Brokerage

Sherry Chris: ‘Be a servant-leader’

BHGRE CEO shares characteristics of good leadership

As someone who has been in real estate for the past 30 years and worked her way up from an agent to becoming one of the most influential people in the industry today, Sherry Chris knows what it takes to be a good leader.

It takes creativity, integrity and, yes, humility, but the first step was to choose what she stood for as a human being and as a leader, the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate CEO told viewers at Inman’s Select Live event today.

Chris launched the BHGRE brand for Realogy in 2007. Here are some of the key steps and attributes that helped her build the brand into one known for its leadership and innovation:

1. Establish a set of values. BHGRE stands for passion, authenticity, innovation, growth and excellence, Chris said. The importance of choosing these core values is that they act as a filter: They help the company determine who is going to be in its network and who they want to collaborate with based on whether there a cultural alignment, she said.

2. Humility. “Being humble is a very, very powerful thing. [It] allows you to open up your mind and accept others into your world,” she said. “When in positions of leadership, we’re really serving people and being a servant-leader.”

3. Commitment. “You have to commit to each and every thing that you do in a very powerful way,” both in your personal and business life, Chris said. “The two worlds just mix together.”

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4. Have mentors. At the beginning of Chris’ career, there was a woman who helped her grow professionally. Now Chris is mentoring that woman’s daughter, in addition to other young people.

I knew that getting ourselves out there in a creative way on the social networks would pay off, and it has."

5. Empowerment. Every person on a team should be encouraged to perform to the best of their ability and support every member of that team, Chris said. “You choose the best team you can and you empower them to do the best job they can. It allows you to grow significantly. Bring people in that are smarter than you that will do the job in a better way than you do it,” she said.

Chris’ style is more “bottom up” than “dictatorial,” she said, because she knows that good ideas can come from anywhere. The company’s brokers and agents are not afraid to speak up because they know they will be listened to, she added.

6. Creativity. “It’s the little things that you do in life that really help your team perform to the best” of their ability, Chris said. “The big things take care of themselves,” but something like a branded skateboard can help a team rally around a concept and attract others to the brand, she said.

“The creativity piece, that’s how people find you. Then after that you start down the path of meeting with them and bringing them into your business,” she said.

Creativity is marketing, Chris said. Back when the brand was in its infancy, BHGRE launched its Clean Slate blog, as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“I knew that getting ourselves out there in a creative way on the social networks would pay off, and it has,” she said.

7. Integrity. “There’s nothing more important than personal reputation. Be honest. Be trustworthy. Be a person that other people feel that they can trust and be with, and help people in each and every thing that they do,” she said.

Bonus: In addition to heading up BHGRE, Chris will be chairing the National Association of Realtors’ Large Broker Advisory Board this year, among other duties. When asked how she prioritizes, Chris said: “The more you take on, the more efficient you become.”

Project management is another important quality for a leader, she said. Leaders must be organized, set goals, set timelines, and have a great team backing them up. She personally likes to write down what needs to be done. “Putting everything in an app is not necessarily the best way to do it,” she said.

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Email Andrea V. Brambila.