Those of us that have been associated with this housing form for a length of time have watched and embraced the evolution from trailer to mobilehome to manufactured housing. We are sometimes less passionate about recognizing the evolution from trailer park to today’s communities. The key word is community. Whether we describe the housing type as a trailer, mobilehome, or manufactured home is less important than the fact we are talking about homes and communities.
Having inspected and consulted thousands of such communities over the years I have come to the conclusion it is not possible to manage a community. You can maintain the infrastructure such as the water and sewer system, the gas and electrical system and of course the streets, lighting, and drainage to mention the basic components. When you add people, management becomes impossible and leadership becomes a necessity.
So what is the difference between management and leadership? Let’s start with the definitions. Management is defined as “The act of managing, supervising or controlling”. I don’t believe you can control or supervise your residents. Leadership is defined as “The art of leading others to deliberately create a result that would not have happened other- wise”.
Rear Admiral Grace Murry Hopper stated it simply “you manage things; you lead people”
When we realize that many of our communities are home to more residents than some small cities in California it becomes clear that management becomes difficult and leadership becomes necessary.
Few of our communities have the staff and resources of our small municipalities. There is no police department, street department, public works, building, or fire departments, yet the needs are still there.
To be successful we need to value our property and our community. Good leadership draws on the community to assist in maintaining the property. A community has a vested interest in well maintained facilities and systems. A good leader will illuminate and celebrate that shared interest.
How do you lead a community?
Have a vision
What do you want your community to be? Communicate the vision at every opportunity. Be certain the community rules are clear and support the vision. One of the challenges of a leader is to communicate to their followers the direction and destination of the journey. Remember when you ask something of anyone, the eternal question is why.
Become more knowledgeable
There are an overwhelming number of laws and regulations that impact our communities. The community leaders need to be experts in this area. We have all heard that knowledge is power. That is very true. People seek out those with information. “The road to leadership is through knowledge”.
Value your residents
Without residents or customers your community may be more peaceful, but will not survive. A successful community must value the residents. This sense of value must be clear and evident in every action you undertake. If you are able to convince all your residents that you value and care for their well-being you probably would have to do little more than rou- tine repairs. Unfortunately, it is not that easy to do, it takes commitment and hard work.
Emphasize the great things about the community, first in your own mind and then with the residents. The positive conditions or actions include what is great now and what great plans are in the future. A word of caution on the future plans: don’t ever promise what you cannot deliver.
Investigate and anticipate prob- lems or issues. There is a differ- ence between maintenance and damage control. Residents appre- ciate a quick concerned response to problems, but much prefer peace of mind. Don’t be shy about publicizing the actions you take to prevent problems or your efforts may go unnoticed. This is especially important if your cor- rective actions or improvements are disruptive. Let the residents know how your efforts are good for them, and that you care about their health and safety.
Be fair and consistent
This is sometimes a challenge. A demanding resident with a neg- ative attitude can often require more time and effort than their pleasant congenial neighbor. A good leader recognizes the obligation to lead all their followers. While residents come in all shapes, sizes and demeanors they must all be valued.
Few failures are more damaging to a leader than the loss of credibility. Don’t promise what you can’t or don’t plan on delivering.
People will accept that you don’t know the answer, but expect your answer if given to be accurate.
Communicate, communicate and then communicate
Neither the leader or follower is a mind reader. Some of the most difficult issues to resolve are those that are imagined. Make the com- munity rules and expectations clear.
Is it really possible to create or improve a sense of community? It is and it does not require large homes or a large number of homes. There are parks that contain singlewide homes that were built in the early 1960’s and there are communities that contain al- most exclusively multi-wide manufactured homes on large lots. I have inspected both types of communities for compliance to the applicable health and safety standards. I have talked to residents in both types of communities. Some communities were not where most of us would want to live, but others that were not materially different had a sense of community pride that felt like home.
Where community leadership is missing I have heard resident comments such as “the management does not care”, where you have community leadership I have heard comments such as “this is a great place to live and all my friends wish they lived here”.
Begin your journey to a better community today. It will take work but as Coach John Wooden stated “Do not let what you can- not do interfere with what you can do.”
This article was recently published in WMA's February 2016 "Reporter". MHCO would like to express our deep appreciation to WMA for allowing MHCO to upload this article to MHCO.ORG.
Jack Kerin is the owner of Kerin Construction and Code Consulting and serves as a well respected consultant to the manufactured housing community. He maybe contacted at 11749 Walmort Court, Wilton, CA 95693; 916.687.7224 Phone; and email: firstname.lastname@example.org