Leadership means convincing others to step into the unknown – without a guarantee of success – in the pursuit of something better. One major challenge: navigating the discomfort of pursuing new, untested ideas.
Julie Benezet, founder and managing principal of Business Growth Consulting, LLC, is no stranger to the unknown. After all, she built Amazon’s first global real estate organization and is credited with the strategic planning and delivery of over 7 million square feet worldwide along with the supporting corporate infrastructure in just two years. At NAIOP’s CRE.Converge 2017, she shared her insights on bold leadership in the keynote session, “Navigating the New: Leading and Succeeding in the 21st Century.”
There is much to be gained by stepping into the awkward space that can lead to great new ideas and initiatives, Benezet said. It’s what helps separate management from true leadership.
“Leadership,” she said, “is having an idea and bringing people along to make it happen.”
Change is constant in today’s business environment, and commitment to companies, careers and providers is conditional. “Competition for ideas, capital and talent is agnostic and global,” Benezet said.
Examples of the facing the unknown in commercial real estate:
- Entering a blighted market where land is cheap but paying tenants are hard to find.
- Restructuring your team to move someone into a senior leadership position.
- Meeting the new CEO of a key client who thinks brokers are useless since rental rates can be found online and they have lawyers to do deals.
- Starting a conversation with someone who scares you to death but whose brain power you desperately need to get you unstuck.
- Telling a business partner goodbye after he screwed up again, costing you major money.
Instead of trying to power through an unknown territory by sheer force of will, “open up your aperture to the broader experience,” Benezet said, and you might realize what factors are truly at play below a surface issue or situation.
An example: A financial report is behind schedule. Possible reasons behind the project’s delay may not be visible from the superficial perspective; maybe the person who puts it together knows no one reads the report, and they feel unmotivated to complete it on time. Or there may be a company culture of “shoot the messenger,” so the finance person doesn’t want to be the one to deliver any bad news. It pays to look deeper – and wider – at the problem to see what’s really happening and how it can be addressed moving forward.
Benezet shared four mileposts to help move through discomfort:
- Get comfortable with the scariness of risk – including reaching out to “unknown” people in the pursuit of goals instead of always turning to friendly or “known” people.
- Watch out for self-sabotaging behaviors, including micro-management, personalizing and conflict avoidance.
- Find drivers to give you fuel – something that gives you purpose, either in the moment or as a core value.
- Pursue dreams to make life better – whether you are looking to satisfy your customer, team or community.
To be a leader in the 21st century, Benezet said, “Give yourself permission to be a little less cool; allow yourself permission to go into the awkward phase and go and do great things.”
Marie Ruff is Communications Senior Manager at NAIOP.