1.   Don’t use the word “take-over”—ever! This implies a hostile environment and immediately puts existing employees on the defensive. Use instead “transition.”

2.   Keep in mind that the transition, regardless of how smoothly it goes, will initially be very stressful for the existing employees.  Treat them with respect and empathy.

While the reality is that some will not prove a match with your company, they are people—parents, spouses, Little League coaches, Sunday school teachers—just trying to make a living.  And they are probably scared to death. You can rest assured that your interaction is the main topic at their dinner table tonight!

Be sensitive, professional, and kind. And don’t make any career promises.

3.   Don’t go onsite without a Plan. No one appreciates strangers with jogging stroller hanging out, watching them work. You can observe a LOT while doing something productive. Just make sure you aren’t overtly staring while pretending to work or making a non-essential phone call. They have eyes and ears.

4.   All Transition Team members’ activity must be carefully planned, coordinated, and prioritized before anyone calls or visits the site. Nothing is more frustrating for the onsite employees than a dozen “armies of one” who are convinced their own mission deserves all of the staff’s attention.

5.   Keep in mind that conscientious employees will feel that the operation must go on while you’re trying to accomplish your “transition” objectives. Don’t take it personally if they get up to answer the phone while you’re attempting to shed light on how to fill out a form.

6.   When trying to teach your company’s procedures and policies, keep in mind that you have to “sell” the reasons why what you practice makes sense. Show the benefit to them. No one over the age of four responds to “Because I said so.”

7. Catch them doing something right. While it may be that your firm was brought in to help improve the operation, no one likes to be constantly criticized. And, unless you have a busload of trained employees outside ready to walk in and assume every position, you need (at least some of) these people. Constant criticism creates terrible morale.

8.   Learn quickly to perform your own area of expertise at that community. Whether it is leasing, doing apartment turnovers, or handling a resident’s concern, you will make much swifter progress if you can lead by example.

So if the phone rings, and you are trained to handle a leasing call—just do it. And do it well! Actions speak much louder than words. You are demonstrating your company’s philosophies and standards in whatever you do, and you will be amazed at how much more effectively what you do is imitated than what you say is obeyed.

9.   “If you touch it, you own it.” Disaster occurs when someone pops in from the “outside,” stirs up the operation, and disappears.  Establish continuity and ensure results through constant communication and follow-through.

10.  Keep objectives clear. “Baby steps” are usually okay, as long as there is consistent measurable progress. So always praise the heck out of each “baby step” that is accomplished, and continue to reinforce in a positive manner the benefit of why you do what you do.

Now, relax. And make it fun!