Great expectations: Why real estate and pets aren’t that different

What do pets and real estate have in common? Caroline Bolderston says it’s a lot. In this column, Caroline says the key ingredients in strong leadership are a lot like those needed to train a new puppy.

Being an animal lover and longtime owner of man’s best friend, I have raised a few puppies in my time.

Taking my dogs on their morning walks, I meet many other dog owners and notice that some puppies are well behaved, with happy and relaxed owners, and others are simply out of control, and their owners appear stressed and at their wits end!  

Why the difference? And what has this got to do with leadership in real estate?

Well, let’s get one thing very clear… I am not labelling real estate professionals as puppies or principals as owners, but there are parallels that apply when it comes to leading and developing people. 

You see, the well-behaved pet has been given time, clear and consistent communication and knows the boundaries and standards that apply.

With these key leadership ingredients, whether it be a puppy, a toddler or an adult human, we all do better when we know what is expected and how to do well.

Whether you are a principal, department head or a lead agent with your assistants or sales associates, this applies to you.


The first thing a leader needs to provide is clarity. What are the individuals and the team looking to achieve?

I am working with a lead agent who has a team and is currently hiring two new people.

The two new team members have a start date, but when I asked about their job descriptions, it was met with a pause and sheepish look.

How can someone start and do well in a new role if they don’t know what is expected of them or what direction the team is heading? 


Never underestimate how the gift of time will pay you back 10 times over.

Whether you have a new team member or those who have been with you for many years, carving out dedicated time with them regularly will create a sense of belonging and let them know that they matter.

Guide and mentor them, share your views and opinions and assist them when roadblocks hold them back.

New team members will get up to speed so much quicker and make fewer mistakes if you spend the time with them initially.


Clear guidelines on what is acceptable and not acceptable in your environment is paramount.

Do you have a clear set of guiding principles or values that help steer everyone in the right direction?

Do it once and refer to them regularly; you will be amazed at how this can minimise drama and create a more harmonious team.  


Benchmarks and specificity are where it’s at! What are the current standards within your team?

The best way to know if you have standards that are respected and committed to is to observe what happens at your next team meeting.

Is everyone present and ready to dive in before the start time or are there some stragglers rushing (or dawdling) in at the last minute, still on their phone?

Are you there on time and fully focused? This is the perfect measure of the team’s standards.

It’s also important to look at the standards for your client experience.

Do you have benchmarks around turnaround times for all categories of inbound communications, standards around process with every listing?

Show your people how to show up and how to deliver service.


This is the final and most important piece of the leadership puzzle.

If your standards, boundaries and clarity are not consistent, it drives disappointment and resentment.

I remember when initiatives were put in place in our office, 80 per cent of the time, they were not followed to completion.

This created a culture of ‘wait and see’ rather than ‘dive in and do’.

Showing your team that you are consistent speaks loudly. 

It demonstrates that you are serious about business and serious about your team.  

There is no doubt about it, the best way for any of us to thrive and be happy is the confidence that comes from these leadership ingredients.

Next time you see a puppy behaving well, understand that the owner has decided to put in the effort upfront and to create a relationship that has longevity and is rewarding every step of the way. Who would have thought the answer lies in the relationship we have with our pets?

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Caroline Bolderston

Caroline Bolderston heads up Being Bold Coaching and training, which provides coaching and support for Sales Agents, Sales Teams and Principals. For more information visit