Courageous Conversations: How Jen Baird tapped into feedback and tough conversations to shift careers to become an industry leader

Feedback. It’s a word that can elicit fear in both leaders and teams. But it shouldn’t be that way, according to REINZ CEO Jen Baird. In this Courageous Conversation, Jen shares why feedback is something all leaders should give and seek as an opportunity to learn and grow.

As the CEO of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, Jen Baird firmly believes in having tough conversations when they matter.

It’s a philosophy that has stood her in good stead throughout her professional life, including leadership positions in both in the real estate industry and beyond.

And that career trajectory has been pretty intriguing, including stints in China, Scotland, London and New Zealand in the fields of public relations, real estate and more recently a local government.

Along the way she’s completed an international management and marketing degree in Shanghai, clocked up a decade at Barfoot & Thompson and secured a coveted, yet unexpected role, on Hamilton City Council before seizing the reins at REINZ last year.

But it’s perhaps her role as the general manager of growth for Hamilton City Council that taught Jen the most critical leadership lessons of all.

At the time, she readily admits she had none of the technical skills normally required for the position. What she did have in spades was strategic thinking, leadership training, and the ability to build great working relationships.

In this Courageous Conversation, Jen shares her leadership insights, including why every leader should know what they need from their team and how they should equip them to provide it.

She looks at the tough conversations she’s had in her career, and notes as a leader it’s your duty to provide and seek honest feedback, and accept it when it’s forthcoming.

Jen also discusses her role at REINZ, including the institute’s current focus, the state of the New Zealand market, how the REINZ is giving data back to their 16,000 members, and why it’s a privilege to represent the real estate sector.

“If you can’t see yourself for the truth of you and you’re not going to let anybody show you, then growth is off the agenda for you.” – Jen Baird.

Leanne and Jen also discuss:

  • How Jen found herself in her dream role at Hamilton City Council, and the way she approached a very different interview process to overcome the hurdle of limited technical skills.
  • Why she’s a firm believer opportunities are everywhere, but you have to decide what you want before doors start to open.
  • How she empowers her team by asking herself what she needs from them, and then equipping them to fulfil that role.
  • Why providing honest feedback isn’t about courage, nor your own discomfort, but instead involves providing someone else with the opportunity to grow and improve.
  • What Jen loves about her role at REINZ, why she decided to take it on, and what the institute is focusing on at the present.
  • How one CEO changed Jen’s career trajectory through a commitment to creating leadership capability while empowering others and propelling them forward.
  • The weird and wonderful interview process Jen embarked on to make a career change, and the lessons she learned in the process.
  • Why confidence can be deceiving and doesn’t necessarily come naturally, instead requiring practice and a commitment to personal growth.
  • How innovation or a shift in direction involves testing the water one small step at a time, rather than stressing about the big picture.
  • Why knowing your goal and your purpose assists with clear decision making, and overcomes the fear of risk.

And much, much more…

Connect with Jen

Connect with Leanne

Show More


To contact the editorial team at Elite Agent email

Leanne Pilkington

Leanne Pilkington is Chief Executive Officer and Director of Laing+Simmons.