This article first appeared in Real Estate magazine’s special-edition Women in Real Estate issue. View the entire issue here.
“Women in leadership…” You’ve heard that phrase before; like there is a “special class” of leadership for women. The truth is, there is a huge difference, and when you interview three powerhouse women who rule the C-Suite, you can see exactly why they are such amazing leaders.
We interviewed three top female leaders in real estate and, not surprisingly, noted a theme in their responses. In the context of three questions, each shared a similar focus, but with their own unique vision to address challenges, solutions and strategies, and the ever-elusive life balance between the high demands of a CEO and personal life.
Their leadership reach is impressive, beginning with Sue Yannaccone, the first female president and CEO to lead the Realogy Franchise Group, who manages to combine top leadership with her main role: her family. She knows that setting boundaries is key to high performance, combined with transparency and vulnerability. She encourages her team to set boundaries, too, but to always get the job done.
Tami is legendary for her extraordinary ability to start with nothing and go big. As the CEO of EXIT Realty with 36,000 agents to lead, Bonnell agrees that women in leadership use their collaborative nature to empower their members with a strong culture that begins with transparent leadership steeped in strong personal connections.
Pamela Banks, the incoming 2021 president of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® (WCR), shares her insights on how women can excel with today’s need for streamlining communication and connection.
When it comes to the challenges a woman deals with in the C-Suite, Yannaccone emphasizes the need to focus on a mindset of productivity, especially in the midst of disruption due to the pandemic. She states that working from home helped her agents feel safe, and her job was to keep them focused on achieving their goals despite the challenge. “We still need success and accomplishment no matter what,” she says. Instead of allowing the emotional side of things to lead, she was empathetic and pragmatic as she helped the team focus on results.
Bonnell jumped into leadership at a very young age and quickly learned that she had to be smarter than anyone at the table. To get to the C-Suite as women, she notes, you have to over-deliver by doing your homework to show people what you know without overwhelming them. That approach created a confident and commanding presence, which communicated trust.
Banks has a different challenge altogether. Her main goal is to restructure staff-to-member communication to create a more direct, personal connection with members.
Solutions and Strategies
Yannaccone understands that agility is a key component of leadership today. The “pivot” to a more virtual environment needed to be swift but with expectations in place. She gave her group the room to figure out how to manage this new normal, but kept them accountable by setting goals and expectations that included learning to leverage tools and embrace virtual options to serve their clients.
Bonnell also takes a hands-on approach to leadership, where the company culture is based on trust. “You can’t grow in a place that does not have trust, and we live that at EXIT.”
That trust was delivered in multiple ways in the wake of the pandemic, including short video tips, connecting with personal phone calls and sharing the message that “we are going to out-think and out-sell” our way out of this. When you “lead with love,” you exude control. As Bonnell states, you don’t know what is really going on in people’s lives, so listening and being available to help is key to leadership that connects.
Banks’ strategy is all about building bridges. She’s making WCR headquarters more inclusive and approachable by adding more positions that allow for real contact, and through the organization’s electronic newsletter, she shines a light on women doing extraordinary work in their communities, offering members role models they can look up to in order to pursue their own goals.
All three superstars shared that there is no consistent “life balance,” no matter how well-organized and efficient one may be. They agreed that life itself is inconsistent, so balance is an ever-changing variable.
According to Yannaccone, women are held to a fabricated vision of life balance, and this narrative puts too much pressure on them. Everyone falls down some days, and that’s okay.
Each leader shared the rituals that help them be their best selves. “When you feel your best, you can give your best,” says Yannaccone. She says women need permission to savor smaller moments when work and life require a momentary imbalance. Taking care of yourself is key, and that requires not feeling “selfish.”
With a young daughter at home, Yannaccone is very intentional about her family time, but mindful that she is also responsible to her company, husband and herself. Like the other leaders, she is hardwired to get the job done, but knows when to draw the line.
Life balance is equally challenging for both Yannaccone and Bonnell, with travel and high visibility, but both women share that having quiet time at the beginning of their day is critical.
Bonnell chooses to wake up early to enjoy her morning ritual: quiet, coffee, meditation, exercise and visualizing her day is paramount. Starting with silence, even if it is only 15 minutes, beats the rise-and-roll routine that starts off a day overwhelmed. She lives by her core value: “I’ll make you a fortune, but my family comes first.”
Banks agrees that consistency in life balance is hard to come by. Some days are better than others, but she says it all balances out in the end. “My happy place is spending time with my orchids and lavishing them with love,” she says. “Connecting with nature helps me center on solutions.”
These exceptional leaders confidently share their strengths and their “realness” without apology, and celebrate the fact that authentic connection and collaboration is key to building a winning team.
Terri Murphy is a master coach with Workman Success Systems. She is the author of five books, a TED Talk speaker, consultant and founder of the Women’s Wisdom Facebook network. For more information, visit TerriMurphy.com or email Terri@TerriMurphy.com.