Creating change: why success in real estate needs to be about thriving, not just surviving.

For as long as I can remember, and even way before that, success in real estate has revolved around numbers – how many properties you’ve sold, how much you sold them for and what your gross commission income is (GCI).

Now, I’m not saying that’s wrong. It’s just that it’s only one version of success. 

It’s the most dominant view of success in real estate and yet, the fact is, it can leave a large portion of the industry feeling as though they don’t fit in.

When I started in real estate, I quickly learnt that the path to success was to become a sales agent and sell as many properties as possible, for the highest amount.

The accepted model of a successful agent was one that worked 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week and ate, slept and drank sales. 

In most agencies, sales agents are the superheroes and the best are often given capes and propelled into leadership roles and, eventually, agency ownership.

It makes it hard for alternative scenarios to play out.

But what does this mean for the agents that only make $1.5 million GCI and not $3 million? 

What does it mean for the hardworking property manager who manages 150 doors?

Or what about the mum that achieves $800,000 GCI despite only being able to work from 9am to 5pm?

Often they’re left feeling as though they’re second-class citizens. 

Just as I was a few moons ago when I was locked out of an 8am sales meeting because I was two minutes late (thanks to the kids’ morning routine not quite going to plan).

And it’s that mindset that can create an unbalanced workplace.

Many property managers know they’re not as acknowledged, valued or rewarded as highly as the sales team, despite being significant protectors of the business asset.

And sales agents that aren’t ‘superheroes’ often merely survive, not thrive in the workplace.

It’s time for change. It’s time to disrupt that version of what success looks like and make it broader. 



When I joined The Agency, I was excited by the opportunity to become an ambassador for change, and I want nothing more than to foster a real estate industry that is multi-faceted.

An industry that moulds to fit the agent instead of the agent changing to fit the industry.

At The Agency, ‘success’ has many faces. Sometimes it is soaring GCI and sales numbers. Sometimes it is greater work-life balance, and sometimes it’s as ‘simple’ as creating a happy, healthy team around you.

Just recently, I approved a change in office hours for one of our team members so they could avoid horrendous peak-hour traffic. Now they come in early, get their work done and leave early.

It works for them and it works for our business.

The Rise initiative is another facilitator of change in the real estate industry, with the clear goal of moving real estate and property management away from the one-dimensional goals of chasing transactions and getting through never-ending to-do lists.

As one of the board of directors, I can safely say that we want to create workplaces where people thrive, have well-rounded workplace relationships and take comfort in the fact they have psychological safety.

In a nutshell, psychological safety is a shared belief held by all team members, or industry, that it’s alright to speak up and voice their ideas or concerns without fear of negative consequences.

It’s no secret that the real estate industry has become known for its high burnout rate and ‘churn’ of both sales agents and property managers.

– Sally O’Connell

But I genuinely believe we can turn this around, and I know creating psychological safety is the key to doing so.

In the middle of my real estate career, I took a little detour into the corporate world with Macquarie Group, and what this showed me was that when people feel safe and valued coming to work, they’re not only happier, they’re much more productive. 

Take Google’s research into what creates effective teams. 

Code-named Aristotle, the Google researchers found that team members with higher psychological safety were less likely to leave Google, were more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, bring in more revenue and be rated as effective twice as often by executives.

Achieving something similar in real estate is possible; it will just take time.

What’s the secret to creating such change? It’s first creating awareness of the need to change and then educating agents and business owners on how to do it.

And it starts at a grassroots level, which is why Rise holds its annual events and conferences to openly discuss industry issues in a psychologically safe environment. 

Those who attend and see how such a method works then become what we call game-changers. 

They help influence holistic change when they return to their office simply by discussing what they’ve learnt.

They can also help prompt action further up the chain of command; that’s if they’re not the chain of command themselves.

Rise is also invested in offering mental health training with webinars, live events and, of course, there’s the Real Care app.

But the biggest tool the industry has to create change are those people who attend the events. 

The people that know there are issues to address and want to foster an industry that supports various pathways of success.

Where we can continue to make the most impact is with the leaders that are open-minded and want to do better but don’t know where to start.

That’s ok. As long as there’s a mindset and a will to ask, ‘What can we learn?’ and ‘What can we do better’? There’s a path forward.

Sally O’Connell

Bit by bit, just like the ripple effect a dropped stone creates in a pond, I’m confident change will spread.

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Sally O'Connell

Sally O'Connell is the General Manager of Sales, Victoria and Tasmania, for The Agency.