If you’ve held a leadership role at a real estate business, in any capacity, then this year you have most likely made you painfully aware of two things: It is impossible to please everyone, and anxiety is high – Very high.
The best thing we can do as community leaders is to show up for those in our care. How we choose to show up is one of the most important aspects of how we’ve led this year, and how we will lead in the coming new year.
Recently, I had an agent who found themselves in a dying deal, with not only the buyer and seller at odds with each other but the agents as well. As I listened to various sides of the story, it seemed that each roadblock came back to the buyer’s agent, and for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, I decided to call.
After small talk, the words that fumbled out were, “Are you OK?” Those three words were initially met with disdain.
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“I’m not talking about this contract or even real estate, I’m just wondering if you’re doing OK?” I asked. Silence. What I heard next was the deep breaths of someone fighting back tears.
“My marriage fell apart several months ago and I just admitted my daughter to rehab…”
“I’m so sorry. How do you feel? I asked.
“Angry, lost…really damn angry,” she replied.
“And here we all are expecting you to hold this transaction together when your life is falling apart,” I said. “That has to be hard.”
“It is,” she said. “It’s all I can do to get ready in the morning right now.”
Mostly I was proud of her willingness to enter into the vulnerability; that conversation was a lot to share with a stranger — it was certainly a lot to share with your competitor’s CEO. I’ve thought back on that conversation countless times over the last six months, and in many ways, it helped shape the back half of this year for me.
How often do we find ourselves with a coworker, employee, client or even a competitor, when we’re unaware of the stage that’s been set before we walk in? How often are we in a “and here we all are expecting you to hold this thing together” moment with someone?
It would be easy to leave this story with myself as the hero, as someone who asked that question from a place of deep intellect. It was not. It sprang from a person who has required a lot of counseling, experienced a lot of exhaustion, and had a lot of failed attempts at people-pleasing. Everything I’ve learned has come from being lost myself; I assure you I’ve gotten this wrong way more times than I’ve gotten it right.
All too often I’ve walked in and given an employee a task to perform without even making eye contact, much less asking a question. For me, busyness is the arch-nemesis of presence, which is difficult because it’s also one of the more glorified elements on the periodic table of real estate business economics.
If you’re leading a real estate business into this new year, I would encourage you to shift your mentality from busyness to purpose, and from management to presence. Management is 90% presence and 10% strategy. If you know how your people operate and how they are doing, you’ll know exactly how to encourage them to their full potential; otherwise, you’ll spend the majority of your time guessing.
One of my favorite quotes from quite possibly the most important book I’ve read is out of “Reboot” by Jerry Colonna, “The simple but hard task becomes clear: lead from the place of your truest self. Do so not merely for yourself but for those who love and entrust their careers to you.”
I believe we all have one thing in common: a desire for connection, and I would argue that mid-pandemic this desire is as visceral as it’s ever been. My encouragement to you for the end of 2022 is to show up and connect with those you lead. Ask the questions you want to be asked.
Answer the questions that take a great deal of courage. Spend more time asking yourself, “Who do I want to be in 2023” and less time asking, “What do I want to accomplish in 2023?” Who you were to someone will always outlast what you accomplished.
Justin Bailey is the CEO of Realty Executives Associates in Knoxville, Tennessee. Realty Executives Associates has 875 agents, 15 offices, and is ranked #54 on the RealTrends 500. Justin is a graduate of Harvard Business School.
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To contact the author of this story:
Justin Bailey at [email protected]
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Tracey Velt at [email protected]