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.
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
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.
As told by Leslie Rouda-Smith, Otto Catrina and Pat Pipkin
The NAR Leadership Academy is going through some changes. Beginning with the selection process for the 2012 class applicants may now be asked for an in person or Skype interview. Chairman of the Academy Advisory Board Leslie Rouda-Smith, “The goal of the Academy is to identify those with potential for leadership at the national level. The interviews give us a chance to discover each person as an individual and find out their passions to create a mix of people that will progress and grow.” With this in mind the advisory board is going to choose a smaller size class than previous years, “we’ll make sure that we have a complementary group of talents and diversity for leadership at NAR.”
“Each of us on the board put in hours of time reviewing the applications before we get to the actual selection meeting. The diversity of perspectives among the board members in the room and the open dialogue we have during the process really contributes to what we hope will be a well-rounded representation of our membership” says, Otto Catrina, Vice Chairman of the board. The Advisory Board is a group of ten; eight REALTORS®, two of which are graduates of the Academy; one state Association Executive and one local Association Executive. They met during the recent Midyear Business meetings in Washington DC to begin the selection process for the class that will graduate in May 2012.
“The advisory board is always looking for ways to improve the program and the interviews are a change in process that allows the board to connect faces and names, it’s a benefit for the candidate and to the selection process” says Pat Pipkin of New Mexico, immediate past Chairman of the board. “With the smaller, more elite group size and the use of interviews, we hope to get a really dynamic group of future leaders.”
The Leadership Academy Advisory board is:
Leslie Rouda-Smith, Chairman from Plano, Texas, Otto Catrina, Vice Chairman from Castro Valley, California, Pat Pipkin, Immediate Past Chairman from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jill Beck, Executive Vice President of North Dakota Association of REALTORS®, Bonnie J. Boyd from Mentor, Ohio, Ingrid Glancy, from Denver, Colorado, Brenda G. Ghibaudi, CRS, PMN from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Dwight Hale, from San Antonio, Texas, Theresa Hatton, Executive Vice President of the Greenwich Association of REALTORS®, Mary T. McCall from Tampa, Florida.
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!
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.
As the 2011 Chair of the NAR Leadership Academy Advisory Board, I’m sure I’ll get asked this question in the upcoming year: “Has the Academy reached the goals established when the program was founded?” My answer would be a resounding: “Absolutely!”
The Academy was founded in 2008 on the principle that we can mentor and guide REALTORS and identify those who have the skills, talents and commitment that NAR is looking for to lead the organization in the future.
But from another perspective, it’s an initiative that continues to evolve; we’re always evaluating the program to keep moving it forward, to keep progressing toward another level. We want to set an example for the entire real estate industry, and our key goal is to give those REALTORS who participate the training and insight they can’t get anyplace else.
Across the nation, there are some really great state and local leadership programs, and some have been around for several years. We strive to give Academy participants something different – whether it’s the leadership training, the mentoring or the kind of relationships that they build through the program.
I think that what we’re doing here goes way beyond the real estate industry and what’s taking place at the state associations. There is a bigger picture perspective here regarding what’s good for our economy and the nation.
Here’s an example. The next meeting of the current Academy class will be February 1 during the NAR Policy Conference in Washington. I’ve been involved with the REALTOR Political Action Committee for 25 years, and I know this will be a wonderful opportunity for the Academy participants to get a firsthand perspective on the kind of national legislative issues brought before REALTORS.
These issues define who we are as REALTORS, and we get a chance to rank them at a town hall meeting. I still remember my first time attending a Policy conference and thought, “How cool is this! We get to learn about how policy is made, the legislative process, what our lobbyists do.”
Nationally, we’re still suffering with today’s housing market, although there are some positive signs that things will get better in 2011. There are some legislative issues pending we believe will help the housing industry and the economy. So it’s important that REALTORS deliver the message that home ownership matters, and I hope the Academy will share the knowledge and wisdom of our PAC efforts within their communities.
I’ve been on the Advisory Board since the first NAR Leadership Academy class, and I think that the Board members set an example for the participants. We have to be careful about how we handle our role because there are different styles of leadership. I have a great Vice Chair in Otto Catrina, who did go through the Academy and is the first graduate to serve in a leadership role. Our door will always be open because we want to keep making the program the best it can be.
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.”