Category Archives: Industry Experts

Why you shouldn’t care if your coach isn’t a top producer.

Originally written on December 29, 2010 and published to

A tale of two quarterbacks:

Mike was a solid high school quarterback, but considered undersized
once he moved on to college. A hit from another player almost killed
him and his career as a quarterback quickly came to a close. Mike
became a coach. He started as an assistant coach in the college ranks
and eventually made it to the NFL where he worked as a quarterback’s
coach, an offensive coordinator and finally, a head coach.

John was a superstar quarterback in high school and college. He was
the first player drafted in the Quarterback Class of 1983 and ended
his career as the winningest quarterback in NFL history, and MVP of the
back to back World Champion Denver Broncos.

Throughout most of John Elway’s best years in the NFL, Mike Shanahan
was his coach.

Personally, I don’t care if the people who coach me are top producers.
I want them to be top coaches.

REALTOR® Influence; This is for effect


Rumor has it that Pierre L’Enfant designed Washington D.C.’s network of streets to disorient foreign leaders (or their troops) as they moved throughout the city. Of course, once they got to the Capitol, there were all those stairs to walk up as well. This is for effect. By the time a foreign leader has made his or her way to the offices of a senator or house rep, the city and its buildings have already begun to influence, impress, or even intimidate that leader.

tcardcFor years, the National Association of REALTORS® rented an office on K Street to accommodate their government advocacy staff. This neighborhood is where most lobbyists can be found, so it made sense at the time. But NAR wanted to own, and they also wanted to build a landmark that would give NAR a higher profile and better visibility (literally) from the halls of Congress. They eventually found a small, triangular lot by the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and First Street. The location is literally steps from the Capitol. So close in fact, that the Secret Service has closed the office’s roof deck during high profile events.

D.C. has various building codes that limit the height of office buildings, essentially guaranteeing that the Capitol overshadows all. NAR built right up to the limit. In addition the primary conference/event room within the building is located on the top floor, facing the Capitol. When you walk into this room it actually feels like you are looking down on the Capitol. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t help thinking,

“this is for effect.”

NAR hosts networking parties and meetings in this space all the time. Members of congress often attend. When the conference table is set up, those congressmen and women have seats reserved that face the window. Imagine sitting in NAR’s office and looking down on your own. It’s all very impressive, but a member of congress doesn’t even have to visit the building to be impressed by it. It’s so close that you can see it from the grounds of the Capitol. NAR discreetly etched the block R into the glass of the building. There is no doubt who owns it.

All of this to leave one very deliberate impression: We are here.

The building is a symbol of NAR’s commitment to defending the agenda of homeowners and the real estate industry. Want to advance a bill that cuts the MID? We’re here to talk to you about that. Want to impede on homeowner property rights? We’re here for that too. Want to talk about GSE reform? You whoo, we’re right over here. Every day, NAR’s government affairs team meets with congressional leaders and executive administration staff. Most of what they do is behind the scenes, but don’t mistake it for doing nothing. Because NAR’s agenda is bipartisan, they find themselves aligning with different sides of the aisle at different times. Grandstanding about a bill they just killed is not an option when they know they will need to work with the sponsors of that bill in the future.

Because they don’t talk about this stuff, they get more done. Unfortunately, the lack of communication about NAR’s lobbying activities also leads members and industry pundits to question the association’s effectiveness. This criticism has come to a boil of late as Zillow has made some very impressive moves in the public sector.

I think it’s awesome that Zillow is doing events like these. It’s one of those differentiating factors that separates them from their competition. But the competition is Trulia, not NAR. Zillow is doing a public service by hosting these events, but don’t mistake the events as a serious policy discussion. Serious policy discussions never happen in public. I hope Zillow continues to hold these events, but I also hope NAR continues to do the heavy lifting, even if it is behind the scenes.

How to be perceived as a thought leader

From Wikipedia:

A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. The term was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine Strategy & Business, and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas which merited attention.

thoughtleaderBefore moving forward, I think it’s important to concede that being a thought leader doesn’t necessarily translate into being a successful leader in general. This is a post about influence, not leadership. For those who want to influence decision makers, here’s my advice:

Stick your neck out.

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. – Winston Churchill

In whatever arena you wish to be seen as a thought leader, you have to express your own opinions. You don’t need to be argumentative for the sake of arguing, but you do need to express opinions that you know some people are going to disagree with. You have to take sides on popular issues, encourage discourse, and predict the future.

Don’t try to win every argument.

Perhaps you made a speech, or wrote a blog post that espoused a certain opinion that generated some public disagreement. You may choose to engage in discourse with those who disagree with you, but the longer you go back and forth with them, the more everyone else watching the discussion will feel you are being defensive. Confidence in your own opinion is often best expressed when you stand by your original statement in the face of dessent.

Focus on the ‘why,’ not the ‘how.’

The leaders you are trying to influence probably didn’t become leaders by doing everything themselves. Most of the time, they farm out the ‘how’ to middle management. What they need is your expert opinion on ‘why’ things they are the way they are. Let them develop their own strategy to address it. How-tos (like this post) have their place, but should not be the focus of your communications.

Refuse to be the face of your sales team.

As your company launches new products and services, they may ask you to be the one to personally evangelize them. Try not to do this. Make the sales manager the face of the sales team and elevate your public role in the company as more of a big picture thinker. Write about the ‘why’ for potential future products before they launch, then let your sales team reference those visionary statements when the actual solution goes to market.

Make sure your employer or board is comfortable with your status as a thought leader.

If you want to be viewed as a thought leader, you will also need to convince your boss it’s in the best interest of the company. Build a strategy that aligns your goals with the needs of the organization. Sell your own company on your value as a thought leader before you take that message to the public.

Photo: Creative Commons license via Flickr user: Dell’s Official Flickr Page