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Building and retaining a successful real estate team: Identify strengths, procedures and your ‘big why’

Don't make it all about the money

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Editor’s note: This is the last of a three-part series. See Part 1 and Part 2.

You’ve decided to start a real estate team, determined your compensation models and hired a really terrific person. The next issue you will face will be how to integrate that person into your new or existing team and how to retain him.

When agents start a team, most become frustrated when the team does not perform well right from the beginning. A critical point to keep in mind is that building a high-performance team requires time, patience and the team leader’s attention.

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman created an excellent model that describes the four steps required in creating and maintaining a successful team. The four steps are, “forming, storming, norming and performing.”

Whether you are starting your team from scratch or adding new members to an existing team, a critical point to keep in mind is that you must go through the process below every single time the team changes.

1. Forming
When you add a new team member, everyone is excited and hopeful about the future. They may also be apprehensive, especially if the person is joining an existing team.

The forming stage is about realigning tasks and job descriptions to fit the strengths and the weaknesses of your current team members. This is the reason that it is so important to use a behavioral assessment such as the DISC, as well as Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder. Each of these tools allows everyone on the team to see what each team member does well and what needs to be handled by other team members. It also helps the team leader to identify the skills needed for the next hire.

An important way to make the team more cohesive is to give them a way to separate themselves from people outside the team. For example, you may have team t-shirts, polo shirts or caps your team members wear when your team attends an event together or does community volunteer work. All Web and print marketing, including nametags and cards, should include the team name as well. Each of these steps helps to cement the team throughout the forming stage.

... Sharing a common purpose minimizes conflicts since each team member is working towards a goal that is beyond just earning money."

2. Storming
Storming is the point where most teams fail. If you have not adequately identified your “big why” as well as that of each team member, your team may lack the overriding goal or purpose needed for it to succeed. Instead of building trust, distrust and conflict result.

Moreover, if you lack job descriptions, team processes and procedures, and clear-cut roles based upon each team members’ strengths, it is easy for your team to fall apart. If you feel unable to address these issues when you first launch your team, you would be well advised to hire someone who can create these for you as your first or next hire.

Even more important, sharing a common purpose minimizes conflicts since each team member is working towards a goal that is beyond just earning money.

3. Norming
Norming occurs when the team begins to work together as an effective unit. They understand each member’s role and begin implementing the activities that are required for the team to succeed.

An important point to realize about the norming part of this model is that if you bring on a new team member, a new system or a new piece of hardware, you may have a time where you have to go back through the forming and storming parts of the model.

4. Performing
When you reach this stage, you have a high-performing team. Your team will probably want to socialize together and will require a minimum of management from your perspective.

Retention

If you create a team with a “big why,” you will find it much easier to retain team members. Nevertheless, it’s important to regularly engage in activities that strengthen your team and their commitment to each other. Here are some suggestions:

1. Create your “big why” as a group
At Agent Reboot, one team leader shared how she had her team spend an evening creating their personal “vision board.” She had plenty of magazines and other resources from which they could select their “big why” for the upcoming year. Sharing the creation process as well as their “big whys” made her team more cohesive. It also helped them to work together and support each other’s goals more effectively.

2. Celebrate individual and team wins
Many teams ring a bell or do something else fun to celebrate every time they take a listing, write a contract or close a deal. They also celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings and other personal wins as a team.

3. Be seen as a team
One team leader described how important being healthy was to her team. They decided to take walks and/or runs through various neighborhoods always wearing their “team gear.” They were also active in various fundraising events. These activities allowed them to meet plenty of people and generate plenty of leads.

4. Team appreciation events
Craig McClelland, chief operations officer at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers in Atlanta, shared one of his most successful strategies for team retention. He always made sure that they had team appreciation events that included the families of each of his team members.

His most successful event was taking his team to the “Monster Truck Rally.” He rented a Hummer limo, paid for all the goodies and treats throughout the day, and everyone had a great time. Best of all, the kids were eager to know if Mom or Dad would be taking them to the same event next year.

Creating a successful team is no easy job. If you take the time to follow these steps, however, you will have a high-performing team that has fun, reduces your stress, allows you time to have a great life, and is extremely profitable.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.