Leaders and Innovators Often Walk Alone

by Mike Audet on September 10, 2013

leaderI have been working a lot in Brazil these days working with a company called Prolist building the first true MLS in their country. The reason I mention Brazil is because it is a great case in point regarding leaders and innovators walking alone. In dozens of meetings I have had with major real estate companies, associations and banks in Brazil I meet those that are leaders and innovators and I also see those that are part of the herd, that only go where the herd goes. The brightest, those with clear vision into the future, often those who have been exposed to the US style of real estate, see why MLS makes sense and they are ready to change Brazilian real estate. They see a need to change and they recognize you will never get different results by doing the same thing, over and over. These people are totally comfortable moving outside the herd mentality, thinking and moving on their own with confidence.

Others I speak with tell you how Brazil is different and how things don’t work that way down here and why MLS could never works…blah, blah, blah…! What they are really saying is “Don’t move my cheese, it makes me uncomfortable.” Well, the truth is, change can be uncomfortable and leaders and innovators understand this and have learned to move right through it. These are the people that are constantly moving outside of their comfort zones because they know growth doesn’t occur unless they do.

Unfortunately I see our industry move as a herd too often as well. MLSs make choices based on what other MLSs do or don’t do. We don’t innovate. This isn’t unique. People in all industries become creatures of habit. We do things because we are comfortable until we realize we are facing disaster. This is how vendors like Zillow and Trulia took over our Internet space so quickly, because we held on to old ideas and couldn’t move out of our industry comfort zone to embrace change that was being demanded by consumers. What other things in our industry are at risk? Are we managing change effectively? Are we challenging the status quo and asking the tough questions? What parts of our own organizations are at risk because of stagnating thinking and complacency?

Leaders Stand Out

 

Think of anyone that has been the catalyst or architect of innovation in any field and you will see a number of things very clearly:

  •  These people think outside the box.
  • They are willing to walk alone, outside of the box.
  • They don’t accept something just because it is popular.
  • They are willing to challenge long held beliefs and move beyond “safe”.
  • They don’t make choices to be approved by their peers.
  • They create new direction for peers to follow.

I love the following two quotes and I think they sum it all up nicely. The first is by Charles Kettering and while it makes me laugh, it is so true!

 “If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.”

 The lesson is, just because we do it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. We need to be willing to challenge the norm.

The second, by John Maxwell, points out the need to move beyond what is easy.

 “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”

 All of us need to be change agents if we are going to lead our respective organizations. There is no such thing as stasis in the world. You are either moving forward or backward and the same is true for real estate organizations. Which way is your organization moving?

Embracing Change – Leading

 

Change can be difficult or change can be easy. The key is how we perceive and internalize the process. True leaders don’t think change is hard or painful because they have made it part of their core belief system. They aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo because they see change as a natural requirement of progress and of being a leader. They know they have to embrace that level of energy and challenge or things are not going to move forward. They are always willing to move two steps forward and one step back understanding that momentary failures are part of every successful endeavor. Those adverse to change will choose to stay put. They’ll watch and listen and see what others are doing but in the meantime they are losing ground.

Leaders in the meantime are moving two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward….etc.

Keys to Manage Change

 

These keys may seem basic but like all things I have noticed in life, we may know the basics, but it doesn’t mean we practice them anymore. Remember this saying,

 “Complacency is the unavoidable side effect of mastery”.

 All of us who have achieved a level of organizational success in our lives have a tendency to forget some of the key things that got us up the ladder in the first place. It happens to all professionals. What do NFL football players focus on every year when they come back to training camp? The basics! We should be no different.

Here are some keys to consider:

  1.  Having clear objectives – If you don’t know where you want to go how are you going to get there? If asked, would your staff all know what the top five objectives of your organization are? Clear goals are crucial for effective change management.
  2. Understanding where you are today – Like any journey you can’t move forward effectively if you don’t know where you are starting. We need to have a clear picture of our goals and how everyone in our company is positioned to achieve these goals.
  3. Creating benchmarks – You can know where you are starting from and you can have clear objectives and you can still be totally lost if you aren’t measuring your progress against your goals. It is like looking at a map to see how far you are toward your destinations. Benchmarking allows you to measure progress and to make adjustments toward your ultimate destination.

How helpful would it be for you as organizational leaders to know which of your staff are open to change? How helpful would it be when selecting project leads to know which of your staff is truly energized and which are competent but complacent? Adapting to change and moving objectives forward is not just about ability it is about the personal level of tension or energy we have surrounding a given activity. This energy can be measured and success in any activity is absolutely dependent on a certain threshold of energy to be present. Have you even wondered why someone with more than enough ability just doesn’t get a job done? This is the answer! There isn’t enough energy or tension for them to create the movement necessary to drive the process to completion. The good news is, if you know this in advance, there are highly effective strategies that can be utilized to solve this. WAV Group can create a custom “Change Grid” for your organization that will give you a person-by-person analysis of your staff based on your specific strategic objectives. Better yet, we can help you develop strategies tailored for each individual and how they see themselves in relations to these objectives.

Contact WAV Group

 

WAV Group helps MLSs and real estate companies embrace effective change in numerous areas including Change Management, Selecting and Implementing new technologies to Strategic Planning and Operational Reviews/Audits. If you would like more information on our Change Management services to learn how we can help you accelerate changes in your organization call us at 716-839-4628, or email us at mike@wavgroup.com.

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Leilani Bruce September 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Great article!

Reply

Mike Audet September 16, 2013 at 8:28 am

Thanks Leilani!

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John Mosey September 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Mike:

This is very good stuff and I wish you well on your Brazil project. You might want to touch base with Stefan Swanepoel. He pulled it off for the country of South Africa around 25 years ago.
The leadership challenge never seems to change, but the change keeps happening anyway because the momentum of an idea in motion will almost always sweep past the obstacles in its way.
I like the metaphor of the Grand Canyon except for how long it took. That Colorado River wasn’t going to be kept from where it was going.
Perhaps a better example is one that John Heithaus used on a panel we shared some years ago.
He had a cartoon of some cavemen standing around. One was carving a wheel. The other was carving a parking meter. The question in the caption was, “Which are you?”

Reply

Mike Audet September 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Thanks John, good insights. I would like to think that good leadership brings good ideas to fruition sooner, though I agree something that is really desired by the masses will find a way to bubble to the surface in spite of leadership. Hopefully in Brazil there is good leadership and good ideas!

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