As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathleen Black.
Kathleen Black is North America’s leading real estate team coach and trainer, delivering her proven success techniques to agents and teams around the world. That growth is worth billions in additional sales volume annually across her client network with 80% of her clients being national top 1% producers. Kathleen, the best selling author of “The Top 1% Life”, will help you to expand your business, at a fraction of the time and cost, using the tried, tested, and true “KBCC Ultimate Expansion Strategy” that has powered her client growth.
The success of KBCC centers around integrity, honesty, and results-driven measures, the very things that represent Kathleen. Kathleen has been named twice as Top Elite Women Driving the Future of Real Estate by REP Magazine and as Top 20 Emerging Leaders by T3 Sixty’s 2018 Swanepoel Report. She was recognized within the top 1% of Realtors in the Toronto Real Estate Board, has ten plus years of agent development experience, and hundreds of teams attribute their growth and success to Kathleen’s leadership. Most recently, Kathleen was awarded with the Iconic Women Creating a Better World for All/ Iconic Leaders Creating a Better World for All Award. This award is based on experience, results, influence, and commitment to change the world for the better of all internationally.
Kathleen is also the driving-force behind the Ultimate Team Summit, the largest team specific Real Estate summit in North America and the Ultimate Mastermind Series of events, including the 100 Deal + Ultimate Mastermind.
Kathleen lives in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada with her two free spirited, independent, and very loved children Ethan and Ella, and their cat Ethel.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Beginning my career as a ReMax Real Estate Agent and working my way to being recognized within the top 1% of Realtors in both the Durham Region and on the Toronto Real Estate Board, many would agree that this level of success is the pinnacle achievement amongst their peers; but for me it was only the beginning.
Identifying the need, I set out to work on further developing the systems and platform of educational programs and coaching methods to which I attributed my own professional and personal success.
With the launch of KBCC in 2015, and building upon my 10+ years of Team and Agent development and guidance, hundreds of teams (80% of which are top 1% producers) have attributed their growth and success to our integrity, honesty and results driven leadership directly or through one of my coaching programs.
I was selling real estate as a busy single mom of two children and I had done a lot of content and systems development with a look to creating better work life balance.
The team I worked with was creating a coaching company and I had a background in psychology so it just seemed like a natural fit to try to become involved. That coaching company found itself in some challenging territory in early days and there were differing opinions within the ownership as to how it should be resolved. This ultimately resulted in the departure of the director of coaching and I was given the opportunity to step into that role within 18 months of the company going live. I had been a coach for just under one year at that point. It was really a chain of complicated events that led to a great opportunity for me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
An example that I give often is I used to mentor, coach and train while I was relatively new to selling, so I often had someone shadowing me.
I ended up realizing a couple of years into it when I left a buyer presentation, which I would sign 98 per cent of, with one of my mentees, when she told me that she had seen me present my buyer consultations many times, and that she had learned so much, but the logo on the powerpoint said ‘Your Team Name Here”.
I didn’t even realize that for two years I had been using my coaching company’s version of my buyer consultation and it didn’t even have our team logo on it, and yet I was still signing 98 per cent of all consultations I sat down in front of and attended.
When building a business it’s really easy to say you need the perfect brand, but in reality what you need are the clients.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I don’t think there has ever been one person. A lot of my opportunities actually came from overcoming challenges, so some of the people who gave me some of the opportunities I had are also people who presented massive challenges for me and my career.
At the end of the day, it’s relying on great mentorship, there’s not only one person I can name.
There were definitely brokers who gave me great advice and now we’ve built programs in place that we’ve created together, like Paul Baron from The #1 Century 21 Brokerage for the country, C21 Leading Edge in Canada.
I’m grateful for our team, I have an amazing group of people who support me and there’s no way I would be able to do what I do without them.
We have a collaborative leadership team who are very entrepreneurial, and who take ownership over what needs to happen. It’s very collaborative without a director style delegation, everyone owns their portion of the business. That is how we thrive.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
When our company started, our vision was to help busy entrepreneurs, who were largely in the sales industry, carve out a business that had the structure necessary to give them the freedom they wanted.
We found that a lot of entrepreneurs feel structure is restrictive, when in fact it gives them the path they need to give them the ability to leverage and scale so that they can have a successful business and life.
At the end of the day, what we found, was that we had to empower people in order for them to take empowered action, which is vital to create a structured business.
The purpose of our company is to power up people so they can build the businesses and lives that they are capable of leading, that they don’t choose to build until they approach it with a higher level of consciousness and confidence.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
We’ve had several times where we’ve been in uncertainty. Both in my current business and in my past business, and I think the most important thing we’ve had to do is carve out a strategy to determine why we’re here, what we want to accomplish and to be able to focus on the future.
Sometimes when we’re in uncertainty, or in fear, we can be blind because all we see is the possible worst case scenarios. If we can align a team around opportunities in any difficult situation, to visualize where we’re going in the future, we’re able to move forward together with confidence.
The other thing I find we excel at during times of uncertainty or adversity is coming together as a leadership team, with taking 100 % responsibility in the different areas of our business so we’re not inundated with little complications.
Most people get stuck in the mess of the current times and lose focus on building. No matter what, the world can be in uncertainty, or your business can be in uncertainty, you need to be building for where you’re going with confidence, data driven risk is essential for every entrepreneur.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
When I get tired or frustrated, I’m a typical entrepreneur. Instead of thinking ‘take a day off’ or ‘take a week off’ i think ‘okay maybe I’m done’ or ‘maybe I’m not meant to do this business’. But the reality of it is, I get a good night sleep and I know that this business for me, is not about money, it isn’t about a business, it’s about a purpose in my life and I believe that I’m destined to be doing what I’m doing.
This mentality has dragged me to the future, even when I feel exhausted and burnt out. To build this business, I had to run and jump off of a cliff. There was no ability to hesitate or play it safe, I think for me I had to believe it was my destiny to do it, or I wouldn’t have been able to take the risks that I did.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader during challenging times is hands down to be responsive. They need to look at the facts and the data around them that forces these leaders to look at their opportunities and be strategic. This is vital for any leader during uncertainty.
When the majority of leaders are being reactive, emotional and going into scarcity mode, the best leaders always walk out in a storm, with their people, even if they don’t have all of the answers, they’ll be transparent that they don’t have all their answers, but they’ll also be present.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
When the future seems uncertain, it is actually the best time to create the future.
The best way to boost morale, is to make sure that you are so clear on how to strategically give value to your clients so your clarity is contagious. When businesses are in difficulty they need clear, strategic actions, you have to have a vision of what matters and how you can make it work.
Hope in the future creates power in the present, we have to understand why what we’re doing matters and how to translate it to leaders, who are then going to translate it to their teams.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
The best way to communicate difficult news is acknowledging it, acknowledging the vulnerabilities and the fears, and then presenting the best possible path forward.
As a leader during uncertainty, you cannot expect that the plan you put in place yesterday, is going to be applicable tomorrow. You need to be willingly agile and ready to adapt and evolve.
They say all boats rise with the tide, except for the ones that are tied too close to the shore. I think that when the tides rise not everyone will necessarily come with you, and that’s okay, as a leader to allow that to happen.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The best leaders are raft builders. There are three types of people right now, one of them is someone who sees every piece of goodwill and positivity as another branch, piece of wood, string or rope to help build their raft.
There are people in the middle who are bobbing, and they’re waiting to see what’s going to happen, will they have to start scrounging up materials, or will the help they’re so desperately waiting for, finally show up?
There are also a small fraction of people right now who are frozen and underwater, because they were too scared to believe in the unseen, and instead of pivoting themselves and their businesses, they’ve spent too much time bobbing around, and they’ve gone under.
The people in the middle have no idea what the future holds for them, but the raft builder is already on their raft, and they know the future because they’re creating for themselves.
When you try to build a raft, you will not only inspire yourself to do better, but you will inspire more people to follow your lead to save themselves. You’re not only helping yourself in this time by being proactive, and believing in yourself and a better future, you’re helping others see that, too.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
The number one principle that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times is agile focus. We need to be compassionate, we need to be connected with our teams but we also need to be hyper focused on what’s most important so we can lead people through difficult times and still bring value to the marketplace.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
To Lack Clarity on Cost VS Investments.
You’ll see when people hit difficult times, they will think they’re cutting all costs when in fact, they are cutting investments which are the key elements that bring value to the business. Not only are they tying their hands during a difficult time, they’re actually cutting their future gross earnings because they’re taking away their ability to create services or sales.
To Allow Yourself to Focus on What you Can’t Control
All great leaders will be relentlessly focused on what they can control, make an impact on, and have influence over. We cannot be strategic, or lead from worst case scenarios. We need to be realistic when our action and our power is focusing on influence and control.
Our Ability to be Responsive
If we’re getting information and allowing it to scare us, and alter our perspective, that’s one of the biggest mistakes we can make.
We need to have the ability to call ourselves out and figure out what we’re focusing on because not only are we focusing on what we’re creating, we’re living in what we’re focusing on.
The world isn’t what it is, the world is what you are. One of the most important things we can do is keep ourselves in an abundance or optimal headspace. This will allow us to carve out the best possible opportunities.
Highest and Best Use of Time
I see a lot of leaders trying to do what they were doing before, or telling themselves that what they are doing can’t be impactful, but we have to look at the amount of time we have and the highest and best use of that time.
We have to be able to hyper prioritize our resources and that includes our energy, our time and our money.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Winston Churchill once said “Never waste a good crisis”, and I look at that and say “Never waste a good storm”. Tension creates focus, and if anything, you want to elongate the amount of time that you have that tension. The focus that is created from tension is invaluable to any business owner.
I like to say that if you could bottle that tension, that fear, that little bit of angst that is created in turmoil and sell it to people when the sun is out and the economy is strong, and confidence is high, you would make billions of dollars.
When the economy is stronger and our businesses are stronger, we can become a little bit lazy, we have buffets of opportunities on the table and we know we’re never going to get through all of them. When you have times of tension, it’s like a call to arms as a human or as a business to become more efficient, to become more organized.
It’s one of the best times to align a team when you lean into that tension and use it rather than waste this storm. The tension will allow you to be 10x better than you were when you came into this situation.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
Have a Clear but Adaptable Vision
Know where you’re going, but allow yourself to be agile and update your plan as needed. Always let your team know in advance.
Don’t lose your power. Realize that you can’t change everything, but you can change some things. Spending this time, whether it’s two weeks or twelve months, waiting around for the market to get back to normal, for our lives to get back to normal, is not ideal.
You can’t fight what is, the world has changed, our circumstances have changed. The sooner that we accept that, the sooner we can make adjustments.
People are pivoting fast, using their adaptability skills. If you sit around and wait for change, you’re losing the momentum you can build now, and you won’t be prepared for the potential market change once this is all over.
Right now, it feels like it’s never going to end but it will, and it’s important to focus on the small things you can do to put your future self in the best position.
We all have the ability to change and develop right now. After this storm has blown through, we can have a better quality of life, we can have better client services, we can absorb this tension to persevere, but only if we choose to.
Reduce the Distance Between Expectation and Reality
In turbulent times things are constantly changing, you cannot over communicate.
Think of it when you’re on an airplane and you’re experiencing turbulence, If the staff and pilot come over the intercom and let you know everything is alright, you feel much more relaxed and at ease, than if you were left questioning.
This time is like the turbulence for a lot of us. Instead of a flight attendant letting us know everything will be okay, our timelines are filled with news that is grim and scary.
There’s a storm happening right now and you’re the flight crew.
By getting on the intercom to calm your team and client’s senses, you will relieve more stress than you know.
This turbulence will not last forever, you need to tell them what your strategic plan is.
Create Clear Wins with your Team
During a storm, most people try to wait out the storm. The best leaders are always planting seeds, so you want to change your wins to something you can control.
Let’s think of a ten step process, in a typical market, you can get through all ten steps and end with a sale. In a turbulent market, you might only be able to get to step 3–8 with some people, with a small percentage of people, get to step 10.
We need to have the ability to change our wins and celebrate getting people to the different steps, with full knowledge that when the sun comes out and confidence in the market goes up again, those who went to step 4 or 5 will move forward with us.
It’s crucial that you plant those seeds so that people understand your sales process. We know that consumers will wait and pay more to buy in a more confident market. As business leaders, we need to invest in ourselves to create opportunities and secure them now so we have a running start as soon as confidence shifts.
Carve out a Clear and Specific Path
During COVID-19 we saw so many confusing and mixed messages about how to communicate with potential clients, and it caused many team members to go into overwhelm. When they went into overwhelm, they did nothing.
It’s so very important to break down the communication sources and who we should be reaching out to and why.
They will remember if they did not hear from you, and if you don’t reach out in a turbulent time, especially in a sales or service based business, where people are relying on your expertise, they’re not going to want to hear from you later.
Have a Strategy
We need to have clarity on our key sources of business, how we can become more efficient, and cut through to the best use of our time and our investments, while focusing on our skillset.
During a tough market is when our skills will be forged in the fire. You will find that you’ll have people who accelerate and are much stronger in sales or service during a turbulent market because we have less opportunities and are more open to sharpening the axe.
The best leaders are not scared to set clear and straightforward expectations, even in difficult situations. They know their team is stronger when everyone is on board, and they’re not willing to have a weaker link take them out.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favourite life lesson quote is something that I’ve heard in my head since I was very young and that’s “You’re built to win”, and when you believe that, when things get hard, you’re going to lean in and really win or learn, so either way you win overall.
Some of my most devastating losses in life and in business catapulted me forward ten times more than I could have ever gotten without them.
‘I was built to win”, allows me to see things in my favour as I’m working in a place of abundance and I’m trying to see myself in the world.
I’ll always try to be better because I want to do good here and I want to have the resources in order to be and do good.
I need a strong business in order to make the changes and impact I want to make for myself and in order to contribute and have a positive impact with as many people as possible.
How can our readers further follow your work?