Leading a surveyors’ practice – Eight insights into leadership in property

Posted on: July 20, 2016
Lessons in leadership - personal brand, presence, stages

At the recent Leeds presentation of the “Managing and marketing a profitable surveyors’ practice” training workshop we discussed leading a surveyor’s practice – leadership in property.

Some of the leadership models discussed were considered helpful. We tackled a number of common issues when leading a surveyors’ practice and these are the themes that struck a particular chord with the delegates. 

What is leadership?

“Leadership is the ability to influence others to act beyond routine compliance with procedures and daily tasks by demonstrating boundless energy and enthusiasm through good communication and inspiring confidence and giving support through straight talking. It is the ability to motivate others to act or respond in a shared direction thus effectively a key dynamic force that motivates and co-ordinates an organisation to promote change directed at achieving agreed goals” 

That’s one definition. So a leader must:

    • Create an inspiring vision of the future including:
      • Develop a mission
      • Promote shared values
      • Identify key issues
      • Set goals
      • Develop strategy (Strategic thinking)
    • Motivate and inspire people to engage with that vision
    • Manage delivery of the vision
    • Coach and build a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision

There are personal, relational, contextual, inspirational, supportive and responsible aspects of being a leader.

1. Delegate so you don’t have to fire-fight

If, as a leader, you spend your time constantly fire-fighting client emergencies and office crises then you don’t have time to think about the future. You need some heads-up time away from the day-to-day stresses and strains to think about the future. The only way you will get the time you need is to delegate some of your work to members of your team.

There’s some insight into why you might not be delegating as you should here http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/top-five-tips-for-effective-delegation/

2. Develop your team

Of course, in order to delegate, you need a good team around you. This is also important if you want to grow your future leaders. So you will need to trust them and loosen your grip on the reigns a little. You might need to delegate the outcome, rather than the detailed process.

Some firms find that they don’t have people of sufficient calibre in the associate positions to step up to be future partners. This may mean you have to adapt your recruitment approach, or invest more in training and development or take a harder look at the rewards and promotion stages.

For help on managing and developing your team see here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/managing-teams-and-virtual-teams/

For tips on motivation see here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/top-tips-for-motivating-people/. There’s an interesting experiment by a Harvard Professor called “the Pygmalion effect”. It showed that students of teachers who were told that students were high achievers did much better than a control group. So the moral of the story is that if you think your people can step up, then they probably will.

Managing teams in a property business is covered here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/people-management-in-a-property-partnership/

3. Think about what you want – your mission

Owners of small surveying partnerships often founded their own practices to avoid the culture and practices of big firms. So beyond this desire to create a smaller and more agile business, they are not clear about their longer term goals. The purpose of the business is not articulated.

This requires some careful consideration of what you, as a business owner, want in the future. Both from a personal and a business perspective. What is your business purpose? What are your personal goals?

Do you want to create a large business with many other partners? Do you want to stay small, specialist and highly profitable? Is it a lifestyle business? Do you want to plan an exit route in five or 10 years’ time? Do you want to be able to reduce the amount of time you spend working?

The picture is more complex if there is more than one founder as different partners are likely to have different needs and perspectives about the future.

So you will need to sit down – with your co-founders and partners – and work out what you want financially – both for personal and business needs and the key criteria for how you want the business to achieve this. Your shared values will be the glue that holds you together if there is some difference of opinion here. This understanding of the owners’ intent – or mission – is the start of the strategic business planning process.

There’s an approach to creating a compelling mission from Jim Collins’ “Good to great” here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/identities-colours-and-hedgehogs/ We explored several other methods at the course.

4. Promote a clear vision

Whilst you need a business plan, these are often focused on improving the efficiency of the practice as it runs today. Often, the business plan focuses on the short term – the next year or two – and operational efficiency. Pretty much the “business as usual” approach.

But you need a strong vision of where the firm is going in the longer term if you want to attract and motivate the right people to your firm.

Once you have established your mission, that long term vision requires careful research into the changes in the commercial environment and the changing needs of markets and clients. It may require “out of the box”, creative and bold thinking to develop a proposition to meet client needs that don’t currently exist. It may require a wholesale revision to your operating model or use of technology to disrupt the market.

Once you have a clear vision you need to communicate it to your staff and your clients. Help them see their role in making the vision a reality. Make it clear and compelling. There’s some guidance here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/six-insights-into-managing-a-surveyors-practice-2016/

5. Understand your growth stage

Management theory offers useful insight into the different challenges faced by practice owners as they grow their business. Griener had a model which explains how businesses grow and the crises they face at each stage:

  1. Growth through creativity (ends with a crisis of leadership)
  2. Growth though direction (ends with a crisis of autonomy)
  3. Growth through delegation (ends with a crisis of control)
  4. Growth through co-ordination (ends with a crisis of red tape)
  5. Growth through collaboration

It’s interesting to see that most of the crises are concerned with leadership style. And I see this with many property partnerships – the original founders have to learn to relinquish some control in order to build a solid team of successors. Sometimes, once professional managers have been employed, overzealous bureaucracy and administration systems leads to people feeling suffocated within a culture that the partnership was established to avoid.

6. Adapt your leadership style

As a new business and in a crisis, an autocratic style of leadership is needed. But when things are running smoothly, you need to engage and involve your staff. So you need a more consultative or collaborative style of leadership.

Some suggest that leadership is a fine balancing act between achieving the task (the business objective) and managing the relationships (leading your people). Others – such as Adair – offer a model that sees the balancing act between the task, the team and the individual.

There’s interesting insight from the Centre of Creative Leadership that indicates success in early management positions is often associated with independence, the ability to control short term results, creativity, ambition and high standards, speciality strength and being contentious. Yet success in more senior management positions is often associated with being a team player, having a longer term strategic vision, managing the creativity of others, self-esteem, general management skills and creating unity and cohesion.

It may be that you need to analyse your leadership style and learn how to adapt your approach. This is easier for some personality types than others. In my experience, a winning combination is to have two leaders in a property partnership – a strong-willed, charismatic and outgoing person working alongside a more detached, rational, analytical person.

Some books on leadership are described here http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/reflections-on-managing-change-and-leadership/ and I particularly like this book by Dr Peter Fuda http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/book-review-leadership-transformed-ordinary-managers-become-extraordinary-leaders-dr-peter-fuda/

7. Develop empathy and emotional intelligence

Many leadership studies show that empathy – one of the core aspects of emotional intelligence – is a critical skill. Research reports show that when emotional intelligence (EQ) is tested alongside 33 other important skills it subsumes the majority of them including time management, decision making and communication.

But EQ is also important for your team. EQ also accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs and is the single biggest predictor in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. 90% of the high performers are also high in EQ.

I recommend this book for online assessment and tools to develop EQ http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/book-review-emotional-intelligence-2-0-travis-bradberry-jean-greaves/

8. Take over from the founders

Stepping into the shoes of the founders of the practice is always going to be challenging. Especially if those founders remain on the scene as consultants.

Political and personal sensitivity is required so that you can continue to benefit from their wisdom and experience, whilst implementing approaches that may seem alien to them. I’ve written about some of the generational issues here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/the-arrival-of-generation-g-for-generosity/ and http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/change-management-in-a-surveyors-practice-bridging-the-gap-between-the-old-and-the-new/

An understanding of power and influence can also be helpful here. This is touched on here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/leadership-masterclass-luan-de-burgh/

Future dates and locations for the “Managing and marketing a profitable surveyors’ practice” course can be found here https://www.mblseminars.com/Outline?progid=5865&AddSeminarToBasket=1027490

My book “Growing your property partnership – Plans, People and Promotion” is described further here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/publications/growing-your-property-partnership/

 

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