Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Kona

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me starting off en route to Minnesota for the in-person HomeServices of America CEO/Leadership meeting taking place at the Westin Edina Galleria. From there, I flew home, participated in meetings and sat down to write this post to you … without my beloved Kona by my side.

Kona passed away in my arms earlier this week and as a dedication to a dog that was so much more than a pet, I am writing this week’s Thoughts on Leadership for her. To me, dogs are the greatest pals we can ask for. One of the greatest feelings in the world was coming home from a trip, pulling up to the front door in my Uber and seeing my dog, Kona, through the window, wagging her tail like crazy as I walked up to the house and stepped inside.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Kona

It makes you feel so good, so loved by this animal in front of you that your heart can practically burst from the joy of it all. It’s just what dogs do.

The American Kennel Club outlines several science-based benefits of dogs:

  • Dogs reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • Research shows the bond between humans and dogs reduces stress and lowers blood pressure.
  • 10 minutes of petting your dog can reduce cortisol, a major stress hormone.
  • Dogs help us psychologically cope with crises – PTSD in military veterans has been shown to improve when they get a service dog.
  • Dogs encourage us to move – dog owners are 4x more likely to meet daily physical guidelines than non-dog owners.
  • Dogs can improve your photography skills – in a study by Rover, 65% of dog owners said they took more photos of their dog than their significant other!
  • Dogs help us connect – an estimated 40% of dog owners report having an easier time making friends when out with their dog.
  • Dogs make us happier – staring into your dog’s eyes raises your level of oxytocin, the “love hormone.”

And I truly loved my Kona. When I was at Intero she came to work with me every single day; she never missed a day. We’d go to Starbucks together; she’d sit under my desk during meetings when I was working from home. She was just there, a constant, loyal source of unconditional companionship and support.

So, what’s the message? I believe we are connected to our dogs in ways perhaps even science has yet to understand. About a month ago, when Kona started really deteriorating, I was feeling dizzy and off, something just wasn’t right. Of course it wasn’t. Kona was part of me and if she was feeling sick, I was too. When I left for Hawaii, a sense of foreboding followed, like stepping on that plane I knew that this was the beginning of the end.

I moved my return flight up – Kona was in bad condition – and she waited for me to get home, just like she always did on every trip I took before. That sweet, adorable pal of mine – a mainstay at Intero, a regular at Starbucks, a curled-up sleeper beneath my desk – waited until I got home to say her final goodbye. And when I did say goodbye to my sweet Kona, I wasn’t just saying goodbye to my dog, I was saying goodbye to my best friend.

P.S. This story has a silver – or golden – lining. I called the place where I originally got Kona to let them know how great of a dog she was and offhandedly during our conversation happened to ask, “Do you by any chance have an F1 Half-Golden, Half-Miniature Poodle puppy?” And the breeder pauses then says, “You know, as a matter of fact we have a whole litter of puppies right now!” And because I knew somehow this news was Kona smiling down on me from the great dog park in the sky, I said, “Can you just check if they might be related to Kona?” And guess what? The breeder replied: “They are. The parents of Kona were Toby and Goldy and the father of the litter is Cody, the grandson of Toby.” Right then and there I decided I’m going to get one of the girl puppies … and I was thinking of naming her Kona. What do you think I should name her?

Thoughts on Leadership: Happy New Year!

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I joined the early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy meeting then on Wednesday, traveled to Las Vegas where HomeServices of America and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices hosted a networking reception honoring LGBTQ+ RE Alliance Top Producers and LGBTQ+ RE Leadership. This morning, I presented a keynote at the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance Conference 2022 about “Where There’s Chaos There’s Opportunity” and gave them 16 points on how to thrive in a changing market. This afternoon, I’ll hop on a plane home to Northern California, and as I sit in the Las Vegas airport eating macadamia nuts and almonds from the famous Ethel M. Chocolates shop, I am writing this post to you.

Of all the posts published throughout the year, today’s Thoughts on Leadership might be the most directly tied to how your next quarter (and next year) will play out in business. Saturday is October 1, which means we’re done with the third quarter and into the final 90 days of the year. Why is this so significant? Because for real estate, October 1 marks the start of the New Year – well, the Real Estate New Year. (Get out your sparkly hats and streamers – it’s time to celebrate 2023!)

In real estate, we operate on a 90-day cycle. All the prospecting, lead generation, planning and marketing we do now is going to pay off three months from now. It’s precisely why our new year doesn’t start when the clock strikes midnight and January 1 arrives. Our new year begins Saturday.

There’s something else to keep in mind as we ring in the Real Estate New Year: This is when your 2023 business planning must begin. (You can download the Business Planning Essentials here.)

Having a solid business plan will keep you from the dreaded Q1 slump. Each year, when Q4 – and the holidays – roll around, with all their sugar cookie, holiday-party reverie, people tend to get off schedule. But if you skip ahead 90 days from the holiday-themed celebrations, you’ll get to Q1, which is exactly where most real estate agents see the lag from a slower holiday season.

During my 30+ years in real estate – as an agent, manager, and owner of a company – I’ve found there’s always a cash flow problem in the months of January and February. This applies to agents as much as it applies to brokerage owners.

A business plan allows you to plan for what’s ahead and avoid that problem. It ensures the busy holiday season won’t stop your momentum in 2023. At a minimum this weekend, schedule out every day for the remainder of the year, including every single day off, and every day you’ll work for the rest of 2022. And make sure on those days you work, you work. On your workdays, follow your schedule, do your prospecting, and complete every task that will drive business for you in the first quarter of 2023. As a challenge, after you’ve completed scheduling out the rest of 2022, post a picture of yourself filling out your schedule this weekend and tag me on Facebook or Instagram, so I know you’ve finished it. Hey, that’s a little accountability!

You should also complete your schedule for 2023. The first things to schedule are the most important business meetings you can’t miss. Knowing when these happen allows you to plan for your days off, so you’re not taking time off during those critical meetings. The next thing to do before you schedule anything else is to put in whatever gives you balance, like vacations and days off. This ensures you take the necessary time to recharge, and that you won’t schedule meetings on your days off. Once you’ve done all that, stick to your schedule! Never make a commitment with your time without checking your schedule first. 

So, what’s the message? Consider this post your reminder to begin your business plan now, so you can start the Real Estate New Year planning for a 2023 – and a future – that’s shiny and bright.

Thoughts on Leadership: A Quantum Life

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday in Boston for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Summit conference where I had the opportunity to speak to the crowd of passionate top producers from around the world. On Wednesday into today, I attended and spoke at the HomeServices Legal/Title and Escrow conference in Minneapolis, and between speaking engagements and meetings, carved out some time to sit down and write this post to you.

During Covid, when the lockdowns first began, I found myself watching a lot of Netflix in my downtime. After a while, I started to feel bad that I was spending time watching Netflix and wasn’t really learning anything, so I made a commitment to spend one hour every day to learn something new. I started by learning and watching everything there was to know about the dinosaurs. (I’ve always been interested in dinosaurs ever since The Wall Street Journal wrote about the day the dinosaurs died.) From there I got interested in the cosmos and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I watched all of the cosmos videos then began watching “How the Universe Works,” which is where I discovered Hakeem Oluseyi.

As I dug into each episode, I was amazed by Oluseyi’s ability to explain extremely complex material in a way that I could understand. I listened to him untangle the mysteries of the universe in his calming Southern accent and was simply amazed by his intellect.

I googled him and discovered he had an amazing story and that he wrote and narrated the book “Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Streets to the Stars” which I immediately downloaded it on Audible. I was mesmerized by the book, and even more so by its details about where Oluseyi came from that inspired where he is today.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege to introduce him twice within a three-week span – first to our top producers at the HomeServices Stronger Together event in San Diego and then earlier this week in Boston at Summit.

Born James Edward Plummer Jr., Oluseyi was sent out west to live with his aunt at the age of 10. His genius was evident — people called him “the professor” and he learned to play bridge at age six— but so were his challenges. He lived with nine different households over the span of 16 months and went to five different schools, often landing in dangerous neighborhoods. He scored a 162 on an IQ test in the sixth grade. He smoked marijuana daily by age 13, living as Oluyesi described it, “like a feral animal.”

Despite his obvious gift, he spent much of his teen years in rural Mississippi, where he balanced advanced courses with the complications of life on the streets – poverty, drugs, and crime. In high school, he taught himself to program and coded parts of Einstein’s theory of relativity into a game, which won first place in physics at the Mississippi State Science Fair. He graduated high school at the top of his class.

Oluseyi had to join the Navy in order to pay for college, but a medical condition prevented him from serving, so he enrolled at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi.

At Tougaloo College, a Harvard-educated professor named David Teal noticed Oluseyi’s promise and encouraged him to join a meeting of African American physicists happening at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. What Oluseyi took from that meeting was clear: He had to enroll in graduate school if he wanted to be a real physicist.

Oluseyi was accepted to the prestigious graduate program at Stanford University and even had famed African American astrophysicist Arthur B.C. Walker as his Ph.D. advisor, helping him find his way through the challenges of the program. Walker was one of the first three Black astrophysicists in America and, like  Oluseyi, came from a military background . Walker’s former doctoral student, Sally Ride, was the first U.S. woman to go into space. Oluseyi told NPR that Walker “turned me into a gentleman and a scientist.”

After graduating with his doctorate in physics, he changed his name to Hakeem Muata Oluseyi to honor his African ancestors.

And the astrophysicist’s will to inspire was just beginning; Oluseyi made it his mission to motivate more Black students to become astrophysicists. In 2008, after receiving a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, Oluseyi traveled to South Africa to teach. After his instruction, the students passed their exams at the top 20% of their class.

So, what’s the message? There are so many highlights to Oluseyi’s incredible career – he taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; was NASA’s lead space science educator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate; was named Visiting Robinson Professor at George Mason University – and they all occurred because of his willingness to find the way to persevere from his difficult beginnings. His success may be as unlikely as our ability to interact with intelligent life-forms that inhabit planets far away and yet, it happened, proving that no matter where you came from, if you have a dream, there’s no limit to where you can go.

Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from ‘Ted Lasso’

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls and the Berkshire Hathaway Energy morning call. On Tuesday, I had a one-day turnaround business trip. On Wednesday, I traveled to Tampa, Florida to attend the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) National Convention and earlier today, I delivered a keynote speech to the attendees. NAREB is doing important work to urge Black Americans not to defer their dream of homeownership and I was grateful to lend my voice to this profound – and ongoing – mission.

As many of you know, I love to listen to books but sometimes while resting and recharging, I tune into movies or TV shows that provide inspiration in unconventional ways. One of those shows is “Ted Lasso,” about an American football coach who finds himself coaching a British soccer team, even though he knows next to nothing about the sport. As we watch Ted deal with the challenges of coaching, we realize this show is basically a master class in leadership. Here are just a few lessons from Ted Lasso:

  • Relationships are in the details.
  • Make it a point to know the names and birthdays of every member on your team.
  • Create a cadence of accountability. (Ted does this with daily “biscuits with the boss” morning check-ins.)
  • Don’t harp on the losses; use the progress of the people around you as a benchmark for success in what Ted calls “the infinite game.”
  • Live like a goldfish. They have a 10-second memory; if you mess up, learn from it then quickly move on.
  • Know that tackling a challenge is just like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable when you’re doing something difficult, you are probably doing it wrong.
  • Leaders empower leaders, just like Ted does with often-overlooked “kit man” Nate Shelley who eventually becomes a member of the coaching team.
  • Treat everyone with kindness. (Nate was not treated well by anyone before Ted’s arrival.)
  • Optimism over everything.
  • You must always believe in yourself.
  • Even when the odds are stacked against you, find positivity in the situation and keep moving forward.

So, what’s the message? Leadership can – and should – be fun. There’s humor to be found in any situation. There’s positivity to be found in even the most negative of circumstances. There are insights to be gleaned from every member of your team, and there are advantages to gain from truly getting to know who you work with and showing them, like Ted does, just how much you care.

P.S. If you watch this show and there’s anything you’ve learned from Ted Lasso that I’ve left out, please let me know!

Thoughts on Leadership: The Long-term Investment of a Team

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me at home, starting Tuesday (after the July 4th holiday on Monday) with early Berkshire Hathaway Energy calls, WIG calls and then a flight to Orange County. Yesterday, I participated in a strategy meeting with Chris Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Ebby Halliday Companies about our upcoming Stronger Together event happening this August in San Diego and attended various meetings with our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices team. Today, as I travel back to Northern California, I look out my airplane window and reflect on the ideas Chris and I shared.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Beyond the Good or Great

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home. 

Last week, we talked about ideas for leading through shifts in the marketplace (read the post here) and this week, let’s talk about the mindset you need to not just survive but also thrive in a market and economic environment that’s more challenging than it was a few months ago.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Ideas for Coping with a Downward-moving Market

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls then attending the NBA Finals’ Golden State Warriors game in the evening. On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and had a 2023 plan working session with Berkshire Hathaway Energy, followed by the monthly CEO virtual leadership meeting. Yesterday, I had an acquisition dinner meeting; and today, I am in team meetings and sitting down to write this post to you.

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Thoughts on Leadership: A Post for Pride

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting off the holiday week on Tuesday at home with an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by my typical WIG calls. These WIG calls were moved from Monday but still conducted for consistency, and as an important aside, let me expand on why we held the WIG session on Tuesday rather than skipping a week: Ideally, WIG sessions are held at the same time every day and every week. This consistency is critical; without it, your team will not be able to establish a sustained rhythm of performance. Missing even a single week causes you to lose valuable momentum and this loss of momentum impacts your results. This means the weekly WIG session is sacred and takes place even if the leader cannot attend and has delegated the role of leading it to someone else.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Celebrating an AREAA President

By: Gino Bleafri

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home, where I conducted back-to-back WIG calls then hopped on a flight to Orange County, California. On Tuesday, I had the weekly Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by the Gala Installation of the incoming 2022 Ventura County Chapter President of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), Theresa Nguyen, in Camarilla, California. I was honored to introduce Theresa at the event, but more about that soon. On Wednesday I presented my life plan to four offices of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties and caught a few hours of Tom Ferry’s amazing Blueprint event. Nobody does it better than Tom! And today, I attended and participated in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties Leadership Meeting in Irvine, California.

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Thoughts on Leadership: A Leadership Tune-up

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home, conducting my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I attended the virtual Berkshire Hathaway Energy Executive Leadership Conference then departed for Minneapolis. On Wednesday and Thursday, I participated in the HomeServices of America CFO Conference and met with the Edina Realty and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices North Properties team.

Today, as we enter the final weeks of spring and anticipate the summer season, I want to discuss a few helpful leadership lessons. Let’s call this post a leadership tune-up, complete with nuggets of knowledge to help you achieve your goals:

  • Fix your roof before it rains. It’s a lesson we learned throughout the pandemic. Our businesses fundamentally changed during COVID-19 and the businesses that survived the unexpected were those with leaders who truly planned for anything. There’s no question it will rain, but it’s about having that solid roof above your head – made from the right materials, constructed the right way – so you can weather any storm. When I was a junior at San Jose State, I remember my professor, Dr. Pete Zidnak, would start his business class with the quote of the day. That Ben Franklin quote – “If you fail to plan you are planning to fail” – was among those he gave to our class. Even now, years later, it still means so much to me.
  • Be open and flexible to change. Transformational change is a big part of leadership, and it happens not just with your initiatives but also within your mind. If you have a fixed mindset, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten because you’ll do what you’ve always done. When you’re nimble and flexible and open to change, you have a growth mindset that is strengthened by focus and a commitment to complete the hard work.
  • Don’t contemplate whether you will get it done, just believe in the fact that you WILL get it done. As Yoda said, “do or do not – there is no try.” Of course, a healthy view of failure is necessary because not everything in business is going to go your way. And you don’t have to fight every battle, but the battles you choose must win the war. Also, harping on the obstacles standing in the way of getting things done will not contribute to a strong mindset. Instead, it will weaken your chances of getting the task done. The only thing that’s impossible is the thing you never do.
  • Remember that fear is a figment of your imagination. The Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” Fear is all in your mind. First, because we imagine all the possibilities of a situation before they even happen. Many people who fear public speaking are nervous backstage before they step foot on the stage. Second, as human beings, we tend to cling to our fears like safety blankets. We can’t do this, we can’t do that because we are afraid, and so fear becomes the excuse and nothing becomes the result. If we remove the fear and say to ourselves, “I acknowledge this feeling, but I will not let it stop me,” then we also remove the thing blocking our way. That is how we find ourselves in the realm of limitless possibilities. 
  • Discover your zone of genius. There are four zones that a given person’s professional performance can fall into: zone of incompetence, zone of competence, zone of excellence and zone of genius. Let’s focus on the last one – the zone of genius. What is it? You know it when you experience it. Your zone of genius encompasses all that you are uniquely good at, and not just good at but also love to do. Everyone’s zone of genius is different, and that’s what makes people unique. As Albert Einstein once said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Identify what your zone of genius is, and structure your business around using it as your competitive advantage and professional differentiator.
  • Vince Lombardi said fatigue makes cowards of us all. You must recharge. For me, when things start to fall through the cracks, I get annoyed and that’s when I know it’s time to step back, take a break and recharge, so I can be the best leader for my team and those around me. Whenever I’m feeling tired or fatigued, I know I need to do something that motivates me to come back refreshed and ready to go.

So, what’s the message? This week spend a little time to check in on yourself. Are you facing your fears? Are you operating in your zone of genius? Are you taking time to recharge? Are you putting plans in place? Are you pushing past uncertainty to make the impossible possible? The answers to these questions should be “yes,” because when you are doing all these things, you’ll be helping not only yourself as a leader but also everyone around you. 

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