How is the overall ‘feel’ of your team? Do you have a pumped-up bunch of high achievers nailing their targets? Or is there something missing in your company philosophy?
If you’ve spent time developing business strategies that you’re happy with, yet your team is plateauing or customer experience is inconsistent, it might be time to look at team culture.
Culture provides the driving force behind strategy, or “how we do things around here.”
As world-renowned management consultant Peter Drucker says; “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can have the best strategy in the world, but if your business culture is not up to the task, you will not succeed.
While individuals earn commissions in real estate, it takes a team culture to create success in the business. You want a cohesive unit that applies the same standards to getting work done and customer treatment.
Why is culture important?
The culture you create sets the accepted norms and standards of behavior for your business. If you embrace high standards, you will draw in high performers – both as team members and clients.
Culture also plays a strong role in the accountability of your team members and their reaction to feedback.
A culture which values high standards will often mean that lower performers voluntarily exit the business, in search of a culture which is better suited to them.
Plan for the culture you want
A high-performing culture in your business doesn’t just happen. You need to intentionally set the tone, build relationships, engagement, trust and acceptable standards.
As a leader in the business, setting the tone starts with you. As “Walking The Talk” CEO Carolyn Taylor points out, leaders tend to be good at ‘the talk’, but not so hot when it comes to ‘the walk’. “This sets the scene for eye-rolling and loss of credibility in leadership.”
Cultural planning may involve some or all of these activities:
- Creating a team vision
- Preparing a statement of your company values.
- Preparing a mission statement
- Offering practical sessions to give people the tools they need.
- Team building sessions to bring everyone together.
- Allow employees to provide ideas and feedback.
However you go about your planning, success involves demonstrating the highest levels of integrity when it comes to abiding by those values.
Carolyn Taylor further provides these pointers:
If there are gaps between aspirational values and what actually happens, the integrity of your leadership and the company as a whole quickly comes into question. For example, “greenwashing” is a term which describes companies who espouse the environmental values of their company or products, while in reality they have practices or products not living up to that espoused standard. Media outlets tend to take great pleasure in outing these companies.
Similarly, if “serving our community” is one of your values, yet you never live up to that value by sponsoring events, volunteering for activities, collecting donations or any other form of community service, it becomes difficult for your team members or the public to take you seriously.
Communication is a key factor in creating a team culture for your business. Even though it can be challenging getting a group of busy agents together for meetings, they should be regular and compulsory.
Without the regular team interaction, you end up with siloed agents in your business who don’t work with the team or follow its values. If team members don’t meet regularly, they don’t get to know each other, making a team culture difficult to foster.
To get the best from your meetings, make time for some form of professional development and for agents to give feedback or ideas. If you do not already have team values, vision or mission statements, these could be great to develop together to gain buy-in from your team.
Your mission statement and values should be easily accessible to your team members and provide the foundation for making decisions. Statements to relate to your values may also be useful. For example, a statement like “I always call back within an hour” might go along with a value about putting the client first.
Display them on the office walls or print them on wallet-sized cards, but however you do it, make sure to put your values front and center for your team.
Consistency plays an important role in making cultural change or enforcing the standards you want from your team culture. This is where it is also important that you have regular catch-ups with your team members, both formal performance reviews and informal chats over coffee.
Some of your team will feel more comfortable giving feedback in a one-on-one setting, and disciplinary-type feedback is better outside of the team environment.
Celebrating successes is another part of team culture to develop. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and celebrating wins adds motivation and a feel-good factor to your team. You don’t need to do anything elaborate, but whatever you do should add to your team culture. For example, McKinsey celebrates the end of projects by creating a cartoon commemorating good times or in-jokes.
Socializing outside of work can also be a great way to celebrate or to build up the team, however bear in mind that this won’t suit everyone, especially if they have other commitments.
Recruiting for Cultural Fit
Recruiting for cultural fit means finding the right person for the right job, who fits in with the mission, values and overall culture of the company.
The caution about hiring decisions based on cultural fit is that it may lead to homogenous teams. Cultural fit makes sense when it’s about work ethic and values, but starts to blur when things like “who I can see myself having a beer with?” come into it.
Professor Lauren A. Rivera found that cultural fit has “gone rogue” in many top investment banks, law firms and management consultancies, with fit leaning more towards a personal measure like having attended the same school, or being similar to the person hiring. Silicon Valley firms are regularly criticized for the same thing.
The lesson for real estate firms is to hire based on experience and shared values first. Recruiting those who share your ethics can be a great boost to productivity, but diversity is also important, especially if you want to attract a range of clientele. Research from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management shows that diversity aids teams in making better decisions.
To find candidates who fit in culturally with your firm, you could try asking questions such as:
- What excites you about the mission of our firm? This determines whether they ‘get’ your mission and can see themselves contributing to it.
- How would you describe your work style? To determine what their preferences are and whether they would fit with the way things are done in your firm.
- What’s your definition of a ‘good’ day at work? This determines what makes them feel successful or productive and how they like to structure their day.
Your Successful Team Culture
If your real estate team is to build a successful team culture, then you need to start with a clear definition of what that looks like and what values and behaviors will achieve it.
Regular and consistent communication with your team will also help set the norms of behavior, while recruiting those with similar values will help boost your success.
Real estate agents don’t need to operate in silos; the best chance for a thriving, efficient business is to create a cohesive unit with a shared drive for success.
Looking for good resources on building culture? Try these books: Walking The Talk (Carolyn Taylor), Tribal Leadership (David Logan) or The Advantage (Patrick Lencioni).