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.
On March 31, the application process for the 2013 class for the NAR Leadership Academy was closed, and all of us who will select participants are very pleased with the number of Academy hopefuls that came in. Over the next few days, I’ll join members of the Advisory Board in evaluating applicants and conducting our due diligence; I’m sure each of us will put in a lot of hours to thoughtfully consider and rank each applicant before we meet next month at the NAR Midyear meetings.
What we look for are REALTORS who are active on the local and state levels and have a passion for issues that are good for the industry. We want individuals who are well rounded, rather than someone who’s served on 100 different committees, because our goal is to focus on enhancing their leadership skills through collaboration. In fact, the theme of the 2012 class is “Shaping Tomorrow Together.”
What has changed recently is this: We now personally interview Academy candidates, and we’ve made the decision to keep the class sizes smaller.
At the last Midyear meeting, we learned that around 90 percent of those applying for the Academy were in Washington. So we sent text messages and made calls and were able to set up face-to-face interviews with most; we found that to create the class chemistry it was best to meet the candidates and learn more about them, a conversation goes beyond what’s on paper. We wanted to see first-hand their passion and look into their eyes to get a better idea on just how committed they are to being part of the Academy.
And, we realized that having 17 students rather than 27 made the program more intimate; it allowed the group to become much closer and more transparent. What’s interesting about the 2012 class is that we have a good blend of different generations, from seasoned REALTORS to REALTORS who are relatively new to the industry. Those of us who are more experienced provide the mentoring, and the younger members provide reverse-mentoring; we offer wisdom, and they offer technical insight.
I’ve been a part of the Academy since its inception and have been fortunate to witness the success of the program these past four years. Relationships made within each class stretch across the country and true bonds are created. Personally, my participation has helped me grow, and I feel blessed to be part of this process.
With the 2013 class, I’m very confident that Theresa Hatton, Executive Vice President of the Greenwich Association of REALTORS®, will do a tremendous job as chair. She’s the first non-REALTOR to lead the Advisory Board, and she’s been a dynamic colleague. And, Bobbie and Rita, the staff at NAR who manage the program, have been great to work with. One final thought. I’m really passionate about the next generation of REALTORS. It’s tremendous to see how they’re willing to collaborate; because one thing’s for certain: We’re all in this business together.
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.
By Otto Catrina, 2011 Vice Chair, NAR Leadership Academy
Over three days in August, more than 1,600 REALTOR® leaders and executives from across the nation will gather in Chicago to network, share ideas, learn and help set the course for the organization in 2012 and beyond. I’m referring to the 2011 Leadership Summit, the annual gathering of incoming state and local association officers and their chief staff executives.
The theme for this year’s Summit, which will be hosted by NAR 2011 President-Elect Moe Veissi, is “REALTORS® Are the Heart of the Deal.” I have the honor and privilege of participating in a presentation entitled “Leadership from the Heart,” along with Valerie Willis, a master facilitator and author.
Our presentation is based on The Leadership Challenge, a book written more than 25 years ago that still offers valuable insight for leaders today. For those who can’t attend the Summit, let me share a few thoughts related to the presentation Valerie and I will deliver August 22.
Conduct a Self Inventory. Each of us has to find our own voice as a leader. The best way to do that is to conduct a self inventory of our leadership skills. Do this on a daily basis, even though it’s hard to admit to making mistakes. It’s hard to be perfect. So be vulnerable, because that’s part of what constitutes being a human being. And, don’t try to compare yourself to others. Learn what leadership traits you have and where you are in your career. Each of us has to have his or her own voice.
Recognize these four principles. One direction we’ll take at the Summit presentation is to point out four principles of leadership and challenge the audience to work on mastering these every day. Some days, you might master these 80 percent of the time, and other days you’ll master them 100 percent of the time. They are:
• Forward looking
We all can grow into leaders. People are born with a leadership mindset, but they are not born leaders. Becoming a true leader requires that we continually develop our leadership skills over time. Some people are naturally charismatic, and others are not. Some need to explore their inner territory more often to determine if they’re doing well as a leader. Personally, I subscribe to the Harvard Business Review on Leadership because it forces me to be more visionary and forward-thinking, especially regarding technology.
Celebrate victories, even small ones. Today’s economy continues to raise challenges for REALTORS® and the industry. Still, we must always aspire to succeed. Leaders today need to constantly celebrate victories and not concentrate on the negative stuff. Even a small victory is worth celebrating. Leaders need to constantly ask, “What can I do to help make people feel better?”
Let me conclude with this metaphor on leadership: It’s like peeling an onion because you learn more and more with each layer. And, as you learn more as a leader, you can become more inspirational to help constituents get past the obstacles ahead.
In just two short – but busy and exciting years – my role in the NAR Leadership Academy has come full circle. It started with my participation as a member of the Academy class of 2009, an experience that helped crystallize my passion for learning and embracing REALTOR volunteer leadership. And, this year, I have the honor of serving as Vice Chairman of the Leadership Advisory Board.
My roles with the Academy and East Bay Association of REALTORS have made me better attuned to different types of leadership of styles. I’ve gained some insight into the particular characteristics or traits of leadership; now, I can determine with confidence whether a person already is a good speaker, or has persuasive qualities, or demonstrates integrity or has a commanding presence. And, from the other perspective, I believe I can identify those who might need some guidance.
Over these past two years, I’ve been exposed to an unbelievable number of NAR leaders from around the United States. There’s a commonality among those of us who serve, and I’ve developed relationships with people from around the country. Under other circumstances, these relationships would have taken years to build.
As the Leadership Academy enters its fourth year, I maintain it has definitely encouraged REALTORS to pursue other volunteer opportunities, especially on the national level. There’s a good probability that Academy participants can get an appointment to serve on a national committee and learn more about the structure and process involved with how NAR functions. Coming out of the Academy is not a next step to being the president of NAR; but the caliber of talent that makes up this organization is phenomenal, and there are many opportunities for those who want to take on challenges locally, statewide or nationally.
Today, our industry continues to face challenges of a national scope. When dealing with legislative issues that have an impact on the real estate industry, there’s nothing higher than what takes place by NAR in the nation’s capitol. I saw this firsthand when I participated in the Policy Conference earlier this month. Washington is where national policy is made, and REALTOR leaders rallied to make our voice heard on Capitol Hill.
The months to come will bring more challenges for me and the Academy, and I’m not just referring to getting from the West Coast to the East Coast during the winter months. The Advisory Board is in evaluation mode right now. We may decide to revamp some of the course content and even consider reducing the size of the class, taking it from a maximum of 26 to perhaps 15 participants as a way to make the program more intimate and exclusive.
I’m fortunate to work with a great chairman in Leslie Rouda Smith and the rest of the Board. I’ve discovered that one of the great things about being appointed Vice Chair is that I still have a desire to learn.