What does good leadership look like in 2022? How can you put your best foot forward where you work, whether you’re managing a team or an entire company? In March, we’ll plumb the topic through Q&As from top-tier industry leaders, contributions from Inman columnists (the leaders in their field) and more. Then we’ll keep the leadership conversation going in person at Inman Disconnect in late March in Palm Springs, California.
Over the past few years, a tremendous number of people have gotten their real estate licenses and entered the business. During the same time, many agents, both experienced and newer, have launched their own teams or brokerages.
Team and brokerage models have continued to evolve in the way they operate and serve agents’ needs while team leaders and brokers are continually trying to reinvent the wheel.
The bar has been raised on many levels, and competition for agents is fierce. In 2022, therefore, it’s important to define what agents can expect and what they should be asking for from their leadership.
Culture and forward thinking
Having the right culture sets the stage for everything that takes place in a brokerage. Agents want to join a company that is collaborative, supportive and inclusive and where they don’t feel like an island unto themselves. Agents should be working with their leadership to coordinate and initiate activities that foster such an environment.
Agents typically join a brokerage based on the culture presented to them, amongst other things. Leadership needs to ensure that the culture they are essentially “selling” matches up in real life. When there is a disconnect between expectations and reality, agents look elsewhere.
Agents should also be asking for a forward-thinking environment and help to create this. The brokerage should be focusing on not just the now, but what’s next. It should continue to lead the way in evolving and growing with innovative business practices and tools to help its agents perform at the top of their game.
Brokers need to assess threats to their current business as well as opportunities to stay ahead of what may be coming next. Agents need to be in continual communication with management when they see trends or challenges emerging in their marketplace.
Being a real estate agent is a journey of personal growth more than anything else. This business quickly shows you your strengths and weaknesses as well as mediocrities. It can seem overwhelming at times, particularly for newer agents figuring out how to set themselves up for success.
For experienced agents, markets change, client pipelines change and technology continues to evolve. Newer agents coming into the business may be more tech-savvy or can outsmart the seasoned agent in other ways. It’s easy for experienced agents to get stuck in a rut.
Even if agents don’t directly ask for it, they want and need that 360-degree view of their business as to what is working and not working so well. They need feedback and want to brainstorm and strategize on a plan of action to help them grow.
Deep down, agents want help with identifying their “pain points,” where they are stuck and how they can grow. Whether managing brokers are equipped to provide coaching or the brokerage can partner with an outside sales coach, investing in these kinds of services will propel agents to the next level in their respective businesses.
Along the same lines as coaching, creating an opportunity for mentorship across all levels of agents is vitally important. A company owner or broker/manager of offices cannot do it all. Creating a pool of agents who wish to serve as mentors as well as mentees is vitally important to keeping agents engaged and connected to the business.
Real estate is a difficult profession, and some of the toughest lessons learned are a result of lost business or opportunities. Agents crave the ability to relate and brainstorm with other agents who have been in the trenches and understand better than anyone the hard knocks this industry can bring.
They want a safe space where they don’t have to worry about someone trying to poach their client or take advantage of information being shared to try to insert themselves into the deal.
There is a tremendous amount to keep up with in this industry and every transaction is different, presenting a unique set of challenges. Agents are more or less “on” at all times and approached with a multitude of questions and scenarios on a daily basis.
Agents should be asking for more practical kinds of training that goes beyond how to properly complete contract forms and involves real-world scenarios that relate to the buying and selling process in their local markets. Then show them how to apply the contract forms to those issues to best protect themselves and their clients.
Best practices are key to assisting agents with insight and good decision-making. Leadership should involve their agents in creating a “transaction challenge,” kind of database that can provide insight into the kinds of situations that have arisen and how they were solved along with tangible takeaways of best practices and what to do as well as what not do.
More sophisticated training and role-playing are needed in our information age where consumers have access to just about everything but lack the knowledge and skill to interpret what they are seeing online.
With so many inquiries coming online in our “instant information” society and agents need continual coaching on how to capture and incubate these kinds of leads.
The current market has made transactions more complicated in many ways. Multiple offers. Buyers shortening or waiving contingencies. Sellers who must make selling their home contingent upon finding a replacement property, need to remain in possession, or want a delayed closing due to tax reasons and then want a certain amount of time to find another property — these are common situations in play today.
Then there is the sale of existing property contingent on the seller doing a 1031 exchange. Speaking of investment property, many long-time owners of rental properties are electing to sell their properties and cash out, subject to a tenant’s lease. Sometimes the tenant has the ability to remain in possession for a certain amount of time.
These kinds of situations can create a landmine of potential legal and contract issues. Although agents are not attorneys, more education is needed on moving through a real estate transaction with a buyer, seller and tenants with these kinds of issues.
Whether it’s a CRM, marketing support, artificial intelligence or transaction management, agents should be asking for their brokerage to provide them with access to the critical tools that are needed to be successful in today’s industry. Notice I said access. I realize there is a cost to these tools and they may be subsidized, discounted or offered at no cost.
The more tools an agent can easily plug into and start utilizing in their businesses, the more productive they can be.
Sure, agents are free to choose whatever systems they see fit and not all utilize their brokerage’s tools and services if they offer them. However, the stress of researching, vetting and verifying umpteen vendors, not to mention the time involved, pulls agents away from focusing on the core of growing their business.
Accountability and transparency
Agents want their leadership to be accountable and transparent in all things. One of the biggest areas where agents want accountability and transparency is weeding out agents who don’t play by the rules, are unethical or are toxic.
This always creates stress for those agents that bend over backward to be compliant, do the right thing and truly care about others in the process. They have respect for their fellow agents in their company and don’t need to “ambulance chase” each other’s clients or look for a loophole to do so.
Too many times, agents who may be borderline in this regard are allowed to continue on, and management simply looks the other way or pretends this behavior doesn’t exist, particularly if they are top producing agents.
One or two agents at a brokerage with reputations that are less than stellar can ruin it for all the other agents at the same company.
Why? The public doesn’t understand that agents function as independent contractors and one agent’s business is totally separate from another’s, even under the same company. In today’s highly competitive market, one agent’s actions that left a less than favorable impression on a buyer, seller or another agent could tarnish things for the rest of those agents in the same brokerage.
With regard to transparency, agents should ask for 100 percent accountability in all things pertaining to their brokerage. Management should have test-driven every process, system and offering within their company to understand how it works or where the pain points are before introducing it to their agents.
Agents want a forum to provide their insight and feedback on the market, including challenges, opportunities, systems and processes to their management. Leadership should continually be checking in with agents and getting their pulse on things and not assuming that just because they don’t hear anything, everything is fine.
Usually the quieter it is, the more indication there could be issues brewing underneath the surface. Many agents won’t necessarily say something if not given a platform to do so. Instead, they simply explore other options and leave their brokerage to go somewhere else.
Agents don’t want a somebody, anybody, everybody mentality when it comes to the brokerage they have chosen to affiliate with. There have been numerous articles written about how raising the bar in real estate is desperately needed.
Although state licensing boards and local Realtor associations may not change anything in this regard, real estate brokerages hold the power in reshaping the industry and the public’s perception of agents by the company they keep. Loading up offices with live bodies and empty promises does no one any good. Quality over quantity, especially in regard to accountability, is key.
Agents want and desire communication from their management early and often. Leadership should make it clear how to communicate and make the designated staff responsible easy to reach. This information should be easily accessible for an agent. Leadership can never communicate enough. Often, agents can feel like they are in the middle of a story where they “didn’t get the memo.”
Stop reinventing the wheel, and ditch the junk
Agents should ask their brokerages to stop reinventing the wheel with the next shiny object. Agents are overwhelmed with so many tools, systems or tech that promises to make their business easier, generate leads or a multitude of other things, that when a brokerage comes out with another version of the same tool, agents tend to disengage.
If something isn’t working, reinventing it by trying to disguise it under a new look or cutting edge name won’t change the fact that it’s fundamentally broken. To this point, if a tool or system isn’t working, agents want brokerages to simplify their offerings as to what actually works, excites and engages agents versus trying to continually put a round peg in a square hole.
In the end, agents should work with their leaders to implement what they are seeking. Leaders are not mind readers and they too need feedback, insight and direction from agents as to what they want. Those running brokerages, for the most part, are not in the trenches practicing real estate, and even if they were several years or decades ago, the way things are now are not what they used to be.
The business has substantially evolved from “floor time,” business cards, metal yard signs and newspaper advertising to a highly sophisticated profession where the agent has transitioned from a “real estate agent” to a highly trusted adviser/savvy negotiator/content creator/thought leader/influencer.
It can be easy for agents to become armchair quarterbacks and complain about what they think needs to be changed or what they want to see, but agents need to be part of the solutions they seek. That’s where real leadership begins.