1 Job, 3 Truths, and 4 Books for New Leaders

First-hand tips and tools for transitioning into a leadership role.
Getting settled in the new corner office

A few months ago, I took a new position at my brokerage. After working on the training side for a decade, I was named vice president of operations at Coldwell Banker Hearthside, REALTORS®, outside Philadelphia. This change was very welcomed and exciting, but honestly, I had no idea what to expect.

Feeling empowered but clueless at the same time is a fun mixture of heady and humbling. I faced new challenges, such as agent recruitment and retention, company expansion, production goals, and overseeing staff, marketing, and education and technology systems, so I turned to Google and a lot of books to help guide me into this new chapter of my career. Now that I have a few months on the job under my belt, I’d like to share three simple truths that may help others who are stepping into new leadership roles.

1. There’s a lot to learn about a lot of things. I didn’t want to screw this up, so I dived in, asking tons of questions, reading as much as I could, and learning as much as possible as quickly as possible. The more I researched, the more I realized the enormity of this fact. I’ve always enjoyed learning, but now, I make it a priority. It is truly important to learn something new every day.

2. Moving on is not all-encompassing. Some agents still expect me to do things I’ve always done for them — and I want to keep my connection with them. But I can’t do my old job. When taking on a new position at your real estate company, try to figure out if it makes sense to keep certain aspects of your previous duties. For me, it felt right to hold on to some of the responsibilities that made me who I am. But you have to draw your own line in the sand.

3. At the end of the day, it still comes down to being likeable. I tell our new agents, “People have to like you before they will trust you and eventually do business with you.” The more I learn, the more it seems that the idea of “being likeable” applies to every business at every level. The more our agents like us and trust us as leaders, the more willing they are to work with us. Likeability done right should lead to trust and faith in your organization.

In addition to the truths I’ve realized, there are four books that have helped ease the intimidation and stress of transitioning into my leadership role:

1. The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels (Harvard Business School Press, 2003) by Michael D. Watkins. Confession: I bought this book because it seemed like the kind of book you should read when you take on a new leadership role. Watkins lays out a plan for your first 90 days on a new job. Not everything applied to me, but I found parallels and applied what I could. The most relevant parts of this read for me: securing early wins, building teams, creating alliances, and accelerating everyone.

2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Portfolio, 2011) by Simon Sinek. This is a great book to dive into when you are starting a new position. Sinek argues that we can all explain what we do, but many of us cannot articulate why. Finding your “why” will open your mind to possibilities that you did not consider before. You can also check out his TED Talk about how great leaders make us feel safe — and when people feel safe, they trust and cooperate better within organizations.

3. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (Little, Brown and Co., 2015) by Amy Cuddy. This book helped me so much that I bought it for our entire marketing team. Cuddy is famous for her TED Talk on how body language shapes who we are and, of course, for her “Supergirl” power posing. The book was a fascinating mix of research on presence and power, exposing the science behind our thoughts and body language in the big moments. Her chapter on personal power — the kind of power you feel when you are totally in control and ready to take on the world — was instructive and eye-opening. And, yes, now I “Supergirl” in front of the mirror, too. It feels silly at first — okay, maybe the whole time — but trust me, something shifts in your mindset. Read this book. Seriously.

4. Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (HarperBusiness, 2015) by Jeffrey Pfeffer. Sometimes I’m hopelessly optimistic. It’s annoying. I grabbed this book because I wanted to read something that would go against everything else I’ve read and show me the dark underbelly of leadership roles. Pfeffer gets real in Leadership BS, calling BS on many of the classic leadership lessons from the last few decades. I found this book to be funny, insightful, and grounding.

My leap into leadership has been very educational, sometimes messy, often humbling, but overall fun and exciting. Every day is different, and I am trying to absorb as much as I can from my company and brand leaders, our agents, and the staff. I have copious to-do lists and a 10-section notebook that I keep with notes and ideas on everything from culture to technology. Hopefully, what I’ve learned can help you learn.


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