What You Can Do That Disruptors Can’t

August 15, 2017

"How we show up as leaders matters," former Marine Vernice "FlyGirl" Armour told attendees at NAR's Leadership Summit.
"How we engage in every moment matters. Take deliberate
actions every day to achieve your mission."

“Terms have expiration dates, but our actions are limitless,” Elizabeth Mendenhall, president-elect of the National Association of REALTORS®, told 1,600 state and local leaders in opening remarks during NAR’s Leadership Summit in Chicago on Monday. “People who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire.”

Mendenhall and new NAR CEO Bob Goldberg delivered a message about an industry in transition, touching heavily on the effects of disruption in the real estate space and how REALTORS® need to be prepared. Frequent and fast-moving changes to the business provide an opportunity for REALTORS® to be innovative and take ownership of how the industry adapts, Goldberg said. “Now is the moment we need to pick up the pace. Ownership is not just an action—it’s an attitude.”

“Own it,” which will be the theme of Mendenhall’s presidency, means accepting your role as a steward of your community’s well-being, as well as your place in the industry. Speaker Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, a military vet who served in the Marines for nearly 14 years, reinforced the importance of fearless leadership: She became the first African-American female combat pilot in the U.S. military during her two tours of duty in Iraq.

She recalled a dangerous mission she led to destroy an enemy compound filled with rockets, explosives, and other weapons. As she flew a fighter jet toward the target, a malfunction prevented her from launching a missile at the building—a mishap that could have put many American lives on the ground in grave danger. She and her team in the air quickly reassessed the situation, came up with a contingency plan, and took out the target on a second try.

Though real estate isn’t a war zone, the industry’s mission is high stakes, and people rely on it being carried out successfully, Armour said. “Your community is dependent on what you do out on ‘the battlefield,’” she said. “Acknowledge the obstacles, but don’t give them power. We have a lot of people to bring home—to help them get into their homes. You might not be shooting missiles over a desert floor, but what you do is changing lives.”

Having courage in the face of challenges is essential at a time of disruption, which Charlene Li, business advisor and author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, defined as “a shift or change in the relationship between people and organizations or businesses.” She told attendees to think about how major disruptors, such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook, have reached their level of success. They might set a goal to grow their business by 300 percent in one year, and then hire the people and create the process to achieve that goal, Li noted.

“They may only achieve 150 percent or 75 percent, but they’ve put the process in place,” she said. “If you set a goal of 5 percent, you’ll only grow 5 percent. You have to say, ‘I know we might not get there, but we need to try.’”

At the core of all business progress are the relationships you have with your customers. “Don’t start with data or technology—start with the customer experience,” Li said. “You have an opportunity to have a dialogue with your customer in a way that no one else does.”

The necessity of quality interactions was similarly echoed by Armour, who informed attendees of a critical command she heard in the military: “You have permission to engage.”

“Somebody is creating something in their garage right now that’s going to blow this industry away,” Armour said. “So how do you provide essential service to people who need you? Engage with them, and take what you learn and create something that hasn’t been created yet. You have permission to engage. You can’t wait for people to come to you. If you don’t give yourself permission, who will?”

—Graham Wood, REALTOR® Magazine