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Realogy’s Ascend Breeds the Leaders of Tomorrow

Whether bound by family or fueled by a hand-picked successor, the broker/owner exodus has started—and the biggest brands, including the largest organization, Realogy, have helped its leaders navigate the transition with all-encompassing, integrated training, designed to develop the faces of the future of the industry.

Realogy, specifically, committed to developing its franchisees’ next rising stars through Ascend: The Executive Leadership Experience, which announced its fifth class of graduates this year. The company’s portfolio includes Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate, CENTURY 21®, Coldwell Banker®, ERA® and Sotheby’s International Realty®, as well as NRT.

John Peyton

“Here at Realogy, we recognize the hard work that our broker/owners have put into building their companies,” John Peyton, president and CEO of Realogy Franchise Group, says. “We want to help them see their legacies preserved with potential successors, and through Ascend, we have successfully been helping our broker/owners prepare their aspirants to be world-class leaders.”

Over the past five years, more than 170 have participated in the program, which breaks down brokerage business essentials, and identifies and nurtures skillsets, within a curated curriculum of three tenets: “Leading Self. Leading Others. Leading Organizations.®”

“It became very apparent to leadership at Realogy that there was this iceberg where the full flow of transitions was going to start happening,” explains Mike Good, Ascend executive champion and former CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty. “As an organization, it was an obligation to really assist those owners that are nearing a time for transition.”

“Many franchise owners have a succession plan; however, a substantial number of them haven’t chosen a successor or prepared potential candidates with the leadership tools they will need in the future,” Peyton says. “Ascend gives future leaders the opportunity for personal growth in their leadership knowledge, skills and confidence to ensure that the leadership transition will be successful and profitable.”

Mike Good

As Good notes, broker/owners—many self-made—have built their brands carefully over the years, and aim to carry them onward into the future.

“Most of them have legacies they want to preserve and protect, and they also need the opportunity to prepare that new successor so that the transition can be seamless and, hopefully, result in future growth for the organization,” Good says.

Through Ascend, Realogy delivers intentional planning strategies, beginning with “Leading Self,” an introspection into the skills of the successor, followed by “Leading Organizations,” centered on goals and growth, and then “Leading Others,” which dives into recruitment and retention, over the course of three semesters in 46 weeks. Candidates participate in sessions at Realogy’s Madison, N.J., headquarters and in online webinars.

In the “Leading Self” portion of the program, candidates conduct inventory on their leadership styles and values, as well as gain insight into one of the keys to longevity: culture.

“We focus on personality traits and emotional intelligence, and, later on, their social styles, with a feedback loop so they can see how others view their leadership styles, and how it compares to how they see themselves,” Good says. “We also focus on culture, and bring in top franchisees from different brands and NRT to talk about how to build and protect it.”

After the emphasis on self, the focus shifts, and candidates explore financials and P&Ls, and brokerage business models overall. Additionally, they address M&As and negotiating sales, with role-playing scenarios.

“We show them how to use metrics to ‘look through the front windshield’ as they progress toward their company goals,” Good says. “It’s not the model that creates the success; it’s the leadership. We show them different people can be very successful with different models.”

Lastly, candidates learn to recruit and retain talent, including considering diversity and representation, and how to communicate their messaging to stakeholders, both within and outside the organization.

“If you aren’t reflecting the makeup of your community, you’re missing an opportunity,” Good says. “We really help them think about how they can become a more diverse organization, not simply in terms of race or culture or sexual preference, but also diversity of perspectives and experiences. We also bring a heightened awareness to storytelling, and help them really dig deep into what makes their company unique and how they offer that to consumers and sales associates and employees.”

At the completion of the program, candidates give a 20-minute presentation, based on a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of their growth priorities—”the capstone of the whole experience,” Good says.

After graduation, the experience extends into lifelong relationships, including access to an alumni Facebook group, and an annual gathering.

“After our first class graduated Ascend, alumni began asking for more,” Peyton says. “So, we developed an annual Ascend alumni event for additional professional growth. I joke that we do everything to discourage attendance (hosting this event on a weekend in the winter in New Jersey!) and, yet, we get on average over 60 percent of our alumni out here each year.”

From beginning to end, the curriculum, the learning and networking, the experience is priceless, graduates say.

“Ascend has allowed for me to have a whole new perspective on understanding how people think and react in our business,” says Angela Prescott of CENTURY 21 Sunbelt, a graduate this year.

“I encourage others to take advantage of the Ascend program without a doubt,” says Brian Fournier, of Peace Sotheby’s International Realty, another graduate. “I feel like I just received a masters in real estate, as well as lifelong friends.”

“The key to Ascend is that it is a course on leadership, not a course on managing a brokerage,” concludes Peyton. “Graduates leave this program feeling confident in how to lead and grow a company that happens to be in the business of buying and selling homes.”

Ascend January 2020 graduates







Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s senior online editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at