John McCloskey recalls the ‘shock’ of going from being a listing and selling agent to being a manager, and then principal of an agency. Gone was the constant drive for personal results, and in its place was a never-ending process of back-patting and encouraging others. What should you expect if you are planning the same move?
THE MOVE from being a listing and selling agent to being a manager can be a bit of a shock to the system. I knew I wanted it. But no one had told me about what to really expect as a leader. I had seen the glamour, but not the reality.
ONLY THE LONELY
Then a friend shared with me: leadership is lonely. It’s not for the faint-hearted, or those who crave the good opinion of others. At the start it seems that all the problems are brought to you, until you develop the skills to delegate better. You have to make the hard calls, silently and often unsupported.
To be a successful leader, you will move into a whole new mindset from the one that made you a successful agent. In fact, they are total opposites. In time you learn to handle people better, remembering that ‘people treat you as you train them to’. It is okay to acknowledge that leadership is lonely, especially in the early stages.
EARN, THEN LEARN
Most of us progress to leadership by being the top earner in a company, or by being entrepreneurial in nature; that is the earned bit. The next, learned, stage is to develop your leadership abilities, and that requires the humility to admit that you need to learn a different skill set.
Growing yourself as a leader is the greatest service you can do for your team, your family and yourself. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Know how you like to learn; is it by reading, audio, DVDs or experientially? Whatever the medium, commit yourself to studying everything you can about your craft.
They say ‘If you want to know what someone’s interested in, look at what they are studying’. Study the traits and habits of great leaders. There are plenty of examples, from John McGrath in Sydney to Milton Rendell in Perth, but we suggest you find a local leader to model as well. Modelling, matching and mind-mapping are useful tools from the fields of personal development that can help you integrate successful leadership habits.
SHARE THE BURDEN
Whether in a franchise group, a marketing group or as an independent, find peers to bounce ideas off. A problem shared is a problem halved; and though this seems obvious, too many leaders try to shoulder the entire burden themselves. We are all human; we make mistakes and so do our mates.
Otto von Bismarck said “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Having a select group of people you can trust is a must for every leader, regardless of how long they have been at the helm. Hiring a business coach is another worthwhile idea. They may be inside or outside the industry; the trick is to find one you resonate with, but who will see through your excuses as well! Once you grow past their level of experience, find another.
START WITH THOSE YOU CAN’T DO WITHOUT
Leaders expand their minds; they are willing to notice what other industries are doing well and copy it. Don’t get stuck in the real estate mindset, because you are actually in the business of leading people. You can have ‘trusted advisors’ who are in the insurance, car sales or even personal development fields.
One of my favourite employment ideas came from Richard Branson. His advice on hiring and firing is that he ‘always started with those he couldn’t do without’. I learnt from SAS Airlines to make every point of contact with the client the number one focus for the company. Getting that right lifted our business; it improved customer experience and the bottom line and, frankly, our enjoyment in what we did. So be constantly on the lookout for the next great idea from anywhere and everywhere.
LEADING VERSUS MANAGING
Managers are results focused; leaders are people focused. To be a great leader, start with you. Leadership comes from within, is expressed through your actions and determined by your focus.
Knowing who you are allows people to follow you. It’s a decision, a way of being every day. It is not an on/off thing. You are responsible for the people you lead. You make decisions and take actions that benefit the whole and don’t shirk from the hard calls. You grow together, so it never has to be lonely again.