A real estate broker/pal of mine shared a very human incident that took place in his office a few months ago.
A new agent on his team, a young man in his late 20’s, who hadn’t been performing well, came to my friend and announced his decision to quit. This personable, new Realtor® (we’ll refer to him as “Bill”) was frustrated. He wasn’t securing new listings; he wasn’t closing deals for buyers. He was disillusioned, discouraged… and proclaimed that he was ready to do something else for a living. The interaction was brief, and the agent was committed to his exit. He informed the broker that he would return after the weekend to wrap things up. And he walked.
My friend wasn’t caught completely off-guard; the guy hadn’t been producing. But he did have the tools to be successful: he was sharp, funny, caring…not afraid to work. Plus, he was a good teammate. It would be disappointing, my friend thought, but real estate isn’t for everyone.
So, Monday rolls around, and the agent walks into my friend’s office promptly at 11:00AM to conclude his business with the firm. As the meeting was about to begin, my friend, a seasoned manager and leader, quietly asked Bill, “What are you going to do?”
Bill didn’t appear to be quite as determined to end the relationship as he had been a few days before. He paused. He was searching. He offered up “insurance” as a possibility.
My friend gently informed him that going into the insurance business would likely require more study, more exams, more time and effort before he would begin generating an income sufficient to provide for his growing family. And Bill had a growing family… two three-month-old, identical twin boys.
Bill was silent.
My friend lightly pressed him. “Bill, you can be successful here,” the broker stated. “You just need to hit the reset button and start doing the fundamentals… like prospecting. If you will simply work the plan, you’ll start closing transactions. I’m not sure I understand why you’re quitting.”
“Because I told you on Friday that I was going to,” Bill said, sheepishly.
Then Bill opened up. He said that his wife was back at work after her maternity leave, and that he had spent much of the previous three weeks taking care of the two infants. He was sleep-deprived, frazzled, and wanting the security of a full-time, steady-paycheck position instead of the real estate/independent contractor gig that required more initiative and was accompanied by a less predictable monthly income.
The reality was that Bill didn’t actually want to resign. His declaration that he was leaving was driven by emotion, exhaustion and lack of direction. To the broker, it was completely understandable. However, instead of shaking hands and wishing Bill good luck, the broker looked for a way to help Bill through what would be a relatively short-term issue. What Bill needed was more structure and to be held accountable so that he would do the work that produced results. He also needed cash, so the broker offered him a draw against commission – if Bill made a commitment to work closely with the broker and to perform the steps necessary to generate leads, produce listings and close sales.
Today, Bill is a happy Realtor. The truth is, he wouldn’t be if my friend hadn’t taken the time to see Bill as a young father, trying to provide for his family – instead of just an employee. When Bill stated he was resigning, the broker didn’t react defensively; there was no ego involved, just empathy and genuine concern. Plus, my friend sacrificed an unusual amount of his time to show Bill how to become successful. That’s leadership.
Being a leader means putting others before yourself. As author and leadership expert Simon Sinek stated in a CBS television interview, “Being a leader is like being a parent. We put the lives of our children before our own. We want them to grow up, become confident and go on to achieve more than we could for ourselves. Leadership is exactly the same.
Leaders are the ones who are willing to risk, when it matters, their own interests so that others may advance.
When we feel safe that leaders have our interests in mind, the natural human reaction is we look out for each other, we work harder, we’re more innovative, we offer our ideas and our best talents.”
As leaders, we want to inspire that innovation and those ideas…and the only way to effectively do that is through personal, human interaction. But with increasing demands on our time, a growing reliance on electronic communication, and a millennial workforce that prefers texting over talking, it’s not easy.
Again, like being a parent.