Heart plus head – can disruption liberate women in real estate?

For centuries, women have been told to ‘stop it’ – to stop being emotional, stop letting our feelings get in the way, to stop caring so much, to knuckle down, muscle up and get our business game on.

But what if those behaviours – so long seen as weaknesses – were actually the superpowers that empowered women real estate agents to take on the new challenges of a technologically disrupted world?

The REINSW Women in Real Estate event heard from a variety of speakers who shared that women in the industry stand to benefit specifically from disruption and the changing state of real estate.

That’s because the more technology makes our lives faster, more convenient, busy and distracted, the more we want to connect and the more important the human emotions of shared values, trust and empathy become – and women have that in spades.

The stellar line up of speakers included Leanne Pilkington, CEO of Laing + Simmons, Jane Huxley, CEO of Spotify, Sherrie Storer, Caroline Bolderstone and journalist Leigh Sales. Here are some of the key lessons:

  1. Not everything is your fault

Jane Huxley, the CEO of Spotify, shared how the most important issues she’d had to learn in business had been to reign in her heart from dominating her head at times when it was inappropriate.

“I was internalising versus what was going on in the real world and I realised it didn’t matter what was being said, I was taking everything personally and seeing everything that went wrong was my fault,” she told the audience.

But Jane also realised that her “overcaring” could also become powerful if used appropriately.

“We have two organs that we work with every day – our heart and our head. And there is absolutely a place for both of those at work every day. I can’t go to work without my heart – it’s my passion, my pride, how I bring people along. But my heart is also what holds anger and frustration and sadness and despair and all the things that create these environments where I take everything personally.”

Jane turned her weakness into a superpower by noticing how she was feeling and creating a way to reign it in.

“When you are operating from your heart the first person to know will be you. You will feel it physically,” she said.

“What I did was train myself to feel first what was going on in my body.” She then had a mantra that she’d repeat telling herself “It’s not personal”.

“I’d repeat that until I could feel my reactions moving from my heart to my head. Then I have a business conversation. I still have to practice this every single day, 20 years after learning it.”

  1. Transform yourself

Leanne Pilkington – who is CEO of Laing + Simmons, and the president of the REINSW – said women agents need to lean into technology by setting 90 day challenges for themselves to learn new skills.

“Jobs won’t be taken out of the industry, but they will transform, so take action, don’t wait to be told what to do,” said Leanne. “Commit to learning something new for a period of 90 days. Make it not just a habit but embed it into your life.”

The skills important to success in the new world include complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, emotional intelligence, judgment, decision making, service orientation, negotiation, cognitive flexibility and collaboration.

“Don’t try and do it all at once. Make a little bit of change consistently,” Leanne said. “Reach out to someone you can help or someone you can learn something from. How long does it take to learn from a lifetime of experience? It’s the time it takes to have a cup of coffee with someone you can learn from.”

  1. Owning your difference is your strength

Sherrie Storor identified that women in real estate needed to start seeing disruption in real estate as a liberating reason to throw out tired and stressful old ways of marketing and prospecting. We need to do business into new ways that are aligned with our values.

“The most successful real estate businesses today are attraction businesses,” said Sherrie said. “To me in 2019, this is what the world of real estate looks like. It’s perfect for us as women.”

Sherrie advised female agents should be connecting with their networks at the school gate, local shops, getting their nails done, and even lunches, using new marketing techniques such as social media to share information, rather than push a hard sell.

“Every week, we underservice buyers who want to have a relationship with us while we focus on our next sale and chasing GCI and it feels wrong,” she said. “We need to be more strategic about our businesses and use our strengths. We should stop seeing cold calling and busy-ness and constant availability as the mark of what a good agent does. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack to find a lead when real leads are right in front of us.”

“Forget about the hustle. Make it about the habits.”

  1. Make AI stand for ‘agent intelligence’

“The AI of this industry is a lot less about artificial intelligence and a lot more about agent intelligence,” said Caroline Bolderston, from Being Bold.

According to Caroline, agent intelligence is about understanding human behaviours, especially the importance of values and how they play out when we’re making decisions.

Too often as women we feel obliged to park our values in order to adopt other behaviours that we’re told are more effective at winning in business, especially in a declining market.

“We get lost when we move away from our values,” Caroline said. “But when we get a values match, things just feel right. So we need to level up our agent intelligence into the future. If we don’t step up, we’ll have to step out.”

  1. Challenge your inner fraud

ABC journalist Leigh Sales – known to millions for her accomplished interviewing of some of the world’s biggest politicians and celebrities – admitted she regularly felt like a fraud.

“Like everyone I have days when I feel like I’m right at the edge of my capabilities,” she admitted.

But she said her own experience, and observing the polish of women such as Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice, had made her realise preparation was key.

“There is no woman at the elite level who has ever just ‘winged’ it. You have to do the preparation. Do the homework and then adapt,” she said.

“The other way I overcome feelings of fraud is I muster my courage and do things that terrify me. I fear failure and being judged and all those things that all of us truly feel. But the thrills in life have always occur when I’m operating right at the edge of my mental and emotional capabilities.

Leigh also advised the audience not to fear criticism.

“Don’t take it personally, look at the critique and ask yourself, can I learn something from it, even if it stings?” she said. “Sometimes it does you a favour.”