For Leah Jay general manager Cassandra Lantry, the strategy for keeping good people in the workplace long-term is all about creating pathways for promotion and retention for individuals that align with the goals of a business.
Speaking on a recent episode of The WIRE, Ms Lantry explained how a chance opportunity fresh out of uni led her to join the team at Leah Jay, where she discovered a passion for property management. But it was strategic guidance from senior members at the company that kept her in the business and helped her find a niche that suited her strengths.
It’s a lesson she now applies formally as a general manager, making sure everyone has the opportunity to discuss directions for growth.
Of starting out at Leah Jay, Ms Lantry recalled: “I was very young. I almost fell into my role, I was probably 19, 20 at the time, so there wasn’t a lot of planning about what I would do. But once I was in our environment, I really resonated with the passion for property management that drove the business.”
The role allowed her to work closely with both company directors Geoff and Leah Jay.
“I was under their wing and mentored by them for many years, and exposed to a lot of the behind-the-scenes running and strategy of the business from a really young age, which really drove my passion for continuing to grow the business over the years,” she said.
After a number of years looking after the company’s commercial portfolio, a conversation with a senior member of staff helped crystallise her next move: embarking on her MBA.
She said: “I remember the day, sitting in an office with one of our other directors at the time, having the conversation going, ‘I think I just need to go for this and go to uni.’
“I was terrified. I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ But it was a real conscious commitment. And from that moment, I had this support, and they supported me through that.”
Her studies saw her gravitating towards the business side of the company. In her late 20s, she took over running one office. After that, she moved into the role of operations manager, and was promoted to general manager three years ago.
At the time that Ms Lantry was coming up through the company, giving guidance was something of an informal activity. As she’s progressed, she’s brought more structure to the process, allowing all team members regular opportunities to discuss how their aspirations align with business needs and aims.
“And now, that’s why, with our team, at every level, we have goal meetings and planning sessions, so that we can make sure we’re really aligned with what people’s goals are, and help them achieve that,” she said.
What business leaders need to remember, according to Ms Lantry, is that conversations are key ― and a plan for progressing through a business will never be one-size-fits-all.
“It looks different for everybody. A lot of people don’t want the leadership side of things. It’s more about being able to grow in a senior property manager position or into new business, or complete other roles in the business. The pathways are really open as long as we’re really aligned in what our values are,” she continued.
And though it can be a hard truth to face, that also can require listening and understanding when an employee’s desires do not mesh with the direction the business is heading.
Leah Jay has seen some big changes under Ms Lantry’s general management. Over the last five years, they’ve moved towards a structure of centralised teams, brought in new technologies, and made significant updates to the business model and leadership. Working with employees to adapt to the changes taught her a lot about leading during periods of transition.
“It poses its challenges of, ‘how do you still bring people along on that journey, but change how it looks and feels?’,” she said.
Staying mindful of the company’s core values and communicating that they remain the same, even if how the company is delivering on its objectives has changed, is important. So, too, is understanding when certain members of the business aren’t prepared to adapt.
“We had to get to a point where we were okay with that and accept that that was just going to be part of this change,” Ms Lantry said.
“It’s not something we say flippantly, and it’s not about, ‘you’re either on the bandwagon or you’re not’. It’s being very real with people and having a lot of open conversations to get to a point where they say, ‘Look, I understand where you’re going and why you’re doing it and all of that, but that’s just not for me. And I don’t want to make that change or make the changes.’ And they don’t come along.”
With property management an industry that’s “always evolving”, it’s a conversation facing many business managers, and one Ms Lantry believes leaders would benefit from being more open about.
“I wish someone had said to me earlier that this would be part of it, and this would be okay, because it’s better for both us and for those members of the team — in their personal careers as well,” she said.
With an open dialogue, even that turn of events can be one that functions as a positive step. As Ms Lantry notes, getting people into the right career path for them also delivers an industry-wide benefit. And for that reason, she considers it to be one of her key responsibilities.
“We’re really about empowering our teams; allowing people to actually build careers and pathways [not only] in our business, but in the industry,” she said.
Listen to the full conversation with Cassandra Lantry here.