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Four Truisms to Develop Exceptional Team Leadership

Oct 18, 2011

Posted by

Carla Cross

About Carla Cross, CRB, MA                           Read more

You may be an owner or a real estate manager, or a team builder -- an agent with assistants, buyers’ agents, and sellers’ agents.  You may have heard, or believed, in the past, that real estate is an independent business.  You don’t need to work with anyone.  You’re on your own.  Guess again.  In the past few years, the concept of team has come back into vogue.  Why?  Because we’ve gotten more sophisticated in business.  We realize that no one succeeds alone.  We understand now that people working together create something more substantial than a sum of the parts.

In addition, with the challenges in today’s business world, we finally understand that many minds, focused on the same task, can accomplish much more than each person working on his own little island.  Supporting this trend, strong company cultures have emerged which encourage and reward teamwork instead of solely independent achievement.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “People acting together as a group can accomplish things which no individual acting alone could ever hope to bring about.”

If you’ve ever played on a sports team, you know the chaos that ensues when every player tries to be the star -- to go his/her own way.  That’s not a team.  That’s a group.  You may also know the joy of playing on a team that shares a common focus and commitment to excellence.  What a difference!

Talking About It is a Slam-Dunk

It’s much easier to talk about teamwork than it is to create a team.  One of the reasons is that most of us have never worked as a team before.  I certainly can’t say I worked in real estate sales as a team.  Rather, my first experiences in great teams, and then leading teams, comes from the world of music.  I’ve created and led teams as a jazz musician. I’ve played in exceptional orchestras (I’m a flutist).  I’ve seen conductors pull together one hundred disparate, temperamental, independent musicians as an inspiring team.  (It’s a lot like managing a real estate office!)  So, the four truisms here come from my experience in both worlds -- the musical performance world and the world of real estate team-building.

It’s Not Just about Developing You as a Leader

You may think that, as a leader, your job is to find team members who will work well together.  That’s true, as far as it goes.  But, your ultimate job is to train and coach those team members to start doing some of the leadership jobs you’ve done.  That way, you can keep moving to higher levels of leadership.  You can expand and sell your business. 

One of the differences between leading a group and leading a team is that, in a successful team, members also become leaders, and think like leaders, looking out for the good of the team, not just for themselves.  In other words, leaders develop leadership on their team.  Otherwise, they are not really leading.  They’re managing -- or micro-managing.

The Four Truisms to Developing Team Leadership

As a result of developing leadership over a couple of decades, I’ve found four major truisms for developing your team with strong internal leadership.

Here are the truisms to developing the people who work with you:

Truism #1:  People don’t know what’s expected of them.

Just because people accept a position doesn’t mean they know how to proceed with the job.  They need to have clear direction, a job description and a firm understanding of the responsibilities -- prioritized.  Do you have a job description for each of your team positions?  Do you provide it prior to hiring?  Do you coach to it?  Do you help your team members get so good at it that they can start training new team members (move into leadership)?

Truism #2:  People don’t know what to do to get the job done. 

Even if you hire someone who has real estate experience, it doesn’t work to leave it to them to figure what exactly needs to be done -- from your point of view.  They don’t know your priorities.  They don’t know how you work.  Do you have processes and systems in place to teach them exactly what needs to be done?

Truism #3:  It’s your job to teach them how.

Some people think “leaders” are the “idea people” and aren’t supposed to get into implementation.  But if you want your team to excel, you must show them how.  Having worked with assistants for over 15 years, I have found that assistants and team members need help in systemizing any process that you want done.  They need help in developing dialogues to deal with affiliates and consumers in the way you expect.  They are good at systemizing their own processes -- but not good at all at systemizing ours!  Help them.

Do you have foundational systems in place from which to improvise?  Do you have a solid training program to bring a new team member on board?  Do you have a method to “clone” yourself to develop someone who can take over your job?

Truism #4: When accountability factors aren’t built in, things don’t get done.

There’s a great difference between “do it the way you want” and expecting results and “do it the way you want and let’s check regularly how it’s going.”  Hold your team members accountable for each step along the way to completion of a task as well as the end result.

The pay-off for developing competency and leadership skills in all of your team members is a business that is “owned” by all those involved, with empowerment assured.

Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all time, said of teamwork, “Teamwork is the primary ingredient of success.”

Your goal is to develop processes, systems, and training for your team members to bring them into a leadership mentality with you, so you can delegate more responsibilities and finally replace yourself!