The fourth quarter of the year is the time when many agents reflect upon the success they’ve achieved and the challenges they’ve faced in their businesses. It’s the perfect opportunity to assess what has worked and where improvements may need to be made.

So…is it possible that one area that needs addressing is your own performance as a team leader?

Believe it or not, most leaders are made, not born, so if you’re struggling—there’s hope! My experience working with both new and seasoned leaders has led me to identify the seven most common reasons many in our industry struggle, along with ways to become the leader others will enthusiastically follow.

1. You’re Not Embracing the Platinum Rule

Platinum Rule

If you’ve made it this far in life, you’re very likely familiar with the Golden Rule—“do unto others as you would have them do unto you—which is another way of saying, “I’ll treat people the way I’d like to be treated.” Maybe that’s your first mistake.

Everyone is different, and perhaps they want to be treated differently! Great leaders embrace the Platinum Rule instead—“I’ll treat people the way THEY want to be treated”—and commit to knowing their people well enough to understand just exactly what that means.

Whether you are applying the Platinum Rule to team members or to clients (you must!)—it starts by asking great questions. A few to consider include:

  • How do you prefer that I communicate with you? How would you prefer to communicate with me?
  • If changes need to be made, how much notice would you prefer to have?
  • How can we best deal with any conflict that may arise?

The Platinum Rule is a two-way street, so if you introduce this concept to those you lead you’re very likely to see a shift in your team culture—for the better!

2. You’re Not Providing Consistent Guidance, Direction, or Accountability

Dan DeCapua as Leader

Leaders often attain their positions because they possess great instincts, act quickly and decisively, take risks, and seek to achieve results. However, the best of the bunch also recognize that successful teams and businesses require people who are supportive, methodical, want clear instructions, and have a deep desire to understand what’s expected of them. In other words, they’re not like you.

Are you taking the time to share your vision, track and measure your progress, and advise your people as to what’s needed in order to achieve your desired goals? If you’re expecting people to read your mind, make assumptions, or operate in a vacuum, you’re failing to understand something pretty basic.

People in our industry join teams and organizations because they want to be a part of something and they want to be led. So, if you intend to be a great leader, you must be accessible, highly communicative, and model the high-minded behavior that you expect from them.

Dan DeCapua, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, has over 400 5-star reviews on Zillow and is the leader of the Spotlight Home Team. They have experienced astounding growth over the last three years, and are now one of the most successful in the state. The addition of six sales associates, an operations manager, and a talented support staff has provided Dan with some serious on-the-job leadership training.

Dan DeCapua

“I’ve known from the beginning that I wanted to build something significant and I didn’t want to do it alone. I’m not going to lie—shifting my focus from top-producing salesperson to CEO hasn’t always been easy. I’ve learned that establishing standards and requiring team members to meet or exceed expectations is non-negotiable. Without them, what’s there to hold anyone accountable to?

Frankly, I’d rather spend the majority of my time helping my team increase their skills and being present for them. What I invest, I certainly get back. It is my intention to consistently model the right behavior and habits for them, respond to their needs quickly, and provide a culture of collaboration and trust. I’m damn proud of this team. We’re in this together and I want them to be proud too.”

Consider These Small Steps to Effect Change

A brief morning (virtual or in-person) huddle—no more than 10 minutes in length—allows you to set the tone and goals for the day. Team meetings should be mandatory, held consistently, and offer a value-providing agenda. Accountability starts with you, so make this time sacred and treat it with the significance it deserves. No rescheduling because you have something “more important” to do. This time with your team IS the priority.

3. You’re Not Helping Your People Develop to Their Full Potential

Coach and Leadership

You can be a boss and hire people to do certain jobs, or you can be a highly respected and admired leader who commits to pouring into their people and helping them to grow and achieve all they are capable of. The choice is yours!

Emily Kettenburg, a highly respected management coach and leadership consultant, has learned this from working with successful broker-owners, managers, and team leaders from all over the nation:

Emily Kettenburg

“Strong leaders must always remember the responsibility they have and the role they play in inspiring others to greatness. This is key to developing agents and staff to their full potential. You must keep in mind that everyone brings their unique talents and perspectives to the table, and having a hand in fostering an individual’s growth and achievement not only results in enhanced performance, but contributes to the retention of your best people. Help others grow, and your business certainly will as well.”

What prevents leaders from doing this? Most struggling leaders will never admit this, but I know from experience they are thinking it, and it’s holding them back.

  • “I don’t want the people on my team to be more successful than I am.”
  • “If I share my skills and secrets, they will take everything I’ve taught them and go out on their own.”
  • “I don’t want to reveal the skills I am lacking or what I don’t know!”

It’s important to remember that your feelings aren’t necessarily facts. The idea that you are mentoring those who may shine brighter than you or that you’re grooming your own competition is a mindset problem; you’re dwelling in scarcity. Create an amazing team that provides growth and opportunity, and few will ever leave. If they do, take some credit, and be proud. Your leadership likely changed the course of their career—and their life.

If you want to continue to attract great talent to your team, you need to demonstrate how others have grown and prospered as a result of being aligned with you. Leadership requires you to put the needs of others first, setting aside your ego and personal competitiveness. Leadership does NOT require you to be an expert in all areas, or that you have everything figured out. It’s enough to show them that you care.

What You Can Do, Starting Today

Consult with each member of your team and create an individualized growth plan. Where do their interests lie? What skills and proficiencies can be improved upon over the next quarter and year? What impact could this have on their performance and your profitability? Be prepared to identify the people, platforms, courses, and resources to make it happen—and to invest the resources.

4. You’re Failing to Respect Other People’s Boundaries

People’s Boundaries

Let’s get one thing straight—no one is ever going to work as hard as you do to grow YOUR business. You may fly your flag on the “I’m available 24/7!” mantra, but expecting that from others is unrealistic and selfish. Remember the Platinum Rule? Great leaders embrace their people and honor what’s important to them. They want balance. Balance comes as a result of boundaries.

For many, this means regular days off, family time, uninterrupted vacations, and the ability to turn off their phones. If you’re texting and emailing at odd hours expecting an immediate response, demonstrating resentment because someone is dealing with a sick child or an ailing parent, or generally being a jackass, it’s time to STOP. THAT. NOW.

Get a life, Leader. Seriously. A life that exists beyond your business. And give your people a boss break!

Scott Jeffrey Miller is the author of the best-selling book “Management Mess to Leadership Success,one component of which is work/life balance. He stresses the importance of leaders not just paying lip service to it, but to MODEL it. He writes:

“When leaders themselves don’t have a life, they not only look pitiful in the eyes of their team, they also set a very low standard for how others behave, consciously or unconsciously.”

– Jeffrey Miller, author of the best-selling book “Management Mess to Leadership Success”

If your people have boundaries, and boundaries are a sign of self-esteem and self-respect, and leaders fail to establish them for themselves or respect them in others, who really has the problem?

Pay attention to how you are spending your time and what your people are observing you do. Be willing to share the challenges you are facing and your desire to make positive, impactful changes. Reinforce their boundaries and balance, and seek a peer group to do the same for you!

5. You’re Not Recognizing a Job Well Done

Job Well Done Post-it notes

After six months on the job, a once highly enthusiastic, creative, and very skilled marketing assistant for a very successful team suddenly became sullen, withdrawn, and increasingly ineffective in the role. The team leader declared, “I’ve made a bad hire and she has to go!”

Not so fast, sister. Back, once again, to the Platinum Rule.

Had the team leader paid a bit more attention, she would have realized that her employee was an eager-to-please approval seeker. She was motivated by praise and recognition and wanted to be seen and appreciated for her unique and artistic contributions. She wasn’t getting that from her leader—or from anyone else on the team.

“Give her a shoutout in front of everyone,” I said. “Thank her for all she has done and the impact she has had in such a short period of time. Reward her.”

The team leader looked shocked. “Reward her? The paycheck is her reward!”

Yeah—no. While it’s easy and maybe even second nature for leaders to identify what someone is doing wrong, you’ll be better respected and earn greater loyalty when you pay attention to what your people are doing right. So praise them. Thank them. Surprise and delight them. Be the leader others love to work with.

6. You’re Making Big, Business-impacting Decisions Without Consulting Those You Lead

Luke Volz as team leader

It was easy in the beginning, wasn’t it? You needed to make a decision, so you did. There was no need to seek permission, consult your trusted advisers, or worry how your choices may impact those around you—because when we start out, we typically are going it alone.

Businesses are created to grow and scale, however, and this inevitably leads not only to adding more people, platforms, and processes into the mix, but to even bigger decisions like compensation structure, designing a physical workspace, and brokerage affiliation.

With growth comes the fact that there are now others to consider, and if you’re a smart leader, you’ll ask for suggestions, consider their opinions, and include them in your decision-making process. When you don’t, things can go terribly wrong.

I was once contacted by an agent working for a team on the West Coast. He was in a total panic. With less than three days’ notice, he was told by the team leader that all of them would be moving to a new brokerage, be completely rebranded, and were expected to sign new team and company documents within 24 hours.

But he liked where he was. He loved the brand. He and several others were angry and disappointed that they weren’t considered or consulted in the process, nor were they going to be incentivized or compensated in any way after being so quickly uprooted.

Bad decision on the team leader’s part.

Guess what happened next? He, along with three others, abruptly quit—and hopefully taught their former leader a powerful lesson.

Luke Volz is a young, dynamic team leader in The Woodlands, Texas. The start of 2020 saw him adding both operational and sales support to his business, and he has quickly come to realize how important it is to become the best leader he can be.

Luke Volz

“My team and I were able to get away for a few days for a retreat, and during that time I was able to see just how smart and committed they are to what we are building. I was also able to see the enormous potential each one has, along with the great instincts they possess. I want to achieve my goals and vision WITH them, which means I will consult with and consider them. You need your people to ‘buy in’—and that occurs only if you make them a valuable part of the equation.”

7. You’re an Intimidating, Fear & Distrust-inducing Dictator, Who Micromanages & Expects Perfection

Intimidating Dictator

Did you hear the one about the top producer who complained about her FIFTH administrative assistant walking out on her—after she screamed at her in front of an entire office full of people?

She was still irate when she called me to continue her rant. Once she came up for air, I said—quietly and slowly—“What do you think might happen if you decided to treat your employees as well as you treat your clients?” I let her sit in her silence for a few seconds.

She got my point. Your employees and team members ARE your clients, first.

If your team or business has become a revolving door—with talented people walking in and disgruntled people walking out—it’s time to take a good, long look in the mirror.

Good people don’t leave good jobs. They leave lousy leaders.

Providing opportunity and a paycheck to others does not give you the right to project your bad mood, unrealistic expectations, or perfectionism onto others. Unrelenting, micromanaging, uncompromising jerks quickly develop reputations—and not the good kind.

Aside from the fact that you’re making it nearly impossible to create a positive culture, you need to remember this: Finding great talent—for sales, operations, or support—is one of the most significant challenges team leaders face.

How easy do you think it will be if you have a reputation for being a nightmare to work for?

There is hope for those with enough self-awareness to recognize where they’re falling short as a leader. A therapist, a coach, or a trusted group of peers may all provide support as you seek to correct the behavior preventing you from achieving all you are capable of.

The bottom line is this: Successful teams and businesses require thoughtful, committed leaders at the helm. Embracing this as necessary is the very first step. Sharing your intentions with your people is likely to be met with enthusiastic support and is certain to result in greater productivity, increased morale, and talent retention. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t step up and lean in starting today?

Over to You

Closers, what stories do you have to tell? What qualities have you found in great—or horrible—leaders? What tips and suggestions can you share? I’d love to hear from you!