How Brokers Can Delegate to Free Up Time


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More than three decades ago, Leslie McDonnell hired a part-time person to help her with an overload of work.

“It was really scary to let go. I realized if I didn’t delegate, I wouldn’t grow. That’s the biggest thing with delegation. You need to [have] trust,” says McDonnell, EPRO, team leader and associate broker at RE/MAX Suburban in Libertyville, Ill.

Though she initially struggled with loosening her grip on the reins, McDonnell found that delegating to others allowed her the time and space to grow her business and have time for her family.

Delegating is a layered endeavor, as she found out. Ten years after she’d started delegating, a pivotal moment made her realize that, once again, she needed to offload more work to achieve the work-life balance she desired. She was driving her boat with her then-10-year-old son and a friend in tow. The kids were tubing behind the boat, but she had to stop the fun to take a work call. Her son became impatient because she was on the phone so long. He jumped out of the tube and swam back to the boat.

“I knew at that moment this operation needs to change. I was making all this money but [had] no time to enjoy it. It was crystal clear. I hired two full-time people,” she says. “I wasn’t working at my business, because I was busy working in it.”

Why Delegate

In order to capitalize on their strengths, leaders first need to know what those strengths are, and then they need to figure out if how they use their time aligns with what they excel at. If they find that they are focused on tasks that do not maximize their skill set, it’s time to delegate.

“Every day, especially in the real estate industry, there are time challenges, deadlines, due dates, and ever-happening ‘shock collar situations’ that come up,” says Terri Murphy, president and master level coach of Terri Murphy Communications. “So having a resource in place helps keep the operational excellence of efficiency and profitability on track.”

Murphy has written several books, including Terri Murphy’s Listing & Selling Secrets and the forthcoming Smart Women/Smarter Choices – 10 Tips to Work Smarter and Not Harder.

Trust the Process

Many brokers and managers are used to getting the job done on their own. Though they may have mentors or coaches to help them build their businesses, most of the time brokers are focused on maintaining their businesses without much help. Still, delegation can help a broker scale or manage stress. Murphy notes that despite the benefits of delegation, many leaders struggle to trust its outcome, and “in the case of real estate, the broker or manager is ultimately responsible for the outcome or shortcoming,” making it difficult to let go.

Murphy maintains, though, that if a broker can overcome the fear and trust issues, “delegation is one of the most underutilized options many brokers make, especially women.”

What to Delegate

Now that you’re ready to trust the process, it’s time to figure out what to delegate. So you know what can be handed off and to whom, Murphy suggests, first break down tasks into the following categories:

Licensed or unlicensed tasks: By dividing tasks that require a license and those that don’t, you minimize risk. “The Code of Ethics is clear on what can be delegated for unlicensed activities,” she says. Any real estate leader delegating certain tasks should check the National Association of REALTORS® website, which offers a list of State Statutes and Regulations for Unlicensed Assistants in many states across the country. Tasks that generally require a license include hosting open houses, showing properties, interpreting information on listings, titles, contracts and the like, and any task regarding negotiation.

Administrative tasks: These are mostly straightforward, standard tasks, like giving general information on properties. These tasks could also include scheduling meetings, setting up spaces for in-person training sessions or meetings, sending out event reminders, making copies or printing documents, etc.

Marketing: If you’re a brokerage that does not have an in-house marketing team to create graphics, sales sheets, signs and social media posts, outsourcing this kind of work can free a large chunk of time.

As-needed outsourcing: Sometimes, you don’t need extra help all the time, but welcome it on an as-needed basis. Certain busy times or situations call for extra hands. If you’re delivering holiday gifts or have a staffer out on vacation or medical leave, the extra help can come in handy. In many cases, hiring an college student who needs an internship or a contractor for a limited project can make the difference.

Whom to Delegate To, How to Handle Mishaps

When McDonnell first began hiring people to delegate her tasks to, she focused on whether or not she liked their personalities, choosing people who were similar to her. She’s a fan of the DiSC assessment and was trying to find people who matched her characteristic profile. The personality test uses four behavioral characteristics to help people understand how they operate in the world and the workplace: dominance (D), influence (i), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C).

“On the DiSC profile, I’m like a dominant social influencer. I’m a really good time,” she says. Though she likes to socialize and have fun and thought having people around her who liked to do the same would make it easy to get along, she realized that finding people with the same personality type wasn’t quite working for delegation, because still nothing was getting done.

Coming to understand that she needed somebody very detail-oriented who could follow instructions, McDonnell hired someone who had a “C” personality. That person has been working alongside her for 20 years now. At first, she was worried about personality clashes, but she quickly learned that her new hire was teachable and helped her stay accountable.

Many tasks can be done without a presence in the office, too. Marketing, accounting and scheduling can all be done remotely in most cases, and a virtual assistant could be the answer.

There are times, of course, when things don’t always go as planned, and leaders need to be open and ready to rectify the issue so it doesn’t happen again. For the times when the delegating goes wrong somehow, that’s when McDonnell chooses open communication to address the issue.

“You try not to blame. I take responsibility myself for stuff,” she says. “I blame the situation. My discussion is about where did the disconnect happen.”



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