Bridging the Leadership Skills Gap

THE PATH FROM salesperson to leader is often one huge leap with no middle management experience in between. Julie Davis and Neil Williams reveal how to overcome this gap and become a leader worth following.

THE QUESTION of good leadership becomes more vexed in real estate because, more often than not, in our industry a career path is often salesperson to business owner/leader all in the one step. The opportunity to develop skills in middle management roles is fairly rare, particularly within independent agencies.

An agent will often start their career in sales, property management or an administration role and then, following varying degrees of success, make the decision to start their own agency. The decision is often triggered by frustration with the boss at their current agency, and they remove the problem by starting their own business. They do a business plan, often borrow the start-up capital and then start recruiting. But hang on: what have they done to ensure that they are in the absolute best position to lead their team?

Salespeople who have made the transition need to source team members who will fit into the culture that they wish to develop. Cloning, or trying to find salespeople who are just like them, is rarely successful because they recruit a group of opening batsmen instead of a team.

Once the team is in place they need to be led. If they don’t get leadership then they won’t be happy, and unhappy people leave real estate teams. Contrary to popular belief, it is rarely due to better money being offered elsewhere; it’s as simple as that.

Not every leader needs the skill set or training to be the CEO of BHP. There are some excellent leadership programs available, but in this instance I’d like to share with you some simple focus areas to help you develop into your own leadership style.

    We all have standards in life, and these standards are often a result of our upbringing. They often revolve around ‘knowing right from wrong’.It is important as a leader to understand that there are three different standards within an agency. There are the principal’s standards, the team members’ standards and the company or agency standards. Leaders focus on the agency standards because these are the only ones that apply equally to all team members. If you focus on trying to change your team members’ individual standards to align with your own personal standards, then good luck! You will waste inordinate amounts of time trying to convince somebody that you’re right and they’re wrong and, importantly, you have no right to.
    We often confuse expectations with standards. Put simply, a standard is a benchmark that aims for consistency of performance by following a process. An expectation is that the team will comply with the processes to meet those standards, aiming for consistency of results.As a leader, don’t expect the team to meet your expectations if they are unsure of what your expectations actually are. We have expectations of the team as they have expectations of us. This equally applies to all of our customers and clients. It is critical in any relationship, either personal or business, to understand the expectations of the parties, because if we are unsure what the expectations are then how can we expect to meet them?We have learned through life that unmet expectations lead to the biggest disappointments that are often harboured and affect our future thinking and actions. It’s not difficult; if you want to know what your team and clients expect of you then just ask them the question. In most instances they will tell you.
    Leaders understand that accountability is the cornerstone of success. It is intrinsically linked to both standards and expectations and is the third side of the triangle. Standards and expectations without accountability will lead to failure. If all members of the team are not held to account then standards drop, amended standards are introduced and the fuse of unrest and disappointment is lit.Accountability for a new team member should start the day they join, irrespective of their level of experience. The leader’s expectation is that they will start learning the systems and be aware of the standards from day one. Good team members love to be held accountable and if left to their own devices with unmet expectations they will go looking elsewhere. In our experience, the agencies with high levels of accountability are the most sought-after by new and experienced team members alike and are invariably the most successful in their patch.Just as the team is accountable to the leader, the leader is equally accountable to the team.
    Leaders understand that conflict occurs because someone’s standards or expectations have not been met. Conflict is managed or avoided by the use of two things: communication and action. Action without communication is useless and vice-versa.You cannot solve a conflict without first communicating with the parties and then applying the best corrective action to get the best resolution. In conflict leaders deal only with the facts; they are then in a position to make the best decision and they can then get the most suitable outcome. Non-leaders put their heads in the sand, hope the problem will go away or tell one of the team to ‘just get it sorted’.Remember, always support your team members and, if they have erred, ensure that you take the necessary action to minimise the chances of the conflict recurring. This applies whether the conflict is within the team or externally with clients.In summary, leaders are made, not born. We should always aim to be the best leaders that we can possibly be. It’s not hard; we just need to start the journey.

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Julie Davis & Neil Williams

Julie Davis is recognized as being one of the country’s top female Real Estate coaches. Qualified coach, trainer, licensed real estate agent and workplace assessor, Neil Williams is highly regarded for his solution orientated thinking, innovative sales strategies and his impressive leadership skills.