In the fast-paced real estate industry, it’s so easy to get bogged down in day-to-day issues that we forget to think about the future. But I’d like to challenge you to take a step back for a moment and imagine that you disappeared today. Would your employees be able to sustain operations without you?
If you can’t answer that question with a resounding “yes,” then it’s time to ask yourself why. Sure, conversations around succession plans can be awkward, but someday, you will decide to hang up your real estate hat for good. Just as you have to continue to care for a garden after the initial planting process, you can’t expect your real estate company to thrive for the long term without strong leaders behind it.
Don’t leave the future of your company up to fate. I’m a big believer in not only leading my team members, but also serving as their mentor. This way, I can retain my agents, give them the tools to succeed, and prepare the soil for a healthy bloom.
Maintaining Your Real Estate Garden
It’s not uncommon for real estate leaders to toggle between coach and boss, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to determine which role is most appropriate for which situation. I don’t have a hard and fast answer, but based on my experience, it’s always best to take the temperature of the situation. In other words, what does the agent need from you in that moment?
Beyond that, here are some general guidelines.
1. When you need to be the boss
Leaders set the workplace tone and hold processes, policies, and values above doubt. When an agent approaches you with a pressing question regarding a health and safety policy, for instance, you need to be the boss, applying it consistently across the company.
When stepping into a boss role, speak with intention and exhibit confidence. Establish roles and responsibilities so nothing is up for interpretation. For example, at Windermere Group One, we don’t have locks on our office doors. We’ve made it very clear that if we ever catch an employee stealing another agent’s client or client information, termination is the only option.
However, make sure you don’t become too unapproachable or rigid in the process. I’ve worked for bosses who did not want my opinion, did not want me to become successful, and were not interested in my professional future or my personal growth. Why would anyone work in that type of environment — much less invest in it for the long run?
2. When you need to be the coach
Now, let’s say you’re accompanying an agent on a listing presentation. This is the perfect opportunity to stretch your coaching muscles. Let your agent lead the presentation until she raises her hand and asks for help. If you empower your agents to put in the work, they’ll take you seriously, respect your feedback, and be more inclined to take over the business someday.
Next time an agent comes to you with a question or concern, slow down. Think to yourself: Is this a situation that allows for opinions and discussions? If so, it’s probably a mentorship opportunity. As a mentor, you want to be knowledgeable yet compassionate. Communication is key. Your job is to help others develop skills, not to limit their growth and bulldoze their ideas.
3. When you need to take a hybrid approach
Of course, not every situation or process will fall strictly into the boss or coaching bucket. Oftentimes, you’ll need to combine the roles. For instance, I like to take a hybrid approach when teaching my agents how to write contracts. Following correct legal procedure is critical, so it’s important to clearly instruct agents in that regard. That process decidedly falls in “boss” territory.
However, agents will inevitably ask questions throughout the process (if they don’t, that’s a red flag). Rather than answer right away, turn the question back around on the agent. What does she think the right answer is? Make sure to adopt a friendly, helpful tone here. It’s not about intimidating your agents but about fostering better discussions. I also like to run through a few hypothetical situations with my agents. This helps prepare them for when things go wrong — as they inevitability will. You can’t prepare your agents for every weird situation, but this is a great way for them to exercise critical thinking.
All good things must come to an end, and that includes your career in real estate. And when you decide it’s time to move on, you want to feel confident in your successors’ ability to lead your business into the future. Adopt the dual role of coach and boss to empower your team members to dig their roots deep into your company and settle in for the long haul.
Jeff Thompson is managing partner at Windermere Group One. WGO is a member of Windermere Real Estate, a real estate network comprised of 300 offices and more than 6,000 agents throughout the western United States. Jeff is truly passionate about helping build companies by building their people. He leverages his 25-plus years of experience in real estate to coach other managers and brokers. Jeff credits much of his success to hard work and a willingness to partner with good people.