Thoughts on Leadership: Leading through Change

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls, though Monday wasn’t typical at all. (More on that soon.) On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Executive Team Meeting and on Wednesday, I presented time management to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty followed by a HomeServices of America-hosted commercial real estate market update with National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. I finished the day with a global/domestic alignment session and today, I’m writing this post for all of you.

Let’s travel back in time to Monday, which I mentioned was far from usual. In the morning, we announced that Christy Budnick, former CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty, was promoted to CEO of HSF Affiliates and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. I’ve worked with Christy over the years and have seen her lead with confidence, compassion and care. She brings experience and charisma to this role, and I look forward to supporting her growth.

The next day, we had another leadership announcement: Leslie Rouda-Smith, REALTOR® with Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate, was installed as NAR’s 2022 president-elect and Tracy Kasper, REALTOR with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Silverhawk Realty, was installed as NAR vice president-elect.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” As leaders, change is inevitable, and while we will never avoid change, we can become expertly adept at navigating its complexities. We can approach change with a positive mindset and a plan. In case you’re also experiencing a phase of change in your team, here are five ways to lead through it:

Assess the impact of change at regular intervals after the change occurs. In a Harvard Business Review article on change management, authors Harold L. Sirkin, Perry Keenan and Alan Jackson reference at least a bimonthly review of any transformational change projects or initiatives within a company. Change isn’t a one-and-done event; it takes time to know the ramifications of a change, and regular check-ins with your team will go a long way in allowing you to understand the positive impact of this change on your team. For our team, we conduct regular WIG calls, and each call is an opportunity to review the productivity and progress of goals, as well as check in on the overall mindset of the team.

Become a pillar of unwavering support to the people you lead. Change, even at its best, is uncomfortable. It’s a readjustment in the processes you once thought you knew. Support your team members through change, letting them know that they have someone they can turn to with any questions or concerns.

Tell your team they’re seen and empowered. Consider one of my all-time favorite leaders, Bill Walsh, who in 1979 was named head coach and general manager of the not-so-stellar San Francisco 49ers. The team had issues with mismanagement and personnel decisions, and there just wasn’t any cohesive will to succeed. Immediately, he developed strategic and personnel plans and focused on individual staff and players, clearly defining their roles and setting objectives for what he believed they were capable of achieving. In other words, he empowered them immediately, so they understood that leadership meant not only being held to the highest standard of accountability and performance, but also the autonomous ability to grow and develop as team players on a winning team.

Take action. Pablo Picasso once said, “Action is the foundational key to success.” In new leadership, messaging is key, but action is what will show your team where you’re heading and where you’d like them to go. Explain your strategy, your system of execution, your expectations and be clear about every action you take. A closely related concept to action is transparency; maintain both and changing leadership becomes exponentially easier.

Get to know your team. A quick immersion is essential for new leaders. As authors Scott Keller and Mary Meany said when writing for McKinsey: “Learn about industry dynamics, competitive trends and best practices.” Then, get to know your team. In my leadership roles, I have 18 questions I ask to get to know team members better, but for you, getting to know a team might mean virtual conferences, one-on-one meetings or opportunities to connect with a phone call or even a text.

Tell your story. Best-selling author Carmine Gallo said stories are the currency by which ideas are exchanged. To inspire, you’ll need to know who you are and what positive energy you’ll bring to your new role. When your team understands your background and your story, they’ll have deeper insight into the decisions you make and the type of leader you are – and want to motivate them to be.

So, what’s the message? Change isn’t easy. It’s also not avoidable. But change is the very thing leaders have been preparing for as they hone their skills and mindset every day. Strong leaders accept change and control it, rather than letting the change control them. Leaders like Christy Budnick, Leslie Rouda-Smith and Tracy Kasper understand the challenges of change but never let those challenges deter them from accomplishing Wildly Important Goals for the organization and the teams they lead.

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