My Grandfather was a wonderful story teller. Growing up I remember him teaching me many things by sharing stories which usually included a principle about life. One of my favorites was the story of the dipper and the bucket.
All of us have a bucket and all of us have a dipper. When things are good our buckets are full. When our buckets are full we feel happy, content and are generally pleasant. All is right with the world.
But when our buckets are empty, we are sad, discouraged and not all that much fun to be around. The world around us seems tough, even cruel and we have a hard time seeing the positive in anything.
We also all have a dipper. We can use that dipper in two ways. One way is to pour into a bucket and one way is to take out of a bucket. Here are a couple of examples:
I recently received a hand written note from an agent in my office thanking me for something that I’d helped them out with. It was a small gesture, but that little note really meant a lot to me. They used their dipper to fill up my bucket!
Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true. Sometimes we use our dippers to take from others’ buckets. It can happen in a variety of ways. Some are subtle and some are blatant, but all leave ones bucket a little emptier than it was. I remember a time when our office had a particularly productive month. I wanted to say thanks to our team so I decided to cater a hot breakfast for our meeting. Normally, if there were bagels or doughnuts at a meeting that would be a real surprise, so I thought a full breakfast would be a really big deal! It was nicely done with a big spread of wonderful food as a surprise to reward a hard working team. Most were excited and expressed their gratitude to me for doing this. I was feeling really good and thought I’d really done something nice. And then one of my agents walked up to me and said, “Why would you have this restaurant cater breakfast? Their food is always terrible”, and then she walked away.
She got her dipper in my bucket that day!
One of the great things about leadership is that you frequently have the opportunity to put the principle of the dipper and the bucket into practical application. Great leaders are careful about the way they use their dippers. To me, the best leaders are bucket fillers and are always using their dippers to fill up someone’s bucket. The interesting thing about filling someone’s bucket is that your bucket usually is filled as well. What a great reward! As a leader, it is important to seek out opportunities to fill buckets and in turn, you will see your bucket filled.
Realtors® all take the role as a leader at some point. Whether it is to your clients, in your office, or in your association, we all have the chance to lead by being a bucket filler. You don’t need a title, position, or to win an election to do it. All you need is the desire to fill another’s bucket and the rest will take care of itself.
Several years ago while visiting with friends in Ft. Worth, I was treated to an evening at gorgeous Bass Performance Hall. Patti Austin was the featured artist, singing some of her favorite Ella Fitzgerald tunes. The building, of course, is built for sound, and the notes from her powerful voice and the orchestra that accompanied her reverberated from the walls and lingered long after the music stopped. Most of us were humming those tunes (or something like them anyway) for the rest of the night. That experience reminds me of a great quote that I’ve heard attributed to Beethoven: “When the music stops and the notes fade away, the melody remains.”
The influence of a good leader is like that. I’ve been privileged to serve with some outstanding leaders in various volunteer organizations, at work and in my own family. Their words and their actions, the lessons they taught me, reverberate in my mind and continue to influence me years after the meetings and tasks have been completed.
The REALTOR® organization is fortunate to have a wealth of good leaders. As an AE, I have tremendous respect for those of you who volunteer to serve. You generously fit service to REALTORS® around your professional and home lives. You spend countless hours at the board table, feverishly fund raise for RPAC, conference call and web conference, send emails in the wee hours of the morning, travel to DC and your state capitol to lobby your elected officials — all these tasks and many more designed to ensure a bright future for this organization and this industry. Collectively these actions create a melody that lingers, its notes echoing long after the work is done.
If you aspire to be one of these inspirational REALTOR® leaders or if you’re serving in leadership already and you’re looking to expand your sphere of influence, we have a program for you! NAR’s Leadership Academy is accepting applications now through March 31, 2013. Click on this link to check it out: http://www.realtor.org/programs/leadership-academy. You’ll learn new skills, be impacted by lessons in leadership, make some life-long friends and create your own leadership melody in the process. I hope that you’ll consider applying!
I remember being in a meeting with a great leader that had to make a tough decision on a somewhat divisive issue. I felt for her as I knew that no matter what decision she made, there were going to be some people who were happy with her decision and some people who were not. What impressed me is that she was able to quickly gain clarity on what she ultimately felt was “the right thing to do”. You could tell that it was difficult for her, but ultimately she set aside her personal feelings and inclinations and made the decision that she felt was most beneficial and reflective of the overall organization. That is not always the easy thing to do, but in my opinion it demonstrated great strength of character to be able to act on what you feel is right, even when it is difficult.
This situation gave me pause to think about what really makes a great leader. Here are a few qualities and attributes that I think makes a great leader.
Great leaders are Courageous. This does not mean that they are not afraid, or intimidated by a situation from time to time, but great leaders find a way to summon the courage to move forward when others would shrink away from the challenge. It takes courage to push into the unknown, go against the grain or speak out when you aren’t sure if your opinion will be popular. It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to go forward in the presence of fear.
Great leaders have Vision. I believe that a great leader knows the “why” behind the “what” that they are doing. They also have the ability to help other people catch the vision of the “why” so they can accomplish the “what”. That’s a lot of “why’s” and “what’s”! I’ve always been inspired when I’m around people who have conviction and clarity in purpose. When the cause is just and you have a leader who can share the vision of the cause, special things happen.
Great leaders have empathy. Have you ever been around someone who genuinely understands your plight and is willing to admit that they understand how you feel? I immediately connect with those kinds of people and want to help them because they were willing to help and relate to me. They don’t think themselves as better or above those that they lead. In fact, most of the time they are anxious to get into the trenches, roll up their sleeves and get to work right alongside of those that they lead. Leaders who have empathy earn the hearts and trust of those around them.
Great leaders care. We’ve all been around someone who we know really cares about us. No ulterior motives, not quid pro quo, just care about you because you are you. They see the good in people and strive to bring out the best in others. They can be trusted and are unwavering to their commitment to a person or cause. They accomplish great things because those around them can feel how much they care.
Great leaders know when it’s time to lead. Many times a great leader is also a great role player and follower, but when it’s time to lead, the best leaders step up and take an active role. They don’t stand on the sidelines waiting for someone else to do something. They recognize the moment, mobilize and take action. They aren’t worried about failure or ask themselves, “what if this doesn’t work out the way I want it to”. They just know it’s time to step up and have the self confidence that they can do the job that is front of them. They have a “make it happen” kind of attitude and courage to take on challenges no matter how big. Great leaders take control of their destiny and don’t leave it in the hands of fate. Great leaders rise up and lead when it’s time to lead.
Do you think you are or could become a great leader? If so, apply to the NAR Leadership Academy to hone your current skills and to develop new talents. You will gain insights and experiences that will enhance every facet of your life. All organizations need great leaders. NAR is no different and NAR needs you! Application deadline is March 31st. REALTOR.org/LeadershipAcademy
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.
2011 marks the fifth Academy class, and I’m happy to say that I have been involved in every one of the five classes. Each year the board reviews and refines the program with the goal in mind to ignite the leadership passion of each individual.
What I enjoy most is the opportunity to help Academy participants find a place where they can reach their own personal goals. I firmly believe that mentoring is a key component of leadership, especially among volunteers. The Academy is a place where aspiring leaders find supportive colleagues. I think this is an advantage to the REALTOR association model, a place where people who’ve had individual success as entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to work collectively for the good of the profession.
I have a couple of passions that drive my involvement as a volunteer leader; the Realtors® Political Action Committee and professional development. I served as the fundraising chair for NAR this year. It’s an exhausting schedule of meetings, and it’s exhilarating. Especially when I see that moment of recognition for people when they realize the efforts the PAC funds shapes the future of our businesses. On the education front, I have been appointed to the REALTOR® University board of Regents. REALTOR® University is set to offer high-quality entrepreneurial and career-oriented programs in real estate. I want each of the Academy participants to make their own decisions, we have a great group that I know will take advantage of the networking and educational opportunities that are part of the Leadership Academy experience.
When my year as chair ends, for both the Academy and RPAC, it doesn’t mean my passion will dwindle for either cause. I believe that we’re creating the future by our actions today. Developing the future leaders for the National Association of REALTORS® is to create a compelling vision of the vitality of organized real estate.
I encourage all Realtors® to get involved in whatever drives your passions. In my twenty five years of being a REALTOR volunteer leader I’ve had many roles and plan to continue my involvement. Currently, I’m running for 2014 secretary/treasurer of the Texas Association of Realtors® and in 2013 at NAR I will be the Liaison to Committees for Gary Thomas.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” I aspire to leave a legacy of confident, motivated volunteer leaders. We’re always working on improving ourselves and on that course of personal improvement we need to be willing to learn from others. Participating in the Academy helps the participants grow as professionals, and serving as Chair this year helped me, too. I like to say I’m “under construction and will never be complete.”
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.
When members of the 2011 NAR Leadership Academy met in Chicago for session IV, we knew we were near the end of our time together; not surprisingly, our class has grown closer and friendships have gotten stronger. After all, learning and building relationships are paramount to the program’s success. Even though we have our own aspirations and are determined to succeed, we work as a team and are supportive of the collective efforts and achievements. Together we’ve helped build and pave the future of our profession. Synergy among our group is outstanding.
We started the session with a Tuesday evening reception where we mingled and got caught up on business and personal affairs. On Wednesday morning, Chairman of the Advisory Board Leslie Rouda-Smith offered some opening remarks, followed by Vice Chairman Otto Catrina, who hosted a session entitled “Modeling the Way.” He offered these characteristics of great leaders: Honesty, forward looking, competency, inspiring, credibility and shared values. Otto shared his own experience as a member of first Academy class and pointed out how his leadership experience evolved.
Later we toured the Realtor® building, an amazing experience. We met with a wide range of department heads and staff representing the library and Information Central, Center for Realtor® Technology, Marketing and Business Development, Realtor® University, Commercial, Conventions, the NAR Executive Offices, and the Global Alliance. Passion and dedication from our staff was clearly displayed by all.
The Chopping Block was our dinner destination. It’s a cooking school and retail space that let guests cook their own dinner. Wow! What an awesome team-building activity. As we walked into the “kitchen,” appetizers and drinks were offered. We had professional chefs assist us through the entire evening. We will long remember this wonderful experience.
The next day, we received a great deal of insight into the complex organization that comprises NAR. Erin Campo from NAR Executive Offices provided the NAR Governance overview. She explained the importance of the expertise profile and the responsibilities and criteria necessary for committee involvement. It is interesting to learn about the appointment process, where each year 1,500 positions are filled based on 7,000 recommendations from 2,000 applicants.
We also heard from national leaders. Elizabeth Mendenhall, Vice President and Liaison to Committees, shared the NAR strategic planning vision, its purpose and process. And, Charles McMillan, 2009 NAR President, offered insight regarding his path to national leadership and the rewards and sacrifices of being President of the world’s largest trade organization.
As we finished the session, we had to say good bye and look forward to our final session in Washington DC during the spring meetings in May. We look forward to our graduation and one more opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments together! Must say the Class of 2011 rocks!
Technology clearly has transformed the way we live. But from another perspective, technology also has transformed the way leaders communicate with constituents, stakeholders and influencers. Furthermore, it has changed the real estate industry.
Realtor® leadership today can instantly disseminate news to members across the nation, get direct feedback and monitor the dialogue in real time. Ten years ago – even five years ago – we did not have the same proliferation of electronic devices like mobile smart phones and tablets or social media platforms that we have today.
Now, NAR leaders can quickly and effectively inform the entire membership about advocacy issues, pending legislation and industry trends, and instantly be part of the ongoing conversation. This exchange of information is powerful because it lets leadership make informed decisions quickly.
From the perspective of a Realtor and business professional, I maintain that in the near future, more and more agents will embrace applications designed to make the transaction process more efficient and user-friendly. The era of paper contracts and ink signatures is slowly starting to fade. Soon, we will be part of a business environment built upon an online platform for streamlining the transaction to remove the archaic and cumbersome aspects of doing a deal today.
A passion for technology led me to take on the position of Technology Liaison for NAR, where my responsibilities are to act as a conduit between the senior leadership team and my forum – the Tech and Business Issues Forum — at Mid-Year and National meetings. And, I also serve as the liaison to Information Central, NAR’s online data clearinghouse, and the IT Group, which is responsible for many national technology and related projects.
Two factors fueled my passion for technology: 1) A desire to make my own business more efficient and less time-consuming; this opens opportunities to pursue other interests. 2) An unending fascination for all things related to technology, especially hardware. (From a hardware perspective my “research and development” budget is getting a bit out of control!)
Technology plays a significant role in letting me operate my business, which takes me far beyond my home in Minnesota. I have business ventures and partners in Thailand, Costa Rica and India. Through enhanced technology, doing business across time zones is relatively effortless compared to a few years ago. And, it’s made the sales process much more refined and professional.
From an industry perspective, this is a very exciting time to be a Realtor. We are at a tremendous crossroads due to technology, and we’re playing a role in the evolution of this business. But from another perspective, I don’t think technology will ever replace the need for a Realtor. The smart, savvy Realtor will continue to leverage technology to increase volume while at the same time increasing service, reducing overhead and freeing up valuable time.
The mood among participants at the 2011 NAR Policy Conference held in Washington February 2-3 was more upbeat than I’ve seen it in years. Everyone was in a positive frame of mind, and Realtors® were cohesive in representing our interests on Capitol Hill. There was a very “REALTOR® Party” connection among the small sample of delegates I spoke to.
There also was a very valiant effort at the Town Hall meeting to tone down the emotion and bring a more rational discussion to the issues at hand. Town Halls were designed for information gathering and resulted in letting us prioritize issues. In my opinion, this is best done with less emotion and more deliberation.
REALTORS® came to Washington to state our collective position on these four issues:
1. Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction Proposal. The number one issue causing unrest in the housing market is the proposal to limit the mortgage interest tax deduction. NAR’s opposition to this topic was impressed upon the entire group, including the state association presidents, the association executives, the Federal Political Coordinators and the regional vice presidents. With the real estate market recovering in some parts of the country, this proposal is very unsettling; if the proposal becomes law, the value of home prices would drop by 15 percent. And, in this economy, we might as well just drain the swamp.
2. Privatizing Government Sponsored Enterprises. Our second issue takes us down several flights of stairs, and it’s a subject that we as REALTORS® have been studying for a fair amount of time – not just the issue but the solution. The government-sponsored enterprises in question are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The goal is to get rid of the rhetoric by some to privatize Fannie and Freddie, which would simply not work. Our position is that real estate is a cyclical business and needs some sort of governmental agency to assist the financial markets during the down cycle.
3. Flood Insurance Extension. In the past, Congress has been reticent to address an issue when a crisis is developing; they wait until it gets down to the wire. Last fall, both the Senate and the House passed a bill that will extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until September 30, 2011. REALTORS® want to see a more comprehensive NFIP reform bill that would be in place for several years. With just an extension, housing sales stops in some markets and people have to dance around to get a mortgage.
4. Conforming Mortgage Loan Limits. This is a similar issue to the flood insurance extension. The mortgage loan amounts that Fannie and Freddie can handle were due to expire in December, but they were extended through September 2011. Generally, the limit is $417,000 for single family homes. Congress had to act at the last minute to avoid a crisis because many of the high-end real estate markets have an immediate need.