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Industry Leader Spotlight: Dana Jones

Posted by Apartment Life on Jun 27, 2024 9:22:00 AM
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dana jones

The following interview with Dana Jones, CEO for RealPage, Inc., was pulled from Episode 223 of the Apartment Life Leadership Podcast and was edited for length and clarity.

Why is the topic of building a healthy culture so important?

I think it's one of the most important things that I do in the role that I'm in. In fact, earlier in my career, I didn't necessarily aspire to be a CEO, but I would reflect on the cultures I was part of and say to myself, if I was ever in charge, I would allow or not allow A, B, and C.

I was always very passionate about organizational culture. Essentially this is the values, the behaviors, the expectations, how leadership engages, and how you communicate. Culture is the fabric of any organization. 

To me, culture is where the rubber hits the road on how the work is done and how we all show up. It can really make or break an organization. 

And a lot of what can make up a culture are not just the written rules, but the unwritten ones. Company culture drives the behaviors of employees. It's critical to attract and retain talent. It's critical to motivate people to do their best work, to feel like we belong and to really be productive with high morale. And isn't that what we all want for the teams that we're part of?

That's what I want to be part of. 

What are the consequences of neglecting to cultivate a healthy culture?

There is nothing that can zap the energy of a high performing team or person more than bad behavior, inconsistencies, trap doors, etc. 

If you really want a high performing organization, one that's achieving and serving the mission of the organization, then getting the culture right is our responsibility. It's not one and done, it’s something we do every single day. Every interaction is an opportunity to reinforce culture, tweak it or even turn it the wrong way. Everyone's watching every action, every word, and every decision. Consistency sets the stage for what is expected and what our teams can expect of us. 

What tips would you give to someone trying to assess a company’s culture?

It's critical when you join a new organization or a new team to understand the culture that is there. 

Understand the subcultures that are there. RealPage is a huge organization. As an example, we've acquired a lot of different businesses. Any organization has subcultures. And I think it’s foundational to take the time to understand why. Why is the culture the way it is? What has created the good side and the bad side?

I think about some of the core pillars I've put in place when I've taken leadership roles. I'm very thoughtful about the pillars that I want the organization to be grounded on. Whether it's how communication is done, how priorities and decisions are made, how to empower and support employees, or the tone, all of that gets set by the senior most leader in any group. To establish that culture, you've got to get the words right.

And then, every single action and decision has to support those core pillars, whether it's who you hire or the disciplinary actions you may have to take if a behavior is incongruent with the core values you've set out.

When it comes to the positive things in the existing culture, you want to reinforce and reward those things. When you see a positive outcome, you reinforce it, you put it on display, and people start to acclimate and understand that that’s the expectation. 

What advice would you give to a fellow leader trying to build and maintain a healthy culture?

You can't just flip a culture overnight. You may need to take steps in the direction that you want to go. It's all about building trust and that starts with good communication. Trust and alignment can be built or destroyed based on communication. You can never overcommunicate. A lot of times, we all assume we've communicated something many times, but in the absence of clear communication, people fill in the gaps, so having clear and consistent communication is critical. 

As a leader, it’s crucial that my communication be transparent.

As leaders, it's our job to create a safe environment where everyone has the information to make the right decisions. Being transparent means explaining the what and the why so that people can connect the dots and not feel like they’re left guessing. When people are left guessing, it takes unnecessary energy and unintentionally creates disconnects. So, as a leader, I really prioritize communication.

And then, I’d say consistency. I'm always looking for the words and actions of all the leaders to marry up. If you say we're going to do something, we have to do it, or we have to say why we're not going to do it. I do monthly town halls with the whole company. Before I was even officially in the role, I did a town hall and set the stage for the things that were important to me around communication, prioritization, focus, and alignment.

The first year everyone kept saying, are you really going to do these town halls every month? Well, yes, of course I am. I told you I was going to do that. Three years in, and we still do monthly town halls. It's the simple things that help to create consistency. 



For more interviews with leaders in the multifamily industry, you can follow along at apartmentlife.org/podcast. Follow @aptlife for updates on new episodes and upcoming content! If you enjoy listening, leave us a review on Apple or Spotify. We can't wait to hear from you and hope this podcast serves as a helpful resource.

Topics: multifamily housing, podcast, apartment life, leadership

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