resident who received this notice or letter after a hard day at work, what would be your response?

Even those letters that you are required to send which contain legal notifications or quote parts of the law can still be phrased with Cheerful Charley type of wording that shows respect for your residents.

Another chance to show off your Cheerful Charley attitude is the number of covenant violation notices you send. This is not to tell you to limit the number, or to stop sending them if they are necessary - only to ask you to look at the flip side of a violation notice - which is a "Thank You."

Many managers have never send a single "Thank You" notice in their entire careers to any resident for anything. This is such a small thing for you to do to let your Cheerful Charley attitude shine through. What reason can you use for sending a "Thank You"? There is no limit! Consider for a moment the following: cleaning up a lawn, planting pretty flowers, paying rent on time, helping with activities, volunteering to help clean up in the community, or painting a shed. And, once you begin to think about it, you can probably triple that list in just a few minutes.

It is human nature for people to thrive on praise. Those "feel good, warm fuzzies" make them want to do even better and continue to please you.

You can also use your newly found Cheerful Charley attitude to help resolve conflicts with residents and employees. By having a positive, upbeat attitude and really looking for the good in every situation, you can usually defuse a potential conflict before it gets out of hand. Cheerful Charley is always a more welcome person at a meeting or gathering than Mean Martha. And certainly everyone involved in a situation which is likely to get out of hand would welcome Cheerful Charley's presence.

Another shining example of the Cheerful Charley attitude which you are creating in your office or on your property is in the area of communication. How positively do you and your employees interact with the residents or prospects on the phone? How about during personal visits? Is there an obvious willingness to help? Is there a smile on the faces and in the voices? Does body language in person-to-person situations show a Cheerful Charley type of attitude?

Especially on stressful days or at extremely busy times of the month, it might be necessary for you as a Cheerful Charley manager to praise more often; to display more of a positive attitude to maintain the proper atmosphere in your office.

And - use a little creativity to diffuse a difficult situation before it gets out of hand. When you can predict a problem coming, it is time to stop what you are doing and use a Cheerful Charley approach to solve the problem or eliminate it.

One good example of this is the rather unfortunate but real-life problem of a broken water line that requires shutting off water to a significantly large number of your residents with little or no notice. The dilemma you find yourself in is usually to make a choice between (a) let the leak spew in a geyser while you run from home to home and advise residents the water is going to be shut off, or (b) simply shut it down and wait for the phone to ring. Depending on the size of the geyser, the decision may be really easy to make!

The point of this example is not the need to repair the water line. The point is that the need to shut off the water causes a foreseeable problem which can be handled with a minimum of stress to your office staff. All you need is a little creativity and a Cheerful Charley mode of thinking!

Predictably, your phone will ring. Residents want to know why the waterr is off, and how long it will be until it is turned on again. The person at the telephone during this constant barrage of ringing has a difficult job at best. No one caught in the middle of a shower is pleasant when their water is turned off. And - even though they may know it is not the fault of the person answering the telephone, that is usually the person who catches the brunt of the residents' frustrations and anger.

One option which has worked well for me in the past may work for you. Give consideration to changing the message on your voice mail or answering machine. You could say something like: "Thanks for calling Pine Acres. We are out of the office helping repair a broken water line, but expect to be back within two hours. Please leave your name and number so we can return your call."

Then let all the incoming calls be answered by either voice mail or the answering machine. You have given prospects who call a chance to leave their name and phone number as well as an approximate time to be able to expect a return call from you. You have also given residents all the information they will need: (1) yes, the water is off, and (2) we anticipate two hours for repair.

The added benefit is that your Cheerful Charley attitude have also given your staff a break from stress! By utilizing this chance to show your positive attitude at work, you have diffused a difficult situation before it became a problem. You created a more positive, upbeat attitude in the office without ignoring your responsibility to residents and prospects.

Just think of all the other ways you can implement Cheerful Charley's attitude into your working life. I personally challenge you to try it on for size! Banish Mean Martha from your office, your community, and your life!

Develop an attitude - a Cheerful Charley attitude!

"Chrissy Jackson, ACM, PHC, has been a hands-on Community Manager for over 16 years. She managed communities from 200 sites in size up to over 800 sites. In 1996, she founded Chrissy Jackson Seminars, A Division of Steiner & Associates in Tampa, Florida. Chrissy currently provides property management and sales training to state association conventions and private companies. She is also recognized as a nationally published author with several publications currently on the market.

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Put Your Company's Message Here

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