3931970353_6db0e3890d_zIn the book Creativity, Inc., its author, Ed Catmull, who co-founded Pixar Animation Studios alongside Steve Jobs, said he once requested that a long, rectangular conference table at Pixar be replaced with a fat, square one. In the book, he stated that he had this done to quash a growing sense of hierarchy in the conference room, and by extension, invite more free-flowing, creatively-charged communication in meetings—not unlike King Arthur’s Round Table.

With the rectangular table, the execs, directors, and key project personnel had to sit at its middle in order to hear all that was being said throughout the conference room. The trouble, however, was that it established a pecking order with name cards and assigned seating. Hardly an invitation to a “creatively-charged” meeting.

To this point, studies have shown that business settings with what is called high power distance, i.e., a keen sensitivity and submission to the separation between bosses and subordinates, often experience a more narrow and restricted exchange of ideas—which is pure Kryptonite to innovation. Evidently, Catmull understood this principle when he set out to create an environment at Pixar where the sharpest ideas and most pressing concerns were on the table for discussion, no matter the rank of the individual from whom they came. Check your title at the door, please.


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When employees feel less like employees and more like contributing members of a circle (or in the case above, a square, I suppose), you can bet— those employees are working for a company with an attractive culture—like Pixar. The same might be said about the members of your real estate team. If you’re burning through talent, it’s a sign that something is up. If there’s poor collaboration between members or a lack of initiative being taken, once again, something is awry.

A team that stands the test of time is one in which its members are inspired by and committed to a common purpose.

In order to strengthen your team’s commitment, consider taking steps to implement the following:

#1: Entrust Members with Projects.

Being assigned a list of tasks to perform isn’t much different than being told [as a child] to do your chores—it’s a grind. Tasks don’t reveal the larger picture; they’re simply if this, then that, yes-no, tedious tasks. In fact, if only given a set of tasks to complete, it gives the impression that one is on a need-to-know basis only—an outsider—which doesn’t do much to strengthen his or her devotion to the team.

A project, on the other hand, sends an entirely different message. A project is entrusted to the individual—there’s risk, reward, and a feeling of ownership. What’s more, projects foster regular, inter-team collaboration, which thus—reinforces bonds and a shared sense of purpose.

Steve Jobs said:

“It doesn’t make sense to hire intelligent people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

In the same spirit, as your team grows and its duties accumulate, be careful to avoid the trap of task divvying, because make no mistake, busywork leads to burnout. Instead, as the team’s leader, set meaningful goals and endow your team members projects to accomplish the business.

#2: Peel Back the Layers.

Throughout military history, battles have been won because of the prevailing army’s familiarity with the terrain of the battlefield. Knowing one’s setting—his or her boundaries—is profoundly significant. If we don’t know where the boundaries lay, then any attempt to push those boundaries is done so arbitrarily. What’s more, it’s quite easy to run into a wall when you don’t know it’s there and you’re wandering around a dark room.

For instance, have you ever been in trouble for doing something you didn’t know was wrong or against protocol? Good times, right? Setting expectations and providing your team members with details that surround the projects they’ve been entrusted is like handing them a flashlight to illuminate their path.

  1. Make an effort to ensure your team members understand the roles and responsibilities of others within the office and the team.
  2. See to it that they know what tools, programs, and resources the brokerage offers.
  3. Advise them of competing initiatives or threats on the horizon, which may affect their work.
  4. And most critical of all—don’t keep secrets. Placing your team members on a need-to-know basis means you’re withholding information. It’s also (in most cases) a power play.

#3: Help Your Team Find It’s M.O.

Teams get started for all sorts of reasons. A fairly common reason is the impulse to hire lesser experienced agents to help manage the overflow of one’s own business. This is a fine solution to a routine problem, but it lacks what an enduring, thriving team aches for: a purposeful goal.

Teams aren’t about many individuals helping one person manage his or her business; they’re about many individuals working together to manage THE business.

It was said by Ralph Waldo Emerson that “The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.” So for example, if the M.O. of your team is predicated on managing just your business, then don’t act surprised if the members of your team often prioritize their own needs above the needs of their teammates. If you’re always out-of-the-office, disconnected, and focused on what you have to do, then don’t expect a collaborative culture within your team. On the other hand, if you cast a clear vision for the team and regularly invest in the lives and businesses of each member, the natural outgrowth will be that your team members will also invest in one another and endeavor as a group to attain the vision.

Don’t just be in charge—lead the charge. And check your title at the door, please.

Photo by the talented, Third 1

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Jason Pantana, Realtor, Speaker, NashvilleJason guides real estate professionals through current and emerging trends in consumer behavior, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurship. To invite Jason to speak or to schedule a consultation, visit: www.JasonPantana.com/Contact