If your business is anything like mine, COVID is presently dishing out challenge after challenge to the way you (used to) work. If it hasn’t already driven many nails into the coffin of the way things were, then I’m willing to bet you’re within earshot of the hammer. If you’ve had time to collect your thoughts and countenance reality, you may have even begun to think about how biz will look in 2021, 2022 or beyond.
Many of us, in real estate careers we have built over years or decades, have assumed a form of de facto leadership. We likely have staff that report to us and certainly we have clients to manage and lead through the complexities that even an ordinary real estate transaction can impose. People referred or returning to us have come to rely on us commensurate with our experience, good judgment and history of positive results. Yet even for the most seasoned pros, there comes that day when we are just sailing along, minding our own store, and a real problem arises. Because of our intuition, most of us would admit we can usually sense trouble before it truly gains momentum and, in turn, this is the moment at which we begin, on levels subtle and overt, to mobilize…
…or not. As I have observed leadership during this same pandemic above, I am keeping a close eye on how it is being managed. Or not. Where it has faltered and failed, I have discerned these lessons below, to use and reinforce in my own life and practice:
Don’t Ignore the Problem
Perhaps one of the first and worst responses to a rising sea is to pretend that it’s not rising. Those who have a nose for the wind can tell when a storm is brewing — long before the gales are whipping through the sails. Denial, wishful thinking and hope are bad strategies. Historically over my career, I have felt less anguish for the times that I have been needlessly overcautious versus the times that I have been deliberately, negligently or lazily unprepared.
Don’t Make the Problem Worse
Once a troublesome situation has developed, the next worst thing you can do is set in motion a pattern of dishonesty. Small lies lead to bigger lies but eventually and inevitably they all crash into the truth. Part of our job as professionals is to use discretion and specific judgment. This often manifests itself as the careful framing of a situation. After all, we’re not going to rush out and tell every party to the transaction that we have a problem when it’s first discovered. If intent on actually finding a solution, we are going to circle our wagons and get very busy behind the scenes. This may mean that for a period of time we have to be very selective in what we disclose, and to whom. The pilot of an airplane doesn’t need to scare the beejeezus out of passengers at the first onset of turbulence. He can give a concise report when the time is right, though the clock is always ticking. Just enough turbulence plus just enough silence will equal way too much panic.
Don’t Delegate the Problem
If you have the stuff to be a real leader, then you take, and likely have taken, ownership of the tough ones. You don’t throw people under the bus, you don’t seek to blame as a go-to strategy and you don’t delegate the difficult decisions. Instead, you consult experts, you seek diverse advice, you confide and decide. Just like water seeks its own level, if you want to know who the real leader is in any operation, observe to whom people run when there’s a fire. If that person is you, and you delegate that emergency to another, and that other person deals with the issue, don’t expect to be viewed as the leader ever again.
Don’t Hinder the Problem Solvers
Thomas Paine is often credited with the saying, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” My guess is that the sentiment goes back well before his time. When in the thick of trouble, if you’re not going to commit to being productive and leading the way out yourself, then either follow the advice of others or get out of the way of both the leaders and followers. Fast. Once you have extricated yourself from playing a constructive role in the outcome, your counterproductive comments, criticisms and observations are no longer welcome. Instead, focus your energy on getting yourself back into the good graces of the leaders or followers and do your part to help when and where you can. Ultimately, problems get solved best when they have the highest percentage of buy in from those they impact.
Thanks to the pandemic, many of us find ourselves mourning the loss of the way things “used to be.” We want to attend gatherings, we want to eat in restaurants with friends, we want to watch our kids play team sports and go back to school with their classmates. But soon enough, we have to move along in these stages of grief, become part of the solution and take progressive steps in helping develop and promote a new normal. When tasked with leadership, those we are leading are watching us closely and counting on us. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. But the sea isn’t calm right now and it’s rising again. No doubt, real leaders will also rise to meet this challenge. I plan to do my part to be one of them. And you?
Oh Captain, My Captain,
Vice President of Mortgage Lending
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