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When it comes to the real estate industry, the only thing you can count on is change. New agents are constantly coming into the business while veteran agents are just as frequently making changes of their own.
Sometimes they’re leaving the business altogether, especially when the market is challenging. Other times, they’re moving to a different brokerage or team, or they’re starting up their own business.
An agent leaving can create disruption for the remaining agents, while other times, depending on the dynamics, it can be a positive change. For the broker or team leader, however, it’s more complicated. You’re probably asking yourself any of the following:
- Is it my fault they left?
- Is it because they didn’t like me?
- Is there a problem with our company culture?
- Are they going to trash-talk us all over town?
- Is this the first loss in a mass exodus?
In addition, you may have a fair amount of fear, frustration and resentment built up by the time an agent comes to you and says they’re leaving. You may have heard that they’ve been having lunches with other brokers or exploring their options elsewhere. That can drive you to look at them with some suspicion or anxiety.
When you’ve done your best at retention, the loss of an agent can feel both personal and emotional. Maybe it is, but more often it’s not. Here’s how to make the transition a positive experience both for you and for the agent who’s leaving.
1. Understand the realities
People leave. They move, get married, have kids, get divorced, experience loss, and more. Sometimes, they go through quarter-life or mid-life crises and are simply looking for a change. There are plenty of reasons an agent may leave that have nothing to do with you or your brokerage, so stop centering yourself in the narrative.
2. Emphasize professionalism
Although you may be close to the agent who’s leaving, this is no time to bare your soul and make this personal. Avoid the temptation to have deep, searching conversations if they don’t seem to want to do so. Communicate in a professional manner about transactions that are currently in process and any other nuts-and-bolts issues regarding the off-boarding to ensure a seamless transition.
3. Don’t take it personally
This is probably the hardest part, but it’s the most important for keeping your mind right after the loss of an agent. Unless you’re told otherwise, assume that the departure isn’t personal, and turn your attention back to business. The more you dwell on the loss, the less bandwidth you’ll have for running your existing team or brokerage.
4. Support the departing agent
Don’t be petty and take out your frustrations on the departing agent. Ask them for an exit interview, and use it as an opportunity to communicate openly and honestly so that you can gain insight into the way your agents may perceive your leadership. Don’t get drawn into fighting or finger-pointing, and be open to helping the agent in any way that’s reasonable and practical.
5. Re-connect with your team
Use this as an opportunity to reboot relationships with your existing team. If the departing agent was a big part of your process, this is your chance to rethink the way you operate and elevate some up-and-coming team members or agents to necessary leadership positions. If the departing agent has sowed some negativity among your team members, your engagement will keep it from taking root.
6. Learn from the experience
Maybe you’ll find that there were some personal feelings or negative opinions involved in the agent’s departure. Maybe they were frustrated with the way you do business, the way you handled a problem, or the lack of work-life balance available in your organization. This is good information for you to have and can help you act now to make needed changes to your process so that you head off any more untimely departures.
7. Keep the lines of communication open
If you’re used to being an absentee leader, this is the time to make sure you’re around more, communicating more and connecting more with your remaining agents. You need to know what they’re thinking and feeling. You need to make sure any changes you’ve put in place as a result of an agent’s departure are taking root. Be more available and more engaged during this important transitional period.
The loss of a valued agent hurts, but it can also help. Make it part of your plan for development and use the insights you’ll gain to make your brokerage or team a better place to grow as a real estate professional.