Letting a team member go is one of the hardest decisions a leader has to make, but it’s also a critical step for your business. Consider these three mind blocks that may be stopping you from making the right call.

One of the hardest lessons a successful team leader learns is when to let go of an agent who no longer serves the business. Deciding who gets to have a seat at the table and who doesn’t is a tough choice you have to make as a leader. It’s an even harder decision when you consider the countless amount of hours you’ve spent recruiting, training and marketing the incredible team you’ve built.

It simply appears counterproductive to the growth of the business to let go of even the lowest earners. But, in fact, it’s a critical move leaders should take. Who a leader elects to keep on the team is the true reflection of leadership.

Successful leaders know when it’s time to let someone go from the team, and they’re not shy about making the necessary cuts swiftly and without emotion. They use data and empathy to build a team that moves the business forward. They do not hold onto the dead weight. 

There will always be the easy firing decisions based on ethical or moral violations a leader faces — you know, the things they teach you in broker school. But strong leaders recognize when agents are no longer showing up as they once were and how that jeopardizes the overall health of the team. Ultimately, the financial goals they have set for the team will become unachievable with the talent they currently have. 

If you’re having difficulty deciding if you should trim some agents, consider the following three mind blocks that may be prohibiting you from making the right call.

Mind block 1: ‘I know they have it in them’ 

Real estate agents are constantly faced with change at different times in their careers. This is especially true in today’s world. As leaders, it’s important to be able to help those agents navigate through change.

Providing support and compassion through rough times, while keeping agents focused on their own production, is precisely why many leaders become leaders to begin with. 

However, when their agents can no longer adapt to the change, real leaders know it’s time to make the difficult choice to send them on their way.

Other team members typically recognize those who are not giving it their all or have lost focus. This can stalwart the business goals you have set for the team. Lack of initiative (or, in other words, laziness) or a bad attitude can spread across your team. Soon, other agents become frustrated that the low performers are stunting the growth of the business, and resentment can ensue.

If you have an agent who is no longer producing, consider those who are. Having a hard discussion with a low performer during a global crisis can be difficult. Is there a willingness to adapt, or have they simply lost passion in their careers as real estate agents?

If they still want to earn a place on the team, then set the agent on a realistic timeline to get back to business in the new norm. Then, monitor the results. If they still can’t perform according to the standards you have set in place for them, then make the cut. 

You have given them an opportunity to find a new career they will thrive in. 

Mind block 2: ‘But I have invested so much time in developing them’ 

Congratulations! Leaders are in the business of developing the people they serve. That’s right. Leadership is about service to those who have trusted them to lead. Identifying and selecting the right team players can be a full-time job within itself.

Many brokers looking to build a team have spent countless hours on their recruitment strategies and training, but few have focused on the retention of the top talent and the ugly job of letting someone go. After all, agents are independent contractors, so why not just keep them on and hope for better results? 

One of the most rewarding things a leader can do is teach. Training and cultivating talent can take time and effort. You may have invested so much into a particular agent’s development that you will see it as a failure on your part that they didn’t apply the learning you provided. But, application of that training must be combined with an individual’s willingness to learn and grow. 

Agents who are no longer growing or producing are like rotting fruit on your “tree of prosperity.” So, if they’re no longer thriving, don’t take it personally. Trust that you have given them the tools, systems and content that have gotten them this far in their career. If they choose to stay in the business, let them seek another home where they can readjust, leverage what you have taught them and move to the next level. 

Simply put, if they are no longer growing or learning on your own team, remove the dead fruit to allow for others who can. 

Mind block 3: ‘My business plan says I need to have x number of agents by end of year’

Bob has 34 agents. Bob is a successful team leader. Bob is consistently one of the top teams in our market. I want to be like Bob. 

Leaders don’t compare themselves to other leaders. Competition can be a friendly motivator, but leaders know that what they are truly competing against are past results — and not each other.

Bob may have 34 agents on the team, but what did it take to build a team of that size? How many conversations did Bob have to find the right recruits? How many offers were accepted or rejected? Most importantly, what value does Bob provide to keep the talent he has acquired? 

Quality over quantity is what separates the best real estate teams from the status quo. It should be a privilege to be part of a winning team and not a right.

In the midst of this economic shift, recruiting is playing an even bigger role than it did before the pandemic hit. Top brokerages are actively dusting off their recruiting pipeline and targeting your players. Yes — your players are being poached on a daily basis. 

To grow a successful team, leaders must provide value and be able to succinctly articulate that value to potential recruits. Brokerages have leveled the playing field when it comes to services provided to their agents, and agents have become savvy enough to do their online and rumor mill research to determine if a team is a good fit.

If an agent recruit were to research your team, what would they find out about the overall performance of your team? Remember that value is not necessarily in the form of commission splits or technology platforms! 

Strong leaders who will thrive during this unprecedented shift in our industry will do so because they’ve built strong teams. Every member of the team is specifically chosen for what they can provide. If an agent is no longer adhering to the health and wealth of your team, consider eliminating that member to make room for one who will. 

At the end of the day, your team should best reflect your business, your culture and your clientele. Your team is a direct reflection of your brand. So, why would you settle for anything less than the best? 

Andi Cummings is the owner and coach at Platinum Coaching Group in San Francisco, California. Connect with him on Instagram and Facebook

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