Thoughts on Leadership: This Is What People with a Strong Mindset DON’T Do

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, attending the virtual Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention. It was an incredible conference, filled with interactive virtual experiences, General Sessions, Sunshine Kids fundraising and awards celebrations, where we commemorated the efforts of the top-producing brokerages, offices, teams and agents in our network. Kudos to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEO Chris Stuart for putting on an amazing show and delivering an information-packed keynote speech. (If you haven’t picked up a copy of Chris’s new book, Real Estate Influence, written in collaboration with HSF Affiliates SVP of Research & Development Allan Dalton, click here to order.)

To be on top requires not only the hard, physical grind of doing the work but also the mental fortitude to withstand any challenge that comes your way. Every award winner we honored during Sales Convention embodies this mindset—it’s why we themed the event UNSTOPPABLE—and uses their mental strength to achieve every one of their Wildly Important Goals.

It’s interesting to think about mental strength because the topic was front and center for me today. I encountered a problem that I allowed to annoy me and as I left my house to go visit my friend Jeff Sposito, I was still vexed by the situation. But then I thought about it; Jeff is battling cancer and I was going to visit him for his birthday. What would Jeff think if the problem I had was the only problem in his life right now? He’d laugh it off, most likely. In the context of everything he’s going through, it wouldn’t even be a problem at all.   

Mindset is everything. Zig Ziglar once said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” And while we talk a lot about all those things you should do to maintain a positive mindset, let’s run through a list of five things you shouldn’t do if you want to stay mentally fit and strong:

  1. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. Everyone has a bad moment. Everyone has a time in their life where they take a proverbial fall and aren’t sure how to get back up. But if you pity yourself and mire in your own obstacles, you’ll get no closer to overcoming them. Instead, choose gratitude. Be grateful for the weaker times because those are the ones that will strengthen your mindset and resolve. When you practice gratitude your entire demeanor changes. You start to see the bright in dark situations. You are motivated to move—both in mind and body. You get your tasks done faster; you emphasize the good. Dwelling on negativity or setbacks will only hold you back. It’s not a characteristic of what mentally strong people do.
  2. Don’t let someone else control your personal power. Your thoughts become your actions, so monitor what you’re thinking and how you frame your ideas. If you tell yourself, for instance, “this person is causing me to feel angry,” you’re framing the situation in a way that takes power away from you and gives it to someone else. Nobody can affect your feelings. You are in complete control of how you react to a situation. You are in charge of how you feel about the circumstances unfolding all around you. How can someone upset you if you don’t feel upset? If you do feel upset, you’ve let that person have all the power. They’re now in control of your mind. Outside of a few sci-fi novels, mind control isn’t something we focus on in everyday life. We control our minds. Our mindset is ours entirely. So, if you can choose your mindset, choose positivity. Think about all the stories of successful leaders who took bad situations and turned them around, never allowing anyone else to take control of the power in their lives. When Steve Jobs was fired from his own company, Apple, he went on to launch Pixar Animation Studios and finally, returned to Apple and introduced the world to the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. In 1919, Walt Disney was fired from his job at the Kansas City Star when his editor allegedly told him his creations “lacked imagination” and that Disney “had no good ideas.” Oprah Winfrey was let go from her job as a news reporter at WJZ-TV, a Baltimore-area station when a producer purportedly told her she was “unfit for television news.” All these leaders were seemingly robbed of their power and each time used it as an opportunity to show the world just how powerful they could be.
  3. Don’t reject something just because it represents change. As I’ve often said, smugness comes before arrogance and arrogance is the precursor to disaster. Once you think you know it all, your slide to mediocrity has already begun. There’s a certain pitfall of a mentally weak leader and it’s that they are change-averse. When a new process or system comes into their organization, they shun it simply because it’s not how things are done. But doing things the way they’ve always done doesn’t allow for growth, and a mentally strong leader sees change, prepares for change, embraces change and moves forward toward increased progress.
  4. Don’t focus on things beyond your control. You can’t control the rain; you can simply buy an umbrella and avoid the puddles. If you spend time worrying about what is beyond your control, you’ll leave no room in your day for transforming what you can control. Part of focusing on what you can control also means putting things into perspective. Yes, problems arise and when they do, they’ll sometimes seem monumental, changing your mood and causing you to think negatively. But just like my friend who is battling cancer, problems that seem big to you when put in perspective, are probably very small. (Thank you, Jeff, for the paradigm shift you’ve given me today.)
  5. Don’t do everything yourself. There’s an old saying that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, but mentally strong people understand that they simply can’t do it all. Delegation and accountability have to come into play to create mentally sound systems that build positivity and support for all.

So, what’s the message? The more you can push past failures, the more mentally resilient you will become. The more setbacks you encounter, the more you’ll cherish your successes. The more you can identify the things you shouldn’t do, the more will focus on what you should do, which will help you build the strongest possible mindset to lead your team with commitment, courage and conviction—just like the award winners we recognized during the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention this week.

Thoughts on Leadership: Luck of the Irish

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting the week with my typical Monday W.I.G. calls. On Tuesday, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Weekly Executive Team Meeting and HSoA monthly CEO leadership virtual meeting. On Wednesday, I delivered the opening remarks on the HomeServices of America Relocation Directors call and tomorrow, I’ll be in pre-conference meetings and attend the Berkshire Elite Circle Virtual Experience with celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2021 Sales Convention.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Acknowledge Your Team

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting my week with my typical Monday W.I.G. calls. On Tuesday, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Executive Team Meeting and filmed in our Los Altos, California studio for various company awards events and for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention. On Thursday, I attended the launch event (via Zoom) for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox Cities Realty and I was thrilled to help welcome them to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network.

All in all, it was a week of celebration and acknowledgement, and it’s the latter topic I want to talk about for our blog post this week. (And yes, our blog post. Thoughts on Leadership is as much yours as it is mine.)

For leaders, it’s important to acknowledge team accomplishments. Proper acknowledgement is the method of support that will show your team members their work is seen and heard as a significant contribution toward the achievement of collective company goals. Gallup polls show employee recognition is the key factor influencing not only employee engagement but also overall organizational performance.

Translation: To create—and retain—extraordinary performers, you have to acknowledge just how extraordinary they are!

Consider Zappos, for example, which was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for a deal worth about $1.2 billion. Zappos has a peer-to-peer acknowledgement program where employees earn rewards via recommendations from other members of the team. The rewards differ by location because each office has its own unique perks. At the Las Vegas office, covered parking is an issue, and an employee can nominate a colleague for a special, covered parking spot as a “reward.” The takeaway? Acknowledgement comes in all forms, but it shouldn’t just be a plaque or a ribbon. Think about ways you can acknowledge employees that will be meaningful to them.

GE, famously once run by one of my favorite business mentors, Jack Welch, is also well-known for an amazing recognition program. (Side note: Welch joined GE in 1960 where he actually worked as a junior chemical engineer at my place of birth, Pittsfield, Massachusetts in the heart of the Berkshires, so I feel a particular kinship to him and his leadership philosophies.) When the company restructured between 2010 and 2014, employee acknowledgement took center stage as a way to bridge the gap between organizational change and sustainable growth. During weekly meetings between employees and managers, a wall-mounted dashboard displayed an employee’s performance and achievements. As I like to say, “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.” The takeaway? A simple, visual, personal example of success and approval can go a long way. Like the videos I filmed for award presentations, I make it a point to speak each of the award winners’ names and discuss directly what they did to achieve an award.

In 2020 at Apple, CEO Tim Cook gave every employee the entire week of Thanksgiving off. (The memo also instructed managers in other countries to find an appropriate holiday and give employees a week off then.) In addition, he added three paid vacation days to every employee’s calendar and told retail teams that had to work over Thanksgiving—one of the busiest shopping times of the year—they’d get a week off at an alternate date. The takeaway? Acknowledgment should surprise and delight all team members in some way. Every member of your team should feel proud, honored and above all, recognized. Because if they’re on your team, it means they’re dedicated to personal and professional growth, continual learning, focus, commitment, dedication and all the important facets you’ve instilled in them as any great leader should.

So, what’s the message? In real estate, late winter and early spring tends to be “awards season.” And this awards season, make your recognition personal. Make it visible. Make it universal. Make it creative and make sure it motivates your employees to keep doing what they’re doing, so they feel supported to achieve even more.

Thoughts on Leadership: Celebrating Women’s History Month

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, presenting about time management on Tuesday to our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices global franchisees. (We had about 60 attendees join the virtual session from Mexico, Italy, Germany, Dubai, Spain, Portugal and the U.K.) On Wednesday, I participated in the 2020 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices First Realty Awards Celebration and today, I presented and participated in the Prosperity Home Mortgage Sales Summit.

Monday marked the beginning of Women’s History Month, a celebration of extraordinary women who lead—and have led—the charge to positively transform our world. At HomeServices of America, we’re fortunate to have Teresa Palacios Smith, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, leading our initiatives to showcase and support women leaders across the globe. Outside of HomeServices of America, Teresa is very involved with women’s leadership programs and councils, and within our organization, has spearheaded Women Who Lead, which highlights the women leaders throughout HomeServices of America and beyond. (If you aren’t already connected to the Facebook page, follow it here and tune into Teresa’s Women Who Lead panel discussions every other Wednesday on Facebook and YouTube.)

Teresa told me Women Who Lead began from a desire to highlight all the phenomenal women leaders in different roles throughout the real estate industry, and to provide a platform for them to share their insights and stories.

And speaking of platforms to spotlight women leaders, here are 10 quotes to enlighten and inspire:

  1. “Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. ‘Here, open it, it’s perfect. You’ll love it.’ Opportunities—the good ones—are messy, confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky. They challenge you.” – Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube, who was hired as Google employee #16 and worked on important programs like AdSense, Google Analytics, Google Books and Google Images. (Fun fact: In 1998, she rented her carport in Menlo Park, California to two Stanford graduates named Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who used it as an office for a little startup they called Google.)
  2. “I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.” – Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman of IMB, and an advocate for education and job opportunities for disadvantaged populations around the world. In 2018, Rometty was honored with the Catalyst Award for advancing women and diversity in business.
  3. “A leader has two important characteristics: first that she is going somewhere; second she is able to persuade others to go with her.” – Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. who was named by Baylor University as the “Greatest Female Entrepreneur in American History.”
  4. “What I always say is, ‘Do every job you’re in like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate that ownership in it.”– Mary Barra, CEO and chairman of General Motors Company, the first woman to lead one of the big three automakers. Notably, in a 2020 report on gender equality practices by Equileap, GM was the only company surveyed with no gender pay gap.
  5. “No matter how senior you get in an organization, no matter how well you’re perceived to be doing, your job is never done. Every day, you get up and the world is changing; your customers are expecting more from you. Your competitors are putting pressure on you by doing more and trying to beat you here and beat you there.” -Abigail Johnson, CEO of Fidelity Investments since 2014, chairman since 2016 and named “Most Powerful in Finance” by American Banker in 2020.
  6. “I really think a champion is defined not by their wins, but by how they can recover when they fall.” – Serena Williams, professional tennis player and former No. 1 player in women’s tennis. At 23 Grand Slams, Williams has won the most titles by any player in the Open Era and the second-most titles of all time.
  7.  “People regret far more what they don’t do rather than what they do.” – Emma Walmsley, CEO of GlaxoSmithCline and the first woman to run a major pharmaceutical company.
  8. “Always work hard, never give up, and fight until the end because it’s never really over until the whistle blows.” – Alex Morgan, American professional soccer player and winner of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup as a key player on Team USA.
  9. “It’s the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness.” – Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and the first woman to serve on the company’s board.
  10. “The media and the interviews are great, but that does not help me make a call on the field. To me, I’ve got to work the game and I’ve got to be great at it.” – Sarah Thomas, official for the National Football League and the first woman to officiate a major college football game as well as the first woman to officiate the Super Bowl. (In 2015, she was the first female hired as a full-time NFL official.)

So, what’s the message? While Women’s History Month is an amazing way to spotlight our women leaders, it’s also not just a month-long endeavor. Supporting and highlighting women leaders is something we should always do, no matter what month it is. Because like my mom says, women leaders aren’t just a part of history, they’re the ones making history every day.

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