Lee Nelson is a freelance journalist from the Chicago area. She has written for Yahoo! Homes, TravelNursing.org, MyMortgageInsider.com, and ChicagoStyle Weddings Magazine. She also writes a bi-monthly blog on Unigo.com. Contact Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advice for Managing Older Agents
Learn how to connect with every agent in your office in a meaningful and productive way.
February 28, 2017
As the leader of your company, you likely find yourself surrounded by all types of personalities and different age groups. Some agents have been in the business less than a year and others for decades. That diversity is what makes your brokerage stronger.
The median age of all REALTORS® is 58, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2016 Member Profile survey. That means there are numerous older real estate agents out there working and making a living in this industry.
But how do you motivate them if they’ve been in the business longer than you?
“No one really wants to be stereotyped, plus we just shouldn’t make assumptions about someone just because of their age,” says Diane Wilson, author and executive coach at Grimard Wilson Consulting Inc. in Chicago.
Yet there are things that you can take into consideration when working with older agents that could help everyone on your team:
Show respect and appreciation. What you might miss with older workers is that they need your appreciation or acknowledgement just like everyone else. “Recognition is a powerful motivator,” Wilson says. The Paul Mitchell Co. uses the acronym F.A.C.E. “F” – Find what is working, “A” — acknowledge it, “C” — celebrate it, “E” — enjoy. This can work in any industry and with all ages, Wilson says.
Get to know them. Just because you may not be in the same generation, or not have much in common with the older agent, you can still forge a personal relationship with him or her. Understand what motivates each of your agents, what makes them smile each day, who their family is, and what they do outside the office. This can make you a better leader.
Involve everyone in a culture of unity. “In our office, it’s not the old and the young. Everybody asks help from everybody,” says Edie Harrington, vice president and sales manager at The House Company in Galveston, Texas. Once a month, a happy hour is scheduled for everyone in the brokerage. It is organized by two agents, and everyone shows up to have a good time. Also, during weekly sales meetings, Harrington encourages equal participation and brainstorming of ideas among the group.
Don’t make assumptions. Just because an agent is older doesn’t mean he or she can’t handle technology or will take longer to do things. Yes, some will prefer a more face-to-face connection with clients. But if you want them to advance in certain areas, then find the right training that will fit the situation and their level of interest, Harrington says.
Learn from their experiences. Just because you are the office leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Someone with more experience and time in the industry could be your secret weapon to seeing things in a different perspective or a different light. Keep an open mind about the wisdom they hold and ask for their opinions and input.
Address problems quickly. No matter what age someone is, they should have the right to know when you are unhappy with their performance or when other issues arise. Just because the old adage says you should respect your elders, it shouldn’t effect how you perform as a manager. Be open, transparent, and explain the problem or concern. Your expectations and goals for them shouldn’t be any different than those of your younger agents, Wilson explains.
Ease into changing someone’s style. No matter a person’s age, they might have a set way of doing things, Wilson says. You can present a new idea to an agent, but present it in an inquisitive way, such as, “How about we do this?” Agents will respond better to this method rather than you simply telling them how to do things, she adds.
Let them learn. Just because someone has been doing a job a long time doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn new methods and techniques. “People usually want to grow and change,” Wilson says. All your agents should be open to change and growth. Don’t hold back on educational opportunities for someone just because they might be close to retirement.
“Age doesn’t matter,” Harrington says. When her son was only 7 days old, he came to work with her in his pack-and-play. She says all the agents in the office wanted to help out. One of her agents who was in his 70s would sign up to be in the office when her son was going to be there. “My son is now 19,” she says. “I always wanted our office to look like a family. And it is.”