Sometimes we can learn lessons about how to be better Realtors®, better business people and better citizens from unexpected sources. Here are two examples I’d like to share: One originated from a question posed to the 2012 Realtor® Leadership Academy class, the other came from a request made to me.
In both cases, generational gaps were bridged, challenges faced and overcome, and I gained greater insight on leadership.
Game Designed to Bridge Generation Gap Between REALTORS®
One objective we have with each Academy class is to keep raising the bar. The board is always on the lookout to identify areas for professional development. I noticed that when the talk turned to volunteer leadership I kept hearing about the differences between the generations – how there’s a lack of personal interaction by the younger generation today because of reliance on technology, and how REALTORS® of my generation maintain that business isn’t conducted the same way anymore.
The Academy is a great place to try new ideas, with talent from around the world it’s a think tank. We posed a challenge to the class asking them to explore the generation gap among REALTORS® and come up with solutions. The 2012 class took to the project with great enthusiasm and collaborated across international time zones to develop the final product. The result was a board game that was later retooled into a role-playing card game called “Mind the Gap.”
Players act out real life scenarios that lead to conversations around generational differences. The end result is a greater understanding of the other’s behavior; truly a solution to bridging the generation gap.
NAR leadership experienced a session of the game and immediately approved funding for production. The game is now in the REALTOR® store. It’s a great icebreaker, and can be used in a business office or at an association.
I’d like to see the game incorporated into more board leadership retreats as a tool to help REALTORS® better understand each other. After all, we have the same brand behind our names, we subscribe to the same Code of Ethics and play in the same sandbox.
Young Legislator Inspires, Demonstrates Can-Do Leadership Skills
After my year as Academy chair, I was approached by a then 31-year-old prosecutor from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, who asked for my support against a 40-year incumbent in the race for the U.S. Congressional seat. I thought, “There’s no way he could win.”
The young prosecutor was very positive, and tenacious. He worked hard, is ethical and I could see that he was in it for the long haul. He showed the type of leadership skills we talk about in the Academy. My intuition told me this guy was on to something, so I worked on his campaign.
Well, Eric Swalwell went on to win the election last November. He’s the youngest Congressman from California. In a matter of weeks he was named assistant Minority Whip and appointed to the Homeland Security Committee. Because of my involvement with Eric, I was appointed his REALTOR® Federal Political Coordinator, which means I’ll keep him up to date on issues that impact both home owners and REALTORS®.
Through these experiences, I learned every generation can develop great leaders, and that leadership is a series of stepping stones for growth in business and in our potential.
- Otto Catrina
Take the next step for your leadership growth, apply now for the next class of the NAR Leadership Academy at REALTOR.org/LeadershipAcademy process closes on March 31.
Last Saturday night I found myself engaged in some light hearted banter on Facebook with some friends from Florida and Tennessee. We were all watching the same program on TV and sharing our own running commentary about what was happening. It was light hearted, fun and gave me a good chuckle. My wife and I were talking later that evening about how glad we were to know these two friends and how knowing them has enriched our lives for the better. If you had read the comments on Facebook, you’d think that these were probably my friends from High School or College that I’ve known for 20+ years, but they weren’t. I didn’t even know these guys a year ago! They were classmates that I met through my participation in the Leadership Academy.
Earlier this year I had some of the same feelings of friendship and gratitude as I reached out to my classmates for some help. I am the dean this year for the Utah Leadership Academy and was looking for some great ideas to implement into our curriculum. Since I’ve only had about three good ideas in my entire life, I decided to tap some of the best minds I know, the 2012 NARLA class. The ideas that came back were great, but what was more important to me was the willingness of these great people to step up, share their ideas and experience just to help me out. It felt so good to know that I have friends from all over the country (and one from Brazil) that will answer my call for help anytime, simply because they care about me.
To me the Real Estate business has always been pretty simple. I’m not saying that it is easy by any means, but the fundamentals are fairly straight forward. The foundation of any good business in my mind is built by great relationships. When REALTORS® have strong relationships with clients, fellow agents, brokers, lenders, etc., success seems to follow. Our own preamble to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics encourages strong and meaningful relationships by stating, “REALTORS® can take no safer guide than that which has been handed down through the centuries, embodied in the Golden Rule, “Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do ye even so to them.” I think this underscores the power of building positive relationships and how it will impact our profession for the better.
I’m grateful for the rich relationships that I’ve been able to establish through service in our REALTOR® associations. Whether it is local, state or national, there seems to be a consistent theme that runs through REALTOR® associations and that theme to me is “good people”. Surrounding yourself with quality people is paramount in becoming the kind of person you want to be. If you want a great experience to do just that, consider applying for the NAR Leadership Academy. You’ll be glad you did. Who knows, someday you may be sitting around on a Saturday night chit chatting with your new buddies wondering where they have been all your life!
If you’re interested in serving in a leadership position (whether it be local, state or national), then the best thing you can do is let people know that you are interested!
The first step to making that happen is to show that you’re serious about your career path. You can do that by applying for the 2014 Leadership Academy class. It’s not hard, all you have to do is fill out the online application here.
The unofficial prerequisites for applying for the Leadership Academy come naturally for those that were born to lead. They are also considered to be some of the basic criteria building blocks of a good leader:
1) You’re in this for the long haul.
Leadership is a commitment. Be prepared to put the time and efforts into this program. There are four retreats (most of which the expenses are underwritten by NAR) and one webinar that will require your attendance over a seven-month period in order to graduate. Make sure that you are willing to commit to the program.
2) You don’t mind hard work and collaboration.
Luckily, we’re not talking hard manual labor here. But we are talking about hard work in that you will have to work together with your class to develop a project that will benefit the Association and give value to the membership. You will need to collaborate with others and identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own. Get along and play nicely. You’ll have to do this often when in a leadership role.
3) You strive to be better.
You may be great at your job and what you do, but don’t come into this with an overbearing ego. Be easy to work with, be willing to share your strengths, and be willing to learn. All leaders have to start somewhere, so you will want to come into this program ready to learn from others.
4) You have a good life balance.
Leaders often show a well-roundness in their life with work, personal and community relationships. Networking in all areas of your life (not just your REALTOR® life) is what brings your world full-circle. It also shows that you can handle multiple things and projects at once. It also shows that there are a lot of areas of people who know you and can vouch for you and what kind of person you are. You will need these references to round out your Leadership Academy application.
Now once you have realized that you meet these basic building blocks and you recognize your desire to lead, then show us you’re interested, by applying for the 2014 NAR Leadership Academy class. You won’t regret it.
The 2013 NAR Leadership Academy class is a diverse group of REALTORS® spanning the globe. Our class this year is composed of 17 individuals who are committed to learning more about the REALTOR® organization, each other and how they can use their talents to strengthen NAR’s mission. Meet the class here.
The class met during NAR’s Annual Meeting in Orlando. Otto Catrina, past chair of the Leadership Academy, provided an overview of expectations for the NAR Leadership Academy experience. As a past graduate, Otto shared his own experience, those of his colleagues and provided an insight into life after the Academy and the role of the Advisory Board. I then provided an overview of leadership and leadership styles and challenged the class to try different styles of leadership in various situations to practice and learn what is the most effective for them.
Stephanie Singer, NAR’s Managing Director of Public Affairs shared several aspects of NAR’s programs that promote the REALTOR® brand to the general public. Stephanie also shared how NAR decides to focus on specific issues or messages that are targeted to the consumer. The class was very appreciative of all of the information and learned that the Public Advocacy campaign provides a comprehensive set of resources for the members to use, and that the campaign is not just a few commercials seen on television.
The class then had a wonderful opportunity to hear from 2012 President Moe Veissi and past president, Ron Phipps. Ron delivered a wonderful message about his leadership within the REALTOR® organization at various levels of the organization and some successes and challenges that he had faced. The group also heard from current leaders Brooke Hunt, Leslie Rouda-Smith and Elizabeth Mendenhall. These leaders shared how an idea turns into an actionable program within the REALTOR® organization. Each of these leaders have lead and participated in different committees and Presidential Advisory Groups that were challenged to determine the course of action and direction that the organization needed to take in response to market situations.
The class had a team-building assignment that took them all over downtown Orlando working in various ways of as a team, learning about each other’s strengths and how to best collaborate to achieve a goal. The end of the day concluded with a wrap-up of each team’s performance and a well-deserved group dinner.
Our next session will take place January 28-29th in Washington DC where the class will learn about NAR’s regulatory and legislative initiatives.
For more information on the National Association of REALTORS Leadership Academy (NARLA) and to apply for the graduating class of 2014 visit REALTOR.org/LeadershipAcademy
Hundreds of incoming Realtor® officers and association executives brought enthusiasm and excitement to the 2011 NAR Leadership Summit, held the fourth week of August in Chicago. As a
co–presenter, I was energized by the reception given to myself and consultant/author Valarie Willis as we addressed those assembled for the afternoon session August 22.
It was inspiring to have 1,700 people shout, “We are Realtors®!” while we were on stage. But in all honesty, this was my first time speaking before such a large group and it was a little overwhelming – but in a positive way! Let me acknowledge that there’s a big difference in speaking before a group of 300 or 400 versus the large crowd that was in the gigantic hotel ballroom that afternoon.
I opened up by joking that after kicking the past president out of office, the incoming officers should take it easy on the association executive. Here’s what I meant: The executive now has to learn how to work with a lot of new personalities for the upcoming year and will do a better job if he or she is not burdened by new pressures and demands. I offered two recommendations. First, keep the business of the association simple; and second, remember what’s best for the membership is what really counts.
In a volunteer situation, it’s best to minimize the amount of action items that have to be addressed because the president just has one year in office. You can’t get a lot accomplished if there’s a large laundry list of items on the agenda for each meeting.
The best policy an incoming president can have is to listen to what the members have to say and be transparent. The association executive and the staff are there to take care of the day-to-day issues related to running the organization; the president should focus primarily on the needs of the members and recognize that they have a blank canvass to paint using every color on the pallet. But the leaders have to solicit and use input from everyone, not just a select few.
Let me elaborate. The four areas or characteristics of being a great leader are honesty, being forward-looking, being inspirational and competency in your profession. Of those four, honesty keeps surfacing as being the number one trait in a leader. A leader needs to say what he or she plans to do, and then do it.
I made it clear to the Realtor® officers and executives that leaders have to talk candidly about expecting the best out of others, and to be inspiring and authentic, especially in today’s market when we’re going through some tough times. You can’t sugarcoat the message.
The real estate industry is changing, and it will be much different three to five years out from what it is today. Realtor® leaders must realize that we must innovate in order to provide the best products and services for our members.
Here’s a thought every Realtor® should take to heart: If you’re not helping to shape legislation that benefits the real estate industry, someone else will be; and that person may be determined to work against what’s in the best interests of the housing market and home ownership.
One constant for me as a Realtor® is to combine my business affairs with remaining politically active. Early in my career, I cut my teeth serving on behalf of the Massachusetts Realtors®, on both Government Affairs & RPAC and learned how important it is to have a voice in politics. In fact, I was born on Election Day in 1971, the same day my father was re-elected to the Springfield (MA) City Council!
As Chairman of the National RPAC Trustees, I participated in the 2011 AE Institute meetings held in Dallas, March 18-22. My objectives when meeting with the Association Executives were twofold: First, spread the word about RPAC and encourage AEs and their members to contribute; and second, I wanted to help inform the AEs about NAR’s new Political Survival Initiatives and encourage them to support the initiatives and to get involved.
RPAC has been around for more than 40 years, and in Washington it’s one of the largest and most well respected political action committees. The key to its success has been its focus on getting members of Congress to support the Realtor® Party, no matter what their political party affiliation. It doesn’t matter if the legislator is a Democrat, a Republican or Independent; we just want them to be a major supporter of the Realtor Party.
From a long-term perspective, we plan to expand our involvement with the AEs in order to help bring their associations more into the political process. Right now, Realtors® work with members of Congress to advocate for the Realtor® Party. We especially want to enhance that model at the state and local level. If we can get a Realtor® to make friends with someone on their city council, maybe that person will get elected mayor, or to the state legislature, or even to Congress. Elected officials who are on our side when they break into politics should continue to support Realtor® and home ownership issues their entire political careers.
And, one personal goal: Get newer Realtors®, like those involved with the YPN group, involved in the political process and contributing to RPAC. It can start with a contribution, which is an investment in your own business, it makes you part of the political process and can contribute to your success.
I simultaneously served as NAR RPAC Trustee and as part of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy in 2008. I like to think that my journey through both was successful for a couple of reasons. First, we are so fortunate to have such dedicated staff members who helped guide me through the process. And second, I try to take advantage of my strengths and core competencies, while getting help when I needed some help. I believe that NAR’s new Political Survival Initiative will add enormous muscle to a key strength of this organization, and I’m proud to be part of it.
As told by Jason Wright, Century 21 First Group, Tyler, Texas
Some of the best advice I’ve received from my peers during my participation in the NAR Leadership Academy is this: Always continue to learn. Those of us who take the residential real estate industry seriously work as full-time professionals. We continue to learn about and become influential in both the business realm and the political realm.
As a result, we will push through this challenging market. Yes, sales for some of us are off; but we push through by working harder. All of the members of the Academy have the financial resources to be part of this group, which shows that we’re committed to our businesses and to our communities. We’re still real estate professionals. We’re surviving, and we’re not out looking for another job.
I’m a broker-owner, and I only hire full-time agents. I’ve built my company by hiring professionals who are right out of school. The only thing they know about the business world is what they’ve learned at my company. We teach them to be business professionals first, to work hard and get involved in the community; the sales will follow.
REALTORS® perform a tremendous service to their immediate communities by being the champions for private property rights – in this economy or when the market is good. First and foremost, we must stand up for an individual’s right to own property, as well as related issues like taxation and eminent domain. A lot of times, some of these issues get overlooked on a state and national level; that’s why it’s critical for REALTORS® to keep on top of legislation that impacts the rights of property owners across America.
In this tough market, REALTORS® also need to continue to drive home the message that the best hedge against inflation is real estate. There always will be a need for housing. And, until we decide to live in grass huts, people will buy houses! But we must reinforce to people that they have to be in for the long-term to enjoy the benefits of home ownership.
Using technology is a very effective way to help deliver these messages. Many of my Academy colleagues incorporate social media platforms to help communicate with clients and prospects, and some have made it a part of their business model. One of the strategies they’ve employed as brokers is to connect with constituents and build their image within their communities; people now look to them for ideas because they’ve solidified themselves as the local expert.
From a personal perspective, here’s how I became an expert in my market. Before I bought my business, I had never sold a house in my life. I was a management consultant who was on the road almost constantly, and I never saw my wife and two little girls. So I looked for a business in East Texas, found a gentleman who had a Century 21 franchise and asked if he would entertain selling the business.
Six months later, I made the biggest leap of faith in my life. I dove in head first, and the rest is history.
Class of 2011 NAR Leadership Academy Application Deadline is March 31
They are CEOs and presidents, general managers and managing brokers, sales associates and agents. They hail from across the continental U.S., and from as far away as Puerto Rico and Alaska. They are men and women, with varied years of real estate industry experience.
What do they have in common? Two things: They successfully completed the NAR Leadership Academy program, and they are committed to personal growth and to the REALTOR® organization.
What did they gain? Quite a lot: An intimate understanding of how NAR operates as the foremost authority for real estate; leadership skills to advance professionally, within their communities and in their business; an opportunity to take stock in one’s career and redefine personal goals; interaction with national NAR leadership and senior NAR staff; and, close, lasting friendships with REALTOR® colleagues from across the nation.
And, there are other benefits. Some participants find networking events lead to future business opportunities, and others have maintained that the exposure to high-level NAR leadership is inspirational and helpful for future committee appointments.
The Leadership Academy was established in 2008 to identify future leaders and provide formal training for REALTORS® who want to play an active role in the immediate and long-term future of NAR. In the past two years, 53 REALTORS® have completed the Academy program, which lasts nine months and is held in conjunction with many national NAR meetings. The 2010 class, the current class, will graduate during the Midyear Meetings in May.
March 31 is the deadline to submit applications for the 2011 class; the Academy is open to any REALTOR® in good standing and is designed for those who already have volunteer experience at the state or local level, or have demonstrated leadership skills with other organizations. Learn more about the benefits of becoming part of this elite team of REALTOR® leaders.
The program is structured around five sessions, and attendance is mandatory for participants. Sessions address personal growth, best practices, governance and the committee structures, the role of NAR leadership and ethics and integrity. The debut session for the 2011 class, “Explore the First Rule of Leadership – Know Yourself,” will be held in Chicago in conjunction with the Leadership Summit August 4-7.
Participation in the NAR Leadership Academy is limited and, remember: The deadline to apply is less than two weeks away. Make the commitment to yourself and to the REALTOR® organization. Apply today and take a big step toward advancing your career.
For nine months, participants in the NAR Leadership Academy learn new skills, refine talents and enhance their knowledge of how the national REALTOR organization operates and its impact on the American real estate industry. Academy participants who also serve as international liaisons bring a perspective that transcends the way real estate is bought and sold in the U.S. They offer global views.
Here are thoughts from current Academy participants on their roles as liaison and when asked: “What role has your participation played in building better relationships and building business opportunities between REALTORS here and outside the U.S.”
Hanne Sagalowsky, Liaison to Denmark
For Hanne Sagalowsky, the international real estate environment was a natural fit. “I grew up in Denmark, but I’ve lived here for more of my life,” she said. “I was partly educated in a different culture.
“I think that we’re still waiting for more business opportunities to open up with Denmark,” she said. “My involvement with the Academy gives everyone involved a better understanding of how NAR works. That’s really the main thing: You get all the connections together and figure out how the wheels work together.”
Sagalowsky’s previous volunteer leadership positions provided the ideal experience to maximize her role as liaison. “The work I’ve done on the state and local levels made me better informed,” she said. “And that, obviously, makes me a better REALTOR.”
Baryalai (Baro) K. Shalizi, Liaison to India
Baro Shalizi is liaison to a nation with a rapidly growing economy, and one that adopted the REALTOR name as part of its emerging national real estate organization. He found Academy training helped sharpen skills he had in place.
“The key benefit of the Academy is the leadership skills it provides added to the knowledge of the workings of a national association,” he said. “I always was aware of what it meant to be a leader, but the training really helped polish those skills.
“To me, one of the key elements of being a REALTOR is helping people. I’ve learned to look beyond myself and work within the team. I learned how to mediate and help act as that magnet that pulls individuals together. That’s one way the Academy training and experience will help me develop business opportunities for REALTORS in India.”
Francisco Angulo, Liaison to Venezuela
A native of Venezuela, Francisco Angulo literally made his presence known on the international stage as part of a REALTOR delegation that was visiting Argentina.
“I was asked to be the translator for (2009 REALTOR President) Charles McMillan,” Angulo recalled. “After lunch, I found myself onstage translating before a group of 700 people.”
Angulo praised the Academy program for the “bonding and friendship” built among participants the examples set within the real estate community here and outside the U.S. “One great benefit of the Academy, at least for me, is that it has enhanced the reputation of U.S. Realtors everywhere,” he said. “We’re leading by example, and we’re becoming more engaged and knowledgeable to compete in the international arena.”
Perspectives on Leadership from Otto Catrina, REALTOR
Catrina’s professional career includes successful management positions at both ends of the restaurant business – regional manager for a group of fast-food restaurants and operating a white-tablecloth eatery in the Bay Area. Today he manages his own real estate practice in Castro Valley, California. He was most recently honored with the John Diedrich award for outstanding leadership by the Bay East Association and serves on the NAR Leadership Academy advisory board.
Throughout his career, Catrina learned that leadership is an evolving process, one that requires leaders to be consistently open to new challenges and ideas. Here he shares some thoughts on the subject.
“For me, a key aspect of being a leader centered on creating teams. When I was in the foodservice industry, I worked as a regional manager for Taco Bell. I had many restaurants in my region, and I learned that I had to enhance the trust factor with the line workers as well as the managers. So I made a commitment to working with the line works as much as possible to set a positive example.
“A good leader creates a model and inspires a shared vision for the organization. You have to put your personal agendas aside and do what’s right for the membership to move the organization forward. And, you have to advance initiatives while respecting the opinions of others, almost to the point of mediation.
“Leaders also have to challenge the existing processes in place. I’m not saying just go against a new idea, but rather explore new ways of doing things. A good leader has the ability to enable others and not shut them down, not stifle their creativity. Let people offer their opinion, but don’t let them dominate the meeting. Leaders have to get out there and get to know people; they should always be visible and willing to meet with people.
“Being a leader is more than just holding a title. It is something that is earned. When an organization elevates a person with potential to be a leader, there may not always be someone there to guide or mentor that person. My commitment as a leader is to mentor those who are working with me and let them reach their potential. My commitment is to draw out people’s potential.
“Some final thoughts on leadership: Stay away from gossip. Make decisions and don’t worry about making a mistake. Have total transparency, and surround yourself with those who want to be on a winning team.”