By Craig Proctor
RISMEDIA, September 24, 2008-One of the most common questions I get asked by agents who have started to build a team as they grow their real estate businesses is “How do you get team members to do what you want them to do?” This is a great question.
The answer starts with clearly envisioning specifically what it is that you want a new team member to do, and this process must begin far before a team member actually starts with you. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume that you’ve done a great job of recruiting, hiring and training your team members. What now? How do you ensure your team members keep doing what they’re supposed to be doing?
If you don’t learn to manage effectively, team members will add to your work load rather than ease it. The answer is that you need a system. If you don’t have a consistent system for managing your team, you’ll actually be adding to your work load rather than taking away from it. Instead of being able to let some of your duties go, you’ll find yourself worrying about the things your assistant is supposed to do, and then fixing the problems caused when they don’t.
You and your team members are working for different goals
Why is this? Well, consider the following:
- Your team members are working for money and for their personal definition of a good life
- You’re working for these things too, but you’re also working to create and grow a business – your business
This sets you miles apart from the people who work for you. Your motivation comes from within, while theirs (by and large) must come from the systems you put in place to encourage, recognize and reward it.
If you’re like me, babysitting team members is the last thing you want to do. After all, the reason you hired this person was to get help, not to add to the things you have to do. If you’ve recruited, hired and trained correctly, you will want to be able to let this new person loose and do your own job knowing that they’re doing theirs.
Many agents fall into the dangerous, and highly ineffective, practice of what is called “Seagull Management.” Seagull Management is the practice of occasionally swooping into the office, dumping a load of work on your assistants, flying off to pursue other things, and then whining and screaming when things don’t get done.
Lots of agents define this erratic behavior as “managing” their assistants, and they sincerely can’t understand why most of the people they hire don’t work out. These agents spend a lot of their time lamenting about the opportunities that are being lost because “they just can’t get good people.”
Well, your inclination is correct: you shouldn’t have to baby-sit your team members; you shouldn’t have to watch over their shoulders to ensure they do their jobs. But you must put a system in place to ensure that effective controls are in place.
Part of the issue I’m talking about here is effective communication. Assuming that you’ve followed proper steps and strategies to recruit, hire and train them, every single one of your team members should have a crystal clear understanding of what you expect of them, both on a day-to-day basis, and longer term. In order that these expectations are met, you need to:
- Ensure that two-way communication occurs regularly and formally. For example, you should have a standard weekly meeting with all staff to review objectives, performance, updates and to answer their questions. Monday morning is a great time to have this meeting.
- Incorporate an objective system of measurement in the form of performance reports to monitor long term achievements. For example, for your licensed team members, track and post their offers negotiated, listing and buyer contracts signed, leads input into database etc. on a weekly basis.
- Incorporate a management strategy which ensures that day-to-day duties are being carried out without you having to worry about them. For example, one highly effective management strategy I use in my own business is called “Management by Exception.”
Under this common sense management system, you will assume that work is being done according to pre-set systems and standards with the expectation that any exception to these standards will automatically result in notification of the exception via an “Exception Report.”
The exception report provides the nature of the exception, the logic and, if appropriate, an alternative strategy, due date or request for assistance. With this system, there is no guesswork required on the part of your people. They have been told exactly what to do and how to do it and will, therefore, be able to operate the system perfectly without you.
There will be no need for them to constantly ask you questions about this or that, or for you to watch over their shoulders. Instead, you’ll be able to focus on working “on” your business knowing that everything is running smoothly and exactly as it should – and if it isn’t, you’ll hear about it. Furthermore, you’ll hear about the exception not in the form of a problem you will have to drop your work to solve, but rather in the form of a solution.
This practice makes your team members accountable. They learn to take responsibility and ownership for their job, and these traits are the foundation of learning and expansion.
The most important concept in effective management is to help your team members take responsibility for a common definition of success. What this will take from you, however, is the ability to delegate, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. You see, as entrepreneurs, we’re used to doing everything ourselves. If you get an idea, you act on it quickly. But if you’ve got your finger in the pot of everything that’s going on in your company, you are more than likely getting in the way of allowing your team members to do their jobs. The following seven points that will help you delegate jobs to your team members are, therefore, just as much for you as for them:
- Place focus on results, not details. Don’t get involved in making every detail happen, and don’t allow your team members to involve you. Instead, make it clear that you care about, and will hold them accountable for, the outcome and don’t need or want to know the nitty gritty details.
- Don’t solve your team members’ problems for them. Often when a team member comes to you with a problem, they’re hoping you’ll solve it for them (so they won’t have to be responsible for the outcome.) You can offer them possible solutions, but first, ask them for their ideas, and make it clear that the ultimate solution is up to them.
- Map out clear and measurable goals. If you are very clear upfront about your expectations, and the manner in which you will be evaluating their achievements, your team members won’t need to involve you each step along the way.
- Develop and use reporting systems. Track weekly and monthly performance in an objective manner so you both have the same understanding about how they’re doing.
- Set and communicate clear and reasonable deadlines. If your team member understands when a project is meant to be completed, he or she can be accountable for meeting this deadline.
- Keep track of what tasks you’ve delegated and to whom. One of the most de-motivating things you can do is assign the same task to several different team members (because you’ve forgotten that you’ve already asked someone else). Decide ahead who should take on the project and then hold them to it.
- Delegate tasks to the right team members. Each of your team members will have different skills. Make sure you’re making good assignments that utilize your team members to the best of their abilities.
In summary, there are three key elements to any good team management system which I call my “car” formula:
Communication - in the form of weekly team meetings to measure, question, inform and update
Accountability - through effective delegation and management by exception, make team members responsible for their day-to-day jobs
Reporting - weekly, monthly and yearly reports objectively measure whether a team member is making it happen.
When you manage your “car” effectively, it will take you where you want to go – the same goes for your team.
“Weekly team meetings are a must. We meet every Tuesday morning. Failure to have these meetings is a road map to failure. The more you train, the better skilled the agents become. Better skilled agents mean more sales, bottom line.” – Joey Trombley, Rouses Point, NY
To find out more about effective team management systems, you can visit http://www.hypertracker.com/go/cp/a31a080924/ where you can learn about my 3-day SuperConference where I train agents on systems and strategies to help their grow a profitable business.
Billion Dollar AgentTM Craig Proctor has been in the top 10 for RE/MAX Worldwide for 15 years.
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