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Motivation Station: local leaders work hard to keep their teams inspired and productive

By Riki Markowitz

We’ve heard it a million times. From the outside, a job in real estate seems so glamorous. You’re not tied down to a desk and there’s no boss breathing down your neck. But anyone who has carved out a career in this industry will tell you that while the glamour is achievable, it can take 10 or 15 years of seven-day work weeks, which means missed school recitals and friends’ birthday parties; working “vacations,” and more.

Here are just a few of the glamour-challenged struggles agents and lenders deal with on a daily basis. Sound familiar?

Acting like everything is great! All the time. Because who wants to work with a sad, mopey real estate agent?

Fatigue can’t even describe how you feel after working 20, 10-hour days in a row.

Missing out on family time, including baby’s first step or congratulating a spouse’s job promotion by email.

Constant competition.

Fear your latest paycheck could be your last.

Most Stressful Professions

In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report identifying 20 occupations with the highest rates of job-related isolation, stressful work environments, work-home imbalance, and income instability. Real estate agent came in 17th.

In an industry with some of the highest burnout rates, how does one stay motivated? In many industries, keeping employees’ spirits up is not always a priority for those sitting in the C-suite. But in real estate, job-hopping and turnover is a real concern. No one wants to lose his or her top performers. Any good manager knows this and sees to it that agents are getting the emotional support and motivation they need to keep working hard and find enjoyment in their work.

The industry professionals we spoke with had no shortage of advice for how to stay motivated and how to motivate workers. It boils down to camaraderie, respect and helping others.

Fun and Camaraderie

One of the biggest things REALTORS miss out on while working 80-hour weeks is socializing with friends. Nothing can replace missed family time or happy hour with friends, but socializing with coworkers can help you decompress and spark new friendships with people already in your professional circles.

Michelle Busby, team leader and CEO at Keller Williams Austin Northwest, says, “We do a quarterly retreat to love on our people.” They spend the a.m. bonding and the p.m. is for fun. Recently, for one of their small retreats, the team played mini golf for an afternoon of unselfconscious silliness and fun.

Michael Nasserfar, branch manager at Envoy Mortgage, thinks that happy hours are okay, but people can organize group drinks anytime. Recently, as a surprise for his team, Nasserfar chartered a limo to pick up employees, including plus-ones, and headed to San Antonio to see a John Mayer concert. Nasserfar organizes retreats and outings every year and in between, group dinners and holiday celebrations.

Office Culture

The concept of office culture has become so cliché, it’s hard to even say what it means. For some companies, culture could mean having an onsite kegerator and ping-pong table. For others, it’s group yoga, meditation and hikes.

John McClellan, owner of Supreme Lending McClellan Branch, couldn’t be more proud that the company has been named Best Places to Work several years in a row. But he doesn’t need someone else’s acknowledgement to know he manages a great group of people. He just looks at his employee retention numbers. The majority of staff have been with him for more than eight years. “We call ourselves The Tribe,” says McClellan. Team members have The Tribe tees and other “Tribe” swag.

Natalie Penland, chief talent officer at Legacy Mutual Mortgage, spends her time on recruiting and brand management. So it’s literally her job to motivate people. “Motivation is one of the best ways to retain the best talent,” says Penland. “We organize lots of events, like family picnics and casino night.” Also, Legacy satellite offices recognize team members in their monthly marketing newsletter and provide incentives for meeting certain metrics. For those with a competitive spirit, throughout the year Penland organizes various competitions. Her goal is to create workplace bonding so that there’s always someone to turn to when in need of advice.


One true test of a good motivator is whether you can talk a coworker off the ledge (so to speak!). It’s easy to get down in an industry that’s all about landing the next deal. So it’s only natural that some people will have a harder time getting past a rough patch – whether it’s personal or professional. When in a rut, Busby suggests finding an inspirational speaker to lift your spirits. Today, that’s easier than ever. The Apple store is brimming with aspirational podcasts. And it doesn’t even have to be someone in the RE industry. Busby enjoys listening to Tim Ferriss, a professional speaker who specializes in identifying and overcoming your fears.

“Here, everybody’s in the office all the time. So a few times a day I’ll make rounds. I’ll ask about goals and find out what’s going on,” says McClellan. One way to help someone do their work when their mind is elsewhere, is to show them how to get out of their head. “I try to remind people who we’re actually helping,” says McClellan.

Be of Service

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make us realize how lucky we are. But deadlines and goals can get in the way of acknowledging another’s suffering. So every year, Supreme Lending sales and support staff meet to create list of charities to sponsor each month. Everyone has a chance to throw out an idea. “We donate a portion of every closing,” says McClellan. “Checks can be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.”

Penland’s team has supported charities in Austin and Round Rock, and most recently has helped with rescue efforts in Houston. “Showing people you care is one of our three core mottos,” says Penland.

When it comes to motivating your team, the key is that there is not just one way to do it. Some people respond to competition while others just retreat from the pressure. Some people need a little hand holding while others want to feel like they’re in control. The best type of motivator is one who can partner with any personality type. And if there’s one that’s really stumping you, see it as an opportunity for some self-growth.  RL

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Posted on September 17th, 2017 by Administrator.


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