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In 2006, I was in the process of purchasing an Atlanta brokerage. The current owner asked me to schedule an appointment with an industrial psychologist to determine if I was a good candidate to purchase the business. I received a written report after my appointment, and at the bottom of the last page, just above the doctor’s signature, were the words “recommend with reservations.”

Recommend with reservations? “How dare he say that!” I thought. But the psychologist wasn’t questioning my competence as a salesperson or team leader. He was questioning, instead, whether I could work well in a team environment and help others find success. He knew something I didn’t. He knew being personally successful was one thing, and being able to help others do the same was something totally different.

How could this be? I thought helping others become successful would be a no-brainer for me, but now I had second thoughts. As I sat quietly at my kitchen table reading the report again and again, some of the words felt like punches to my gut. The words blunt, opinionated, strong-willed, judgmental, domineering and aloof seemed harsh, especially when used in describing me. How could my ability to charge head-down into any obstacle holding me back be both a blessing and a curse? I realized if I wanted to be a good leader, I would need to learn how to keep the blessing, and shed the curse.

Instead of always “leaning in,” I would need to learn to “lean away.” Not to lean away in the sense of not caring, but to allow others to learn and gain confidence in their own knowledge and abilities with guidance and suggestions rather than demands. I knew this wouldn’t be easy.

It’s been 11 years since reading that report for the first time and, unfortunately, many of those words still ring true today. The ability of my business to produce a consistent stream of revenue and profit without my everyday involvement remains a struggle. But I’m improving, and I’ll continue to improve by following seven simple rules:

  • Never forget that I’m only one cog in a team environment where we need each other to be successful.
  • Always value the ideas and opinions of others.
  • Delay, for at least 24 hours, reacting to any situation when emotions are high.
  • Implement systems that, when followed by others, produce dependable results.
  • Be consistent and create a safe place for all team members to learn and grow.
  • Follow core values and insist everyone else do the same.
  • Put others in leadership positions, then get out of their way and let them lead.

I struggle daily to remember that I’m not directly responsible for the success of others. I am, however, responsible for creating an environment in which others can be successful. Sounds simple, right? It’s simple, but it isn’t easy.

Cleve Gaddis of Gaddis Partners, RE/MAX Center learned sales the hard way, selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door, and now his real estate team closes $60 million in sales annually in Atlanta, Ga. He loves to share his sales strategies and to see others succeed. He’s the host of the Call Cleve Atlanta Real Estate Show which can be heard on NewsTalk 1160 WCFO every week. Contact him at

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