An AE’s Journey With Leadership Coaching

In the association world, you have to stay ahead of the curve—and a leadership coach might just give you the drive to get there.
Coach in locker room, standing in front of chalkboard

© Mike Powell / DigitalVision / Getty Images

As the CEO of a transformed and thriving REALTOR® association, my journey in the real estate industry these last 10 years has been nothing short of exhilarating. I have witnessed the market’s ebbs and flows, navigated through dynamic policy changes and led a dedicated team through both challenges and triumphs. Yet, in the ever-evolving landscape of REALTOR® association management, I recognized that my “zest” for the job was starting to dwindle. Getting to the end of the workday sometimes felt like an eternity. During some self-reflection, I started considering that maybe I needed more personal and professional growth, but not through the usual training programs. This realization led me to a decision that has profoundly affected not only my leadership skills and my personal life, but also the entire trajectory of our association: the decision to hire a leadership coach.

The Catalyst for Change

In an industry where adaptability and foresight are paramount, staying ahead of the curve is not just a choice; it’s a necessity. The decision to bring in a leadership coach was born out of a desire to not merely meet industry standards but exceed them, to lead with a vision, and to be able to end each day feeling productive and not like I had been chased by a proverbial bear. (I use that analogy because medical professionals have compared stress that we deal with these days as the equivalent of a caveman being chased by a bear.)

The long days of to-do lists, member issues and staff management— while exceeding expectations and satisfying members—are stressful. Not to mention after-work curriculars for two kids, dealing with a divorce, grocery shopping, laundry, meal prepping and all the other “fun” stuff that comes along with running a household. Did I also mention the fact that I am finishing my college degree?

These challenges required something beyond traditional management skills. The need for more focus in strategic vision, effective communication, timeblocking and team empowerment became increasingly apparent. I had big-picture ideas, and I had the perfect leadership team behind me, but I lacked time to implement and follow through. I was trying to take on too much and not looking to the strengths of those around me to share the load. I found myself getting to the end of the day with the large tasks I needed to get done overshadowed by constant interruptions and whirlwinds, causing my to-do list to become dauntingly large. I needed to control my schedule and plan my days with purpose.

Leadership coaching was no longer a want for me—it was a need. So, I sat down with my president and vice president. I expressed my desire for a coach, what I was looking to gain, and what I thought the return on investment would be to the association. Thankfully, my leadership team strongly believes in coaching and professional development, so they approved the idea without hesitation. It helped that the cost for coaching fit in with the current budget line item for staff development and education.

Embracing Growth Through Coaching

A leadership coach is a strategic partner in your leadership journey who can help identify blind spots, capitalize on strengths and navigate through leadership challenges. My job was to be honest with myself and my coach and to approach her coaching style with an open mind and willingness to listen and change. It required a shift in perspective, a recognition that seeking external guidance is not a sign of weakness but a commitment to continuous improvement.

The process began with a comprehensive assessment of my top five strengths using the CliftonStrengths assessment. My coach explained that if you aren’t working within your top five strengths, it can be exhausting trying to accomplish things. We also discussed my pain points, my goals and a day in the life of Meighan. This introspective analysis laid the foundation for a tailored coaching plan.

Strengthening Communication and Collaboration

Through coaching, I gained valuable insights into enhancing communication strategies within our association and among my staff. I also had my staff members take the CliftonStrengths assessment to have a better understanding of what drives them. As a result, I started asking better questions, which gave me clarity and the ability to offer better direction. We also started doing daily morning huddles, setting daily objectives, creating lead and lag measures, and doing monthly check-ins.

With my staff on the same page with me, collectively and collaboratively, we all worked more effectively on the association’s vision and strategic plan.

I took it a step further to include my committee chairs and leaders so they were aware of the changes I was making. I wanted their help and buy-in. I have always been an authentic leader; transparency is part of what makes me who I am, even if it means being vulnerable at times. The emphasis on resilience and change had a trickledown effect, fostering a collective mindset that views challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation. It also opened conversations for constructive feedback.

I must say that not everyone was open to the changes I was making. I did lose a staff member who had worked with the association for many years. This change in staff cleared an obstacle that I didn’t realize was impeding progress and opened some new doors for positive change.

Quantifying Success

My coach worked with me to put my areas of needed focus in three buckets: leadership and vision, CEO operations, and member outreach. My priority tasks include one-onone visits with brokers, community partnerships and the successful rollout of new projects, to name a few. To prevent distractions, I timeblock my calendar, making sure that I concentrate on the elements in each bucket, delegating to my staff when appropriate or setting it to the side as a “parking lot” issue.

The decision to invest in leadership coaching proved to be a wise one, with a substantial return on investment evident in both quantitative and qualitative measures. My results have been tangible and transformative. We are meeting and exceeding our goals, communicating effectively and working collaboratively with our eyes on the same prize. My staff members are also functioning at a higher level of efficiency and professionalism. I am very excited about being able to go to my CEO review in October 2024 and report on all the accomplishments we will achieve this year.

Leadership is not a destination but a continuous journey. The strategic move to invest in leadership coaching has been a game-changer for our REALTOR® association. It has propelled us into a future of possibilities, where adaptability, collaboration and resilience are not just buzzwords but integral elements of our organizational DNA.

Meighan Harris, RCE, IOM, is CEO at Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS® in Florida.

Meighan Harris, RCE, IOM, is CEO at Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS® in Florida.



Coaching Women in Leadership

By: Jennifer Henry, a professional coach with Lifestyle Recovery Solutions in Riverside, Calif.

Almost every high-achieving woman I work with faces a common challenge—fatigue. This pervasive exhaustion acts as a hindrance to the potential of powerful women in the workforce, limiting not only their ability to achieve the life they aspire to but also dampening their overall sense of joy. Diminished joy results in a daily presentation that falls short of excellence, and often the blame is placed on “the job.”

From a biological standpoint, this fatigue is understandable. Considering the rapid societal and technological changes in the last century, it’s not surprising our wiring hasn’t fully adapted to accommodate the roles of nurturer, homemaker and mother while simultaneously pursuing careers. It’s not that we can’t fulfill these roles, but we must acknowledge that we have essentially doubled the demands placed upon ourselves. The expectations to manage a household, maintain fitness, be an outstanding friend, mother, wife and lover persist despite working full time and advocating for equality in the workplace. We’ve inadvertently increased our expectations without fully realizing the repercussions.

The toll on us is steep, manifesting as what I refer to as “The 3Ds”: disease, divorce and depression. These challenges have surged in our society over the last few decades, showing no signs of improvement.

However, there is a better way. Every woman, regardless of her role, needs to comprehend and make peace with the expectations and demands of her life. Simultaneously, we must recognize that, at work, we are more than just “workers.”

Five energy types are at play within us:

  1. Physical
  2. Spiritual
  3. Mental
  4. Emotional
  5. Financial

While physical fatigue is commonly blamed, all these aspects contribute to feelings of tiredness, stress or exhaustion—terms women often interchange to describe the overall lack of “neural energy” needed for our daily lives.

I term this vital neural energy “zest,” the spark within us that fuels excitement about life. It propels motivation, leadership, productivity, love, grace and all the qualities expected of us daily. When any one of these energy sources is depleted, it triggers a cascading effect in the body, resulting in fatigue.

For instance, a high-achieving woman with good physical health may still feel drained if she’s in a toxic relationship. Recognizing these hidden energy drains is why I approach coaching holistically. I understand that my clients bring unique talents, goals and dreams, but if they aren’t “whole,” realizing their full potential becomes a struggle. Therefore, our coaching begins with an assessment to identify hidden energy drains, followed by creating awareness, engaging in dialogue and implementing practical solutions.

By embracing coaching with this approach and demonstrating a profound respect for a woman’s expectations, we empower ourselves to make bold decisions regarding the harmony between work and home life. We advocate unwaveringly for the best versions of ourselves, and we foster improved work performance without imposing more demands to “just work harder.”


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