Instead of waiting, act and take control of the circumstances
Bartłomiej Annusewicz, CEO of Lions Estate, on the role of a team leader in times of a pandemic and active leadership in the most demanding real estate market.
Quality: The pandemic surprised everyone. It was no different in the real estate industry. How would you summarize this period from the point of view of the managing director of Lions Estate?
Bartłomiej Annusewicz: At the beginning it was a time of great unknown for all of us. The first weeks were a time when it was necessary to build morale in the team, keep motivation and faith that together we will be able to go through this difficult period. We closed our office and switched to full remote work before the government announced the first national quarantine. Due to the epidemic, many transactions were suspended. Foreign customers canceled their visit to Poland. We all had to find new ways of working. Ultimately, we succeeded, but initially it was a huge challenge. Instead of a passive ‘waiting-out’ attitude, we focused on active, comprehensive activities. In our case, difficult circumstances made us more determined to achieve our goals. As a result, 2020 was the year when we doubled the number of our team members and conducted record transactions.
Quality: What was the most difficult moment of the pandemic for you and your team?
B.A.: I think its beginning. Unawareness of what awaits us. First of all, just like others, we were concerned about our health and that of our loved ones. The inability to work normally, the ban on leaving home or holding meetings had a negative impact on the well-being and morale. Equally worrying was the uncertainty of what awaited us in the coming months and how the pandemic would affect our lives, economy and industry in the long term. The most difficult thing for the team was finding itself in the new reality, quick adaptation, changing ways of working and staying motivated.
Quality: What is the recipe for getting out of such a difficult situation unscathed? What specific actions have you and your team taken?
B.A.: We quickly introduced all the necessary procedures that the situation required of us. Starting with completely remote work, both with clients and all company meetings, we have moved to the online space.
Online team meetings created a space in which, in addition to discussing current issues, we could integrate the team and maintain morale. They have become a kind of mutual support for us.
Even at the beginning of the quarantine, we took care of maintaining contact with our clients. As trusted advisors to people who sell, buy or rent real estate, we felt obliged to ensure their comfort and that they would not feel lost in new circumstances. We have prepared a series of newsletters in which we provided specific information on the current state of the market, customer feedback and attitudes, and forecasts for the coming months. Interestingly, from the very beginning, we recommended our clients to be calm, not to succumb to panic and not to postpone, for example, purchasing decisions. Ultimately, it turned out that we were right. The market did not collapse, prices did not fall. Thanks to us, many of our clients have bought real estate at attractive prices.
In addition, our advisors kept in touch with their clients, offering expert knowledge and advice. It was much appreciated. We heard many words of appreciation and gratitude that we did not leave our clients alone.
Quality: How would you describe active leadership in a pandemic? What are the most important steps a leader should take during such troubled times?
B.A.: For me, active leadership is above all a constant action resulting from the sense of responsibility for others, my attitude in life and the will to overcome. Leadership is about actively facing circumstances and taking control. In every situation there is something you can do, something you can influence. And that’s what you need to focus on.
In our case, these were actions both in relation to clients, for whom we wanted to provide comfort, security and access to expert information. And above all, a number of activities with regard to my team, which overnight found itself in a new, difficult situation. I knew I had to take care of it, give it a goal, and pass my faith in success. Setting specific tasks and tangible goals made it easier to manage time and maintain commitment. At each weekly online meeting, we defined a new task plan and activated agents’ activities building and developing relationships with customers. It paid off! As soon as people got used to the new reality and the restrictions were reduced, our involvement resulted in a huge amount of transactions.
Quality: What areas are the most important for you in the context of work in the covid19 era?
B.A.: In addition to the previously mentioned areas related to team relations and those with our clients, it was extremely important to quickly adapt to work in new conditions. We have moved all our activities so far to the online sphere, starting from business meetings, to real estate presentations or finalizing transactions. Clients appreciated the flexibility of the agents and their professionalism, which is why we have carried out many transactions, especially leases, in this way.
Quality: You mentioned how important it is in such difficult times to maintain morale and commitment in the team. How did you as a leader motivate and build your team in the pandemic?
B.A.: In addition to weekly online meetings where the entire team exchanged their experiences and insights, I had many one-on-one interviews with agents every day. Most often I did it while walking around Miasteczko Wilanów, where I live. I think that during this time, wandering all possible paths, I did a lot of kilometers. I tried to devote the most time to those who were worst about the situation. We created individual action plans giving the opportunity to complete the transaction – if not now, then in some time. I felt responsible for the morale of my team members and wanted to make sure that they had full support from me and the company. I have drawn many conclusions from these conversations.
B.A.: First of all, I understood how huge a challenge it is to manage such a large team on your own. I realized that such a model is ineffective. I felt that my people deserved the best quality support, better than what I could offer them myself. I took action quickly. With the help of a business psychologist, professor Mariusz Jędrzejko, we outlined a new organizational structure and carried out the restructuring process in the company. We quickly selected new leaders from among our team and, before assigning them to teams, we organized a tailor-made training “Effective Manager of Lviv – Lions Management Academy” conducted by the renowned business coach Maciej Martowicz. Thanks to this, working in smaller teams, they could more effectively support, motivate and provide advice to their pupils.
In this difficult time, we did not passively wait for what fate would bring. We actively took control of the situation by introducing many processes to improve our work.
Quality: Where do you get your motivation from?
B.A.: I have an internal imperative to act. I can do nothing, sit and wait. I am like a shark, I have to keep moving. What else motivates me? Dreams. Dreams that I transform into goals for which I draw specific plans and then implement them. In every area of life, I am also motivated by observing the development: mine, company, people with whom I work. I like seeing progress and my dreams come true. I am also motivated by overcoming barriers and all limitations.
Quality: What, in your opinion, characterizes a good leader in difficult times? What’s the recipe for success?
B.A.: A good leader must be an integral person. He must say what he thinks and do what he says. It is about the attitude to life in every dimension, not only in business. Regardless of the circumstances, the leader must set an example. I believe in being active, taking control of the circumstances and being fully responsible. Quoting Jocko Willink from the book “Extreme Leadership” is about “total appropriation” of a situation, challenge, problem, responsibility for everything.
In the current volatile situation, more needs to be done to ensure success. Nobody can guarantee our success. We must create our own chances for success by constantly looking for opportunities and taking the initiative. These are the main reasons that guide me. Ultimately, nothing works like action.
THANK YOU FOR THE CONVERSATION!