Does leadership need to change in Estate Agency?

I wish I could find better staff. I wish my team would use more common sense. I love my team but… Ever considered maybe the problem, is you?

Does leadership need to change in Estate Agency?

Last week I spoke to an agent that told me their valuers had started creating videos presenting their new listing. Great! I said. They went on to explain to me that the valuer does the video, then they send it to one of the team who upload it to youtube as a private link, they then send the link to the owner who watches the video to approve it, if no good it has to be done again, if good they go ahead and use it.

Whilst it is awesome that they have started to do this, there are many things wrong with this process but aside from the inefficiency, what struck me more was the leadership problem and it hit home to me because I once was that type of leader and just as ex smokers are the worst for telling smokers to quit – I felt the same around this issue having now seen the light.

I speak to 100’s of businesses every month and this particular problem is a reoccurring theme, but it is a hard one to solve when you can’t identify the problem.

So, what is the problem?

The problem is trust. Now many owners would be reading this thinking, yes it is a problem as I can’t trust people to get things right but in reality that should never be the case and it happens because of you, because once upon a time you were the only employee at your company and you did everything. Then slowly you decided to hire help, so let’s say you hire an admin person but you asked that person to carry on doing it the way you had been doing it yourself and each time they completed their ‘tasks’ you double checked with them that they had done it correctly and pointed out where they had gone wrong. Because of this and without even realising it, as you were trying to help, you made them scared of getting things wrong because if people get things wrong they get fired right?

So eventually this new hire memorises the way you used to do it and does it the same way. They could never tell anyone why they do it that way just because the boss said so.

The company grows and you continue to hire new staff and repeat this process, until eventually, you are where you are today…A whole team of people, that you wish would think more for themselves! But actually, you made them too scared to do that, so every single little question, they come to you for the answer, or to check things, or to sign things off etc.

So, what is the ‘other way’?

The other way is far less stressful. Let’s take it from the same point as before, you open the company and you are the only employee and you do everything. Then you hire your first team member to help with admin and of course you show them what you have been doing. However, you explain to them that Admin is now their responsibility and you explain the object of what you have been doing but crucially, let them know that you know absolutely nothing about admin and the best ways to work. Equally, you don’t expect them to know everything about admin and the best ways to work either but it is now their job and department and so you expect them to research and learn how to improve the systems and come to you with ideas.

Well done – you just remove admin from being your problem.

From here on in, it is about encouragement in order to let people know you support them, their decision making and they abilities. So even if someone decided to do something differently to how you would do it, just stop for a minute and think about your response. Is what they are doing going to cause a huge problem or is it just different to the way you would do it? If it is the latter, be happy that your team member is doing exactly what you asked and ‘owning’ the department. Congratulate them and let them know what they have done is amazing.

Well done – you just removed yourself even more from the department!

This form of leadership is far less stressful and is more about being focused on the right results as opposed to the right forms being filled out for no reason.

Having said all of that, there are some strict guidelines you should consider in order to make this work in the long term.

1.    The person responsible for the department must also make the documentation (or organise having it made by someone else) that outlines how their department works. This is critical in case they are absent or decide to leave etc.

2.    If someone does something wrong, explain why that will be bad for the company and ask them to come up with a permanent solution so that problem never happens again.

3.    If the problem does happen again, you may have to look at if the person has the capacity to actually fulfil that role.

4.    Do not mistake this way of working for having no structure. Actually, it is the opposite, you have clearly explained the objectives and each department has a leader that is continually proving themselves to be great at that role. The staff that work under them in that department should also be allowed to suggest ideas and improvements, but they must follow the structure planned out by the leader of the department.

I have lived through this change in an organisation. I have helped many other organisations understand and implement this change and I can promise you that it will not only lead you to a less stressful place but it will also help you and your employees love the company and enjoy working there.

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