Creating a team is about more than lead gen and tech upgrades. According to team leader Brandon Brittingham, the best systems in the world won’t motivate your team or delight your clients if you’re not a good leader.

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What does good leadership look like in 2022? How can you put your best foot forward where you work, whether you’re managing a team or an entire company? In March, we’ll plumb the topic through Q&As from top-tier industry leaders, contributions from Inman columnists (the leaders in their field) and more. Then we’ll keep the leadership conversation going in person at Inman Disconnect in late March in Palm Springs, California.

This article was last updated March 14, 2022.

Real estate has changed dramatically since the pandemic hit in 2020. Most teams have created strategies and procedures to solve problems that didn’t even exist prior to that. These innovations continue to make the experience better for customers. It also means, in a booming market, our teams are expanding. As you scale up your team, I’m sure you’re wondering: What is the No. 1 way to succeed?

Most people would have you believe it’s a matter of capitalizing on lead-generating technologies. But the truth is, new tech isn’t even a differentiator: All of the top teams in the U.S. can buy the same systems and upgrades year after year. True team builders should be thinking about something else entirely: Leadership!

You need good leadership to create an environment that brings out the highest level of productivity from everyone in your organization. If you’re thinking about scaling your team, here are five strategies to explore — and master — as your business booms.

1. Understand human psychology

Human motivational psychology tells us that, after health and safety, our next greatest need is to find a sense of belonging. The teams that really thrive in the U.S. know how to build a sense of belonging and community. 

How can you provide that for your agents? You can start by getting to know each team member and figuring out what’s going to motivate them to reach their goals. In this industry, we’re taught that using endless metrics and putting KPIs on agents will help measure, and eventually scale, success. 

But if you don’t understand your agents as human beings, you’re never going to see their productivity and efficiency soar. Many leaders in this industry are taught to use aggression, but most team members don’t respond well to that in the long term.

Humans are far more motivated by connection and community. What’s their internal motivation? What makes them tick? What do they derive their energy and satisfaction from? At our offices, we hired an agent success coach to further emphasize how much we care about our agents and to find ways to help them thrive.

2. Create a culture of self-accountability

Real estate is a tough job. It’s sales. It’s stressful. That’s why it’s so important to create a culture of self-accountability. One of the ways we build that into our culture is by hosting accountability meetings every morning, mainly focused on agents.

In that meeting, everyone says, “Here’s what I’m committed to doing in the next 24 hours.” The next day, we ask, “Did you hit your commitment?” Everyone has to come to the table and say, “Yes” or “No.” If the answer is “No,” we ask, “What got in the way?”

It may sound wonky or silly, but it’s one of the best things we’ve ever implemented. If you do enough of those meetings, eventually the big issues start to work themselves out. It also creates a little healthy competitive tension among team members.

It was a game-changer for me when I realized, at the end of the day, success is just one person making a choice. You have to build a culture in which people understand they’re responsible for their own success or failure. We simply can’t do that for them. If you don’t do something you’re supposed to do, I’m not going to yell at you. I’m going to ask, “What got in the way?”

3. Create a culture of recognition

It’s also extremely important to offer some form of regular recognition in a team environment. In some cases, we find people value recognition even more than money. This goes back to that sense of belonging that we all need.

Every month at our offices, we gamify the business of sales with contests. Our award is humorous, but no joke: It’s a big, faux WWE champion belt awarded every month to the top producer and top team.

It’s fun and also creates a bit of competitive tension, too. When our agents win it, they get to have it sitting on their desk for a month, and we broadcast it on social media. It’s something so simple, but it goes a long way and even encourages more teamwork.

I think sometimes, as leaders, we wonder why we should honor employees just for doing their job: But recognition is incredibly important and shows you’re invested in everyone’s success. You’re paying attention. It’s a simple and easy way to show gratitude — and a game-changer if you want to be a good leader. 

I’m recognizing my agents all the time. I think social media is the best medium for it because the world sees it, especially their friends and family. This is where so many team leaders often miss the mark as leaders — not celebrating or recognizing their people enough.

4. Actively study leadership

Many team leads start to struggle when they begin to grow quickly. They haven’t invested or thought about how to be a good leader. 

You can’t just put bodies in seats and throw leads at them. You will hit a ceiling. You’ll have problems. Learning to lead is a skill you have to build, not from instinct, but from others who can offer training and proven best practices.

You have to invest time, money and energy into your own leadership development. It’s reading. It’s going to leadership events and conferences. It’s hiring a coach who’s really good at leadership.

You’re asking your people to invest in themselves and get better, but what are you doing to improve your leadership so you can make your people better at what they do?

To be a good leader, you have to have strong emotional intelligence. And that doesn’t come naturally for everyone. If you look at the top teams in the country and what they’re doing, they’ve invested a ton of money in leadership.

5. Positive language is preparation

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.” -Zig Ziglar

I’m a huge believer in helping people realize what they can get out of life and what their potential is. I’ve ingrained goal-oriented, positive affirmations into all we do. We weave encouraging quotes into team building, training programs and social media. The words we use have power. They inform our actions. When the pandemic hit and the world stopped, positive culture unified our team and helped us continue to thrive.

When open houses ended, face-to-face meetings disappeared and employees around the globe sought new employment, our team actually grew. When we own the language and practice walking the talk, commitment to the company and team rapidly spreads. We’ve seen our new hires transform into leaders, sharing their enthusiasm with each other.

If the narrative your team invests in is a constant reminder of their abilities and strengths, they will embody a growth mindset. No matter what global phenomenon may hit, your team will remain united, supportive and successful.

Three years ago, when I knew I wanted to dramatically scale my team, I made the choice to hire a leadership coach. Not only is he a legend among real estate agents and many others, he holds me accountable to my leadership goals.

Our team has grown tremendously in recent years and our transactions have increased exponentially. But it wasn’t about the latest CRM software or lead-generation systems; it was really about finding ways to be better at leadership from top to bottom. 

Brandon Brittingham is the CEO and team leader at the Maryland & Delaware Group of Long & Foster Real Estate in Salisbury, Maryland. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram

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