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Staff Incentives and Building Trust for Culture and Growth: Ewan Morton

In this exclusive interview from our event 'How to Lead a Winning Team in 2018', Azal Khan talks to Ewan Morton, Joint Managing Director of Morton Real Estate, about his employee share scheme impacts culture, strategies that build trust, and what makes a great leader in real estate.


Azal Khan: Hi, I’m Azal Khan from Elite Agent Magazine. We’re here today at our event, How To Lead A Winning Team In 2018. I’m lucky enough now to be joined by Ewan Morton, Joint Managing Director of Morton. He spoke to us today on how to design staff incentives for culture and growth.

Ewan, you’ve said that the business operates as an employee share scheme system. How does that impact the culture?

Ewan Morton: Everybody joins Morton knowing that they can be a shareholder. It’s part of our system where, when you join, as long as you meet three criteria. One of those is you need to work for us for five years or more.

The second thing is you need to be a contributor. That doesn’t necessarily mean as a fee earner. There are plenty of roles in real estate that contribute to the business. Someone, we don’t know what we did before they arrived. That sort of feeling of they’re so critical to the show.

The third thing is, they’ve got to demonstrate some leadership capacity. Those three components coming together, at some point in that time, they would’ve had to demonstrate that they can put the company first, as opposed to themselves. If you’re able to do that, then you’re able to have the responsibility of being a shareholder.

Azal Khan: Ewan, you’ve said previously that “trust is the key to building 100% engagement from your team”. What strategies can you put in place to build greater trust?

Ewan Morton: When you employ somebody, you trust them to do their job. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have employed them. The tricky bit is actually trust coming the other way. When the employee actually trusts the principal, and trusts the business to be able to deliver on what the principal said that they could do. That comes down to a certain degree of authenticity from the business.

What I find in my experience, I might trust somebody from the beginning, because why wouldn’t I? But it takes approximately 12 months for an employee to actually trust the business. Until you can get that trust, you can’t get full engagement, because they’ll always hold something back.  What’s even more complex about that, is actually establishing that trust, and getting to that is actually a really difficult thing, because the employee will put a face on that. They’ll be saying, “Oh yeah, yeah. No, I trust it. Yeah, yeah, Morton is great.” But they actually don’t really believe it.

Part of what I try and do is try and cut through that as quickly as we can, in order to get to that point where they go, “Oh my God, these people actually are serious about giving me a good career.” I actually find, that’s the biggest challenge. It’s not me trusting them, it’s them trusting me.

Azal Khan: Ewan, what is the biggest mistake a leader can make?

Ewan Morton: Thinking that you have to be right all the time. I use a line where people are like, “Ewan, what’s the answer?” It’s like, “I don’t know.” “What do you mean? You’re the leader. You should know.” It’s like, “No.” I think you’ve got to have the confidence to be able to admit that. If you make a wrong decision, you’ve got to be able to step up, and acknowledge that, which takes confidence, and it takes humility.

I think that too many times, leaders know that they’ve done the wrong thing, but their actual process of recovery isn’t so good.  What I found is if I’ve made a mistake, if you actually acknowledge, and go in and say, “Look, I’ve made a mistake,” they’re actually okay with that. They’re actually sitting there saying, “Well, it’s a good thing you said that, because we know you made a mistake, so you might as well admit it.” I think that’s one big thing.

I think sometimes people feel they need to be strong, that they can’t actually show a chink in the armour. Whereas, in fact, you are just a human being. People make mistakes. You need to be able to admit that.

Azal Khan: Ewan, what gets you out of bed in the morning? Why are you so passionate about being a leader?

Ewan Morton: I actually think the purpose of life is actually to contribute to other people. If you can help somebody, it’s very enriching, not only to them, but also to yourself. I’m a non-selling principal, so my success is built on the success of my team. If my team fails, I fail. So I have to do everything that I can to help them grow, and get where they want to go. I get a real buzz out of seeing people grow, succeed, overcome fear, overcome a lack of confidence.

Often what I find with people is they say they want something, but they really don’t even believe in themselves that they can do it. If you can help somebody on that path, then you’re on the path to having a great business, and really building a great team.

Azal Khan: Well, as always Ewan, it was fascinating to chat to you. Thank you so much for your time.

Ewan Morton: It’s a pleasure.

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