5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team, With James Dwiggins the CEO of NextHome

Be the leader you want the rest of your team to be… in other words, lead by example. Instead of just telling people what to do, jump in on a project and do it with them. When your team sees that nothing is beneath you within the organization, you’ll earn the respect of everyone in your company and you’ll inspire them to do amazing things. Your people will end up driving the success of your company.

I had the pleasure to interview James Dwiggins the CEO of NextHome

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading the company?

Pentagram is a world-renowned design firm that helped us create the NextHome brand identity. While working with them, I remember Luke Hayman — a partner at Pentagram and the lead Creative Director on our project — pitched the idea of having a company mascot.

I felt a mascot was going to come off corny or even silly. When I addressed this concern with him, Luke put me through a simple exercise that helped me better understand the emotional connection consumers have with brands. He asked me, “What do you think of when I mention Geico, Coca-Cola or Budweiser?” After a short pause, I answered a gecko, polar bears, and Clydesdale horses. He smiled and I said, “Okay, maybe you’re right.”

After lots of ideas and many revisions, we ended up with the orange French Bulldog mascot. Our team thought the mascot was adorable, but we were not certain it would catch on.

To day, the French Bulldog has caught on like nothing we could have expected. Whether our mascot is displayed on a balloon, a polo shirt or as a cardboard cutout next to our listing signs, people LOVE the dog.

This was a great lesson learned. It taught me trust is key in any relationship, including trusting those you work with. Our entire NextHome team believes this to our core.
 Oh, and I should mention we named the mascot Luke.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

Every Monday morning, our senior team sends an email update regarding ongoing projects within their department. We then meet for one and a half hours to discuss topics that require management decisions.

Each officer is given 12 minutes to cover these main points with larger discussion topics being moved to the end of the meeting. Our senior officers then meet with each department’s mid-level management to relay the decisions that have been made. That information is then deployed to all employees across the company to help synchronize everyone.

In addition to our weekly updates, we also hold a monthly company-wide, all-staff meeting to discuss our team accomplishments and challenges from the previous month. Each department presents these topics in front of the entire team to help create an atmosphere of achievement and work towards the same company goals. We also reward team members who have had the best testimonial from a client.

Ultimately, ongoing transparency in communication is crucial in assuring teams are synchronized and effective.

What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?

With over 300 locations nationwide, staying connected with our colleagues, or NextHomies as we lovingly call our members, remains a high priority on the list. The key to being connected to all members is through the deep relationship we have with our brokers and franchise owners. Our NextHome agents make a willing choice to work with these talented leaders at their individual locations. Therefore, when the local leaders pass ideas, information, suggestions, and standards to these agents, they really do take it to heart.

Whether it occurs via company-wide videos, emails, training sessions, webinars or face-to-face office visits, communicating valuable information to our individual agents is crucial so buyers and sellers are receiving the best possible experience.

We also create an environment where franchise owners and brokers are heard and can openly share ideas. Our team knows that any and all suggestions do not fall on deaf ears. An example of that is how our Broker/Owner Retreat came into fruition. The retreat is a voluntary two-day event where we ask franchise owners, brokers and managers to come together and work on best practices for successful brokerages and to create a place for them to share ideas with the corporate team.

Standards and expectations are important. However, knowing why we have those standards and expectations is critical. Our team works very hard to have a clear explanation and reasoning behind each and every decision we make at our company, and we believe our franchisees respect the transparency we provide.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

When asked about our secret to early success, I always give the same answer — our people. You can have the best products and services, but if you have the wrong people in your company who do not love what they do, believe in the cause or share the same goals, your company will never reach its fullest potential and your employees will not thrive in the organization.

When some team members care and others do not, it creates an uninspired environment, causes internal conflict and does not allow the employees or the company to thrive.

More importantly, when you have great people, be sure to take care of them. A large portion of your company’s operating costs should be allocated toward the growth of your employees. You must work with each of them to determine paths for financial growth within the organization, provide benefits for them and their families, hold culture-building events to bring the team closer, and provide extra perks so they are certain to feel valued and cared for. Treat them like your family.

My final advice would be to truly figure out what you want your company to be, then decide on the types of people who will get you there. Stick to those character traits and principles you know the company needs. Hire people that share the same goals and vision and choose people with personality types that will make it happen. Be slow to hire and quick to let go of people if they’re not a good fit. Trust your gut and don’t settle for people who only have a portion of the characteristics you’re looking for. One bad apple can make it worse for everyone within your organization.

Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?

While I don’t completely agree that “most times” employees quit their managers, I believe that to retain great talent you need to have a path for every employee in the organization to vent or discuss conflict they might be having with their manager. Let’s face it — this is a slippery slope because people’s egos can get in the way if someone below them went higher up the food chain to complain.

One thing I’ve implemented recently is to not only meet with our senior team over lunch each month, but also our mid-level managers within our organization. I ask them what I can do better to help them in their position or create a better working relationship to achieve the company goals.

They know they can be open with me and I’ll take it to heart and figure out how to make things better for us, or their department. I find when they see this kind of leadership, they mimic these same traits with their team, creating a better working relationship. This simple approach helps reduce conflict between managers and employees.

Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

1.) Be the leader you want the rest of your team to be. In other words, lead by example. Instead of just telling people what to do, jump in on a project and do it with them. When your team sees nothing is beneath you within the organization, you’ll earn the respect of everyone in your company and you’ll inspire them to do amazing things. Your people will end up driving the success of your company.

2.) Be humble, open and honest. Your team will trust and respect you more when you leave your ego at the door, remain honest and willing to own your mistakes. Nothing is worse than criticizing someone for a mistake they made and not owning yours. There is simply no faster way to kill synergy amongst your team and poison your company culture.

3.) Create an environment where your team can talk to you about anything. You must have open lines of communication and allow your team to voice their concerns, even if it’s about you. When done correctly, you’ll get tremendous loyalty from your people and you’ll end up hearing some of the best ideas to grow your company.

4.) Don’t micromanage your team. Help show them what to do, but let them run with it and be able to ask questions along the way. They’ll certainly make some mistakes and it’s alright. Let them learn from those mistakes, own fixing them and grow as individuals. They’ll be better leaders in the long run and help drive the same mentality down to each of their team members. A company where everyone feels inspired each day to drive the company forward will succeed faster.

5.) Don’t forget to have fun with your team outside of work. Get together for company BBQ’s, invite their families, go to dinners, and have cocktails together. Bonding with your team outside of work shows them you’re human and allows you to connect personally. There is no downside to creating stronger relationships with your team.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

On a recent trip to London, one of the things I found fascinating was how the local communities gather at museums and art galleries.

So much of the world has little access to art, history, or places to gather and learn about other cultures that I believe it’s part of what causes people to be so divided. In Britain, access to most of these museums and galleries is free, which is why they become a central hub for everyone to learn and enjoy each other’s company.

In my opinion, this is a model for all societies to follow so we can have more humanity in the world. I would love to create a movement that preserves and teaches the history of all cultures, but also makes it accessible to everyone in a place where people can gather.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be the kind of leader you would follow.” I have made mistakes in my career that caused my previous companies to be less successful than they could have been. In the past, I was cocky, arrogant, and wasn’t much of a team player which uninspired people and slowed the company from achieving its goals. Truthfully, it’s something I continue to work on each and every day.

What I’ve learned over the past four years is that I’m just a tiny cog in a very big wheel of people who inspire me to be better each and every day. If you can realize that, as well as become more humble, patient, and caring, not only will your job be more rewarding, but you’ll create deep meaningful relationships with your team and bring success to your organization.

A great leader should be out front pulling the team to success and leading by example. Nobody is inspired by someone who sends their troops in battle, while staying behind.