Bianca Denham: The challenge of leadership 

The concept of leadership can seem abstract, hard to define and a topic that challenges many.

What does it mean to be a leader?

Leadership: A skill to develop

For some, leadership comes naturally, being a ‘born leader’ is a term many are familiar with.

But leadership comes in many shapes and sizes and the blessing or curse, depending on your stance, is that leadership is required at almost every turn in our industry.

What some people don’t appreciate is that leadership is a skill like any other, to be continuously honed and improved.

We are all leaders, but not all leaders are great.

To lead is to influence and I wonder if you thought about the influence that you had on your peers and team members, would you rate that influence as positive or negative? 

I have asked more than 500 agents why they decided to get into real estate and the answer typically falls into a few categories; reward for effort – “I used to work in a job where I worked harder than everyone else but got paid the same, real estate offered me the chance to get paid more if I worked harder“.

The second reason is often cited as a desire for interaction with people – as we know, real estate is about people, not property and the third and most underrated reason – “I fell into it straight out of school, not knowing what I wanted to do”.

How blessed this cohort is to be able to work in this industry for a lifetime. 

Whatever the reason for starting the career, a common motivator for staying and succeeding in the industry is based around the opportunity for financial reward.

Those who make it past the first 12 months in a sales career quickly learn that where you spend your time can be the determining factor between success and failure and this is where leadership is required on a daily basis. 

Challenges and responsibilities in real estate leadership

If you think about it, leading yourself is the first challenge of a career in real estate.

Do you start your day with an energising routine, or roll out of bed 20 minutes before you jump in the car? 

Do you have an intention to the flow of your day or will you just react to what pops up?

Will you allow yourself to be distracted by the coffee room chatter, or lock yourself in for a dedicated call session?

The long lunch is a daily temptation for some, but whether you manage that appropriately or not is a question of your self leadership. 

The word ‘discipline’ means to be a disciple unto oneself, ultimately you need to lead yourself to achieve the critical elements that lead to success in our industry.

The ability to be disciplined is to exert leadership over yourself. How would you rate your success at doing this? 

The second challenge of leadership for a real estate agent is in accepting the responsibility of being a leader to our clients.

The ability to lean into tough conversations, to present the facts, good, bad and ugly requires great leadership.

A telltale sign of absent leadership can be demonstrated by the agent who has stock languishing on the market for too long.

In many cases, this is the outcome of avoidance of critical conversations.

Many agents find it hard to tell a vendor their home isn’t worth what they are hoping to achieve, but the great agents understand this is where the rubber hits the road.

Professionals act as they must. Imagine if your doctor chose not to tell you that you have terminal cancer because they didn’t want to hurt your feelings?

Why should we view our obligations with any less severity?

The choice to be a good leader to your clients or a negligent one can mean the difference between tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Building a successful team: The leadership perspective

Finally, as we know, to achieve the maximum satisfaction and opportunity from a real estate sales career, involves building a team.

This can be a challenge that some agents find really scary, but for those who choose to step up, the rewards are tenfold.

This is not just about financial gain, but it’s about creating a more gratifying career, more enjoyable, more challenging.

This job can be incredibly lonely at times, why not build a team to go along for the ride? 

There are several factors that go into determining whether a new team member will be successful in their role, but one of the greatest reasons why so many people don’t achieve their maximum potential is down to a lack of proper accountability.

If you are leading people, ask yourself, do they know what they need to do to be ultimately successful in their role?

Are the measures clear, quantifiable and rewards attached to their attainment also as clear? 

Each role within your business should be able to be defined in a few sentences.

The outcomes that are required from that role should be able to be defined just as simply, for example, I’ll use the role of a sales associate to paint this picture.

A sales associate role is to extend the capacity of a lead agent, to assist with taking on simple tasks to free up the agent to focus on dollar productive activities and to assist with creating more opportunities for business.

The success of their role would be determined by the number of potential customers they speak to each day, identified home owners added to the database, buyers and bidders identified through a sales campaign and appraisal leads generated. 

Your job as the leader of that role is to ensure the sales associate is provided with sufficient training to execute those tasks and reports frequently on the outcomes they are paid to produce.

Many people find it difficult to manage the second part, ensuring the outcomes are at the right level.

For example, the sales associate is set KPIs – to dial 40 phone numbers per day, add five homeowners to the database and generate one appraisal opportunity per day.

But how often are the outcomes of these KPIs measured and discussed?

What happens if the targets aren’t achieved?

How long do you allow underperformance to continue? 

Many lead agents are afraid that they may come off as being too tough or micro-managing, but ask yourself this question – how are you assisting your associate to be a successful agent one day if they aren’t able to achieve the fundamental outcomes that are critical to being a successful agent? 

Being a great leader doesn’t mean being cold, tough or uncaring, in fact it is the exact opposite.

Ask yourself, are you turning up for yourself, your clients and your team in the way you should?

Every day you have the ability to choose to be a better leader or to avoid something that scares you.

What choice will you make?

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Bianca Denham

Bianca Denham is the Head of Performance and Recognition for the leading property group Ray White