Teams of independent contractors dominate the sales force. Real estate teams even more so.
Perhaps it’s because of this that they often miss the importance of building a culture that fosters engagement within their organizations.
Each team member is a “mini-company” within the whole, and support staff aside, mandating particular direction other than sales success is difficult. That lack of cultural leadership, however, can cause us to take for granted what we’ve already built.
What follows may at first glance look like common sense, but I’m hopeful it will also serve as a reminder of what research tells us is important if we are to create a world where our employees, partners and peers can thrive.
In doing so we can stop refilling the chairs at the table and actually expand into a bigger space.
1. Know that micro-managing hurts
If you look at some of the largest real estate firms in the nation, you’ll find at the heart of it a driven, knowledgeable and determined individual who very much built his or her success from the ground up.
His or her name is on every piece of marketing that goes out, and every review that comes in. He or she has spent thousands of hours — sacrificed so much — building a brand and reputation.
So when the time comes to go from single agent to a team, this leader is challenged in releasing control over any part of what he or she has created.
But he or she has to learn how.
According to a survey conducted last year by TINYpulse, a firm that helps measure employee retention, employees who have freedom to make decisions are satisfied, but those who feel their hands are regularly tied — micromanaged heavily — are 28 percent more likely to think about moving elsewhere.
Hiring the right people is all about mitigating those deficiencies in our own skill set. Find hardworking, self-motivated talent, and allow that talent to achieve the goals we put in front of them.
If we hire properly, they should know how best to get it done. Inspect what you expect by holding your team accountable to results, and stay out of their way.
2. Build a culture that celebrates success
Once the goals are met, make sure you’ve built a culture that acknowledges those achievements. Again, those most successful in sales often did it alone for a large part of their career.
Success and failure both met at the same place — themselves. Being able to relinquish a modicum of control and allow someone else to share in the praise or blame is crucial to making someone feel valued.
Everyone reading this can remember a time when you begrudgingly had to take the fall for a misstep someone else helped to create. Worse still, we can all probably just as easily remember not being acknowledged for a job well done — or even having to watch someone else take the credit entirely.
Beyond becoming unengaged, stealing the “limelight” from an employee or partner who looks to you for motivation will soon having them daydreaming about new and exciting ways to plan your painful demise.
Luckily, most won’t carry out those fantasies, but more than a few will think about it. Give credit where credit is due, and do it often.
So you authorize amazing team members to do their jobs and heap vast amounts of well-deserved praise upon them when they succeed at a high level. What next?
3. Treating employees equally isn’t the key to treating them fairly
Next, it’s time to dispel a myth. You do not have to treat all employees and partners equally to treat them fairly.
Each position — though crucial in its own way — is not equally important to the success of the whole. Likewise, each individual on your team will have a different impact based on his or her skills, aptitude and abilities.
It’s OK to acknowledge that by creating various rules for various roles. Likewise, create an efficient, tailored approach utilizing the individual traits of those even in the same role.
Treat partners and employees as individuals to best, most fairly bring to bear their attributes and talents.
For example, I have two children, but I wouldn’t trust them both equally with the same level of supervision. One simply needs more oversight, and more regularly, than the other.
This might not sound equal, but past experience has shown me I’m completely fair in making that decision.
As long as there is transparency in the way those decisions are made, high-performing talent will appreciate the opportunity to stand out and will understand the why behind the what.
4. Give your team room to dream
Finally, and maybe most importantly, allow your team to dream. Allow them to dream big. Foster in them the expectation that your world will always expand to fit their world.
When you do that well, they often become the instrument of the very growth you’re looking to achieve.
Speak regularly to your vision, and lay out the big picture for everyone to see. Not in long, drawn out, exhaustive detail — but in broad strokes.
Sketch it out for them. Then sit back, watch and listen. Authorize them with the authority to paint themselves into the image. Allow them to color, imagine and adapt themselves and the vision to fit the team.
As long as you’ve created a unified group moving toward the same goal, the path might change, but the end result will stay the same.
Lead and inspire your team to be greater than themselves, and challenge yourself to acknowledge that they make you better as well. Relinquishing a piece of control over our dream and vision is powerful.
The right people will rise to the responsibility that trust represents.
That’s really about it. Build a culture of empowerment, accountability, praise, fairness and inspiration. It sounds simple.
But it’s not.
It is what keeps our team engaged and unified. It is what creates an organization that believes more in the whole than in its parts.