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They may not have the experience of some of the industry’s 20-year veterans, but individuals who have recently adopted new leadership roles have the advantage of their experiences being fresh. Inman spoke with a few real estate industry leaders who have been in their role for about two years or less to find out what they’ve learned so far and what advice has been most helpful.
Here’s what they had to say.
Listen and be receptive to ideas
New leaders agreed that listening to their teams and being receptive to alternative ideas were key to success.
“Seek feedback,” said Vija Williams, director of growth at Ben Kinney Brokerages for the past two years. “Ask these questions: How am I doing? Can I improve on anything? What would you do if you were me? What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What can I do to enhance your job and success? How can I remove obstacles for you?”
It’s also important to ask questions from many different sources and all levels of an organization.
“One thing I hear a lot is how many questions I ask and that I am unusually willing to collect feedback from others,” said Brady Miller, CEO of Trelora for the past two years. “I spent the first four months in this role talking to people. I met with every employee to learn about their family, their hometown, their path to Trelora, their day-to-day work life, and to request feedback on how we can make Trelora more successful. It’s amazing how much you can learn from your own employees.”
Williams also added that having a good communications system in place makes an enormous difference in terms of transparency and team-building.
“Internal communication is really important,” Williams stressed. “You cannot over-communicate or over-loop your team. People appreciate it, and it brings the team together.”
Seeking advice from an unbiased individual outside of the company can also provide you with helpful outside perspectives.
“The CEO role can be very lonely,” said Gur Jeff Holzmann, CEO for the past year at IRM, a crowd-funded real estate investment firm. “But being able to consult with third-party colleagues who don’t have a horse in the race is a huge benefit.”
Learn from mistakes and own them
“Our work is always evolving,” Holzmann said. “One of the most important things we do is a monthly debrief where I gather all team members from all departments to have an all-hands conference call and we break down everything that went wrong that month. This allows us to make sure we all learn from any mistakes that were made and how to do better in the future.”
Especially in larger organizations, it’s easy to push off the fault of mistakes onto others. However, Williams says leaders should be prepared to accept even their employees’ mistakes as their own.
“Be accountable,” Williams said. “I own my actions and my results. If the results are good, the team gets to own them. If they are not, that’s on me.”
Everything takes time
Before stepping into a leadership position, it can be difficult to conceptualize just how much time will be needed to complete tasks and coordinate meetings.
“I had an unrealistic view of how quickly I would be able to change things,” Williams admitted. “Patience is not my best virtue and I am wired to win and move quickly, so that’s been the toughest part of this leadership journey so far.”
“As a CEO … the range of [meeting] topics is amazingly diverse,” Miller said. “Each of those meetings requires a very different approach and there is rarely time to prepare between meetings. However, it is critical to have an objective for each and to have some preliminary research completed to ensure it is valuable for all parties. It is critical to set aside time every day for planning, reflection and to contemplate strategic initiatives, otherwise, my day becomes reactionary and isolated from the bigger picture.”
Responding in times of uncertainty
Everyone is trying to learn how to navigate through the coronavirus pandemic and a tenuous stock market at the moment. New leaders have also had to quickly adjust during a constantly evolving situation.
“Like any other company, IRM [has] had to adjust and adapt,” Holzmann said. “Luckily we’re a mostly high-tech business with 100 percent of our IT systems based on the cloud, which allows our team members to work remotely. We always prioritize the safety of our team members, and we’ve minimized travel.”
A focus on remote work when possible and increased sanitation measures have also been go-to steps for their teams.
“We have not gone to a full-blown work from home strategy yet, but we are encouraging our employees to do so when possible, especially in our Seattle office,” Miller said. “We are also providing sanitation wipes, and various other sterilization materials for our agents and customers in the field.”
“Our role right now is to keep our offices clean and safe and to stay on top of safety precautions,” Williams said. “We responded immediately with pop-up webinars that we are planning to conduct twice per month indefinitely with agent panels focusing on what to do right now, today, to help our agents continue to sell homes. We have instructed our individual team leaders to structure training in all of the offices to help agents continue to conduct business throughout this time.”
However, team communication remains key.
“Lastly, I am ensuring we have stellar internal communication,” Williams added. “All-leadership Zoom [meetings] weekly, team leader calls every morning, and texting and talking throughout the day. The motto is: There is no such thing as over-looping right now.”