There are many great reasons to build a real estate team and, gazing across the real estate universe, there are numerous examples shining like guiding stars. The problem is, in the cosmos of “teams,” there are vast interpretations as to what constitutes a team. Consequently, the word “team” has been overused, abused and misunderstood with the end result being countless “groups” more closely resembling black holes.
Although some teams function like well-oiled machines, others run amok, leaving confusion, frustration and gaping wounds in their wake. The benefits of teams are obvious, but successfully running one is tricky business.
Many have discovered that while they provide the opportunity for awesome results, they’re also hotbeds for tension, strife, anxiety, jealousy and a host of other unsavory characteristics.
To begin, it’s important to understand that conflict is inevitable in any organization, and it is, in fact, necessary for growth. Successful teams have two fundamental characteristics. They have clearly articulated what makes them a team, and they have learned how to use conflict to drive them forward instead of ripping them apart.
A 2015 article by Dr. Eunice Parisi-Carew (speaker, best-selling author, and management consultant and trainer with over 25 years of experience working with teams) identifies eight metrics that contribute to team dysfunction and failure. These are:
- Lack of clear purpose and goals
- Unsure of what requires a team effort
- Lack of accountability
- Lack of effective or shared leadership
- Lack of trust among team members
- Inability to deal with conflict
- Ineffective problem-solving skills
- Lack of focus on creativity and excellence
These eight points provide a helpful overlay to identify the source of team conflicts and organizational flaws. Once recognized, you have a place to begin rebuilding.
Effective leaders not only understand that tensions and conflict will arise, they know how to effectively channel that energy into positive solutions that improve the health of the team, provide win-win solutions and propel team members forward. If you have no conflict, then I suggest you do not have an effective team.
To build an organization that includes a comprehensive conflict resolution process from the ground up, I recommend the following six key steps:
1. Clearly define your organization
For a team to function effectively, there must be a clearly defined structure, complete with organizational chart, lines of authority, mission, vision, values, beliefs and purposes (MVVBP). Once everyone knows why the team exists and how it’s structured, lines of accountability become visible.
With this foundation in place, you can begin to strategically set goals. As Zig Ziglar famously said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
2. Clearly define roles
Every position on the team needs a clearly defined job description that includes the personality and skills characteristics required to effectively fill that role.
Many teams make the mistake of filling slots simply to have a lot of bodies on the team or because someone was “available.” No one should be hired unless they fit the profile for the position and have the requisite skills to succeed in that role.
3. Establish accountability
Every successful team has developed a culture of accountability. Unfortunately, we live in a society that not only shuns accountability, but also operates primarily on blame. Instead of owning results or failures, we tend to point fingers at others.
Effective teams must run counterculture and provide safe environments where accountability can thrive. This includes clearly stated goals, expectations and consequences.
4. Empower team members
Provide the ongoing nurture and training to ensure your team members can succeed. If you have hired the correct people, you need not push, coax and prod them — they will be chomping at the bit to get going on their own.
Empower them to succeed, ensure they embrace your MVVBP, establish clear lines of accountability and directionality, and then get out of their way. Coach as necessary, provide exemplary tools, augment with ongoing training, and celebrate their successes.
5. Create a healthy culture
Once your team has a clearly stated MVVBP, it’s critical to initiate a conflict resolution process. Like families, clearly defined guidelines and boundaries are essential to enable trust and provide an environment that promotes healthy relationships.
Unfortunately, some teams have “all-star” members who, based on their production, feel they can fly outside the lines. Just as damaging are non-productive members whose disparaging attitudes suck the life from the team. Left unchecked, negative behaviors destroy teams. Patrick Lencioni, in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, provides an excellent model for building an effective team culture.
Maintenance of a team’s culture is critical for long-term success. There should be no sacred cows. Team members should know they can address any issue with leadership at any time in a safe and nurturing open-door environment.
Triangulation cannot be allowed, and those who think they can go behind the scenes and sow discord should be immediately dismissed. My father, who was married for 49 years, once told me, “We’ve stayed together for so long because we’ve learned how to fight fair.”
Stephen Cooley, broker-owner for The Stephen Cooley Real Estate Group, one of the top teams in the Keller Williams Network, said, “I will never fire a team member for lack of production, but I will instantly remove someone who fails to uphold our culture.”
6. Communicate, communicate, communicate
The three most important words in a real estate team. If the MVVBP can be likened to the veins, then communication is the lifeblood flowing throughout. As humans, in the absence of communication, we tend to assume the worst.
In other words, the failure to effectively communicate is the single most significant contributor to conflict.
If structured correctly and run effectively, teams can be amazing environments that produce spectacular results. It does not happen by chance, and it requires a continuing commitment to building and maintaining an effective culture. It also means embracing the idea that conflict, if dealt with correctly, can propel your organization to amazing heights.
Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.