For many years, I devoted a section of my management training course to the importance of good leadership. I started the topic with a syndicate exercise. I asked all the delegates to answer three questions:
- What is management?
- What is leadership?
- How does management differ from leadership?
I asked the delegates to discuss their answers in syndicate groups of four to six people. The discussions lasted for twenty to thirty minutes and they sometimes got quite heated. My answers were:
- Management is achieving results through the efforts of others
- Leadership is having a vision
These are principles that transcend estate agency. Indeed, they even transcend the business world. The most famous leaders throughout history have without exception had a vision of a better future that inspired others to do everything in their power to help them to achieve it.
- Churchill had a vision of beating Hitler
- Gandhi had a vision of a free India
- Mandela had a vision of ending apartheid
- Thatcher had a vision of reversing the ratchet of Socialism
The passion of these leaders was enough to inspire millions of ordinary people to achieve the seemingly impossible.
This is not a political article but nevertheless I cannot resist at this point contrasting these leaders from history with our present leader, Boris Johnson, and asking the question what is his vision and what does he want us to help him to achieve? The lack of clarity here and his extraordinarily low profile during the last six months of the Covid crisis has been confusing and demoralising for many ordinary people who are being asked to make huge sacrifices in their lives to help our government to achieve a rather vague objective. But as I said, this is an article about business, not politics.
Leaders throughout history have had a vision that inspired others to do everything in their power to help them to achieve it.
Just as having a vision is important for politicians, it is equally important for business leaders. Just think of James Dyson of Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk and the extraordinary visions that they had which inspired them to build their companies. But it is not just aspiring billionaires that need a vision. It is something that can inspire staff in any business.
COVID-19 has brought this very sharply into focus and some business leaders have come out of this very difficult time with much more credit than others. At one end of the scale we have well-known high street magnate sitting on his multi-million-pound mega yacht in the sunshine whilst collecting millions of pounds of furlough cash at the expense of the UK government. At the other end of the scale, many estate agency leaders have been an inspiration to their staff by treating them fairly, preserving as many jobs as possible and even cutting their own salaries so that they are seen to be sharing the pain.
The most important thing about these industry leaders though is their vision for the future. They are not content to just survive the virus, they want to emerge from it with a business that is stronger than ever.
One of my most inspirational clients sat down a week after the lockdown in March and wrote a business plan that set out how they were going to increase both their turnover and their profit in 2020 despite COVID-19. He shared the 25-page document with every single member of his hundred plus staff and called a meeting so that he could answer all their questions. Some had reservations about his business plan but eight months into it, it looks as if he is going to achieve every single thing that he set out. I think he is an absolute inspiration and his staff think of him as almost God-like. So how did he achieve this?
He started with a simple vision statement which was:
- We are going to increase our turnover to X and our profit to Y in the calendar year 2020.
He then did a detailed analysis of all the key performance indicators from both his sales and letting business with an analysis of how they could be improved. Then, he set a series of measurable key goals, for example, “We are going to increase the number of valuations from X per month to Y per month”, or “We are going to increase our average fee from X% to Y%”.
Next, he set out the detailed strategies necessary to achieve each of these goals. Finally, he monitored the results against his target on a weekly basis to ensure that all the targets were being met.
You can do this too and it is the single most valuable thing that you can do to help your business to get through the challenges that still lie ahead of us. So I would urge you to book a day off work one day very soon and spend it producing an inspiring and detailed business plan that sets out how your business will continue to thrive come what may.
Adam Walker is a management consultant who specialises in the sale of letting and estate agency businesses.