Don’t lose touch. You should have effective communication platforms and strategies in place to stay connected. We use a variety of communication channels including email, Slack, and of course, lots of video. We find that our teams need a certain level of face-to-face communication, and video calls seem to work.
As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kuba Jewgieniew.
Kuba Jewgieniew is the CEO And Founder of Realty ONE Group, one of the more rapidly growing real estate franchisors. The company was created with a 100% commission model, an emphasis on culture and unique branding, and a system of partnered and proprietary tools and technologies for franchise owners and real estate professionals.
Jewgieniew is from Polish-born parents who immigrated to the United States. He became the first in his family to graduate from college and earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics degree from the University of California San Diego (UCSD). After college, Jewgieniew had a lucrative career as a financial adviser and portfolio manager, while building computer hardware and software programs in his spare time. He then changed his focus to real estate. In his first year as an agent, he closed 111 transactions and more than $30 million in sales before deciding to start his own brokerage.
He launched Realty ONE Group in 2005. The brokerage was based in Las Vegas, NV, and had 250 agents and $102 million in sales by the end of its first year.
Jewgieniew continues to lead the company as CEO and Founder, and is involved in everyday operations, as well as every aspect of growth and development including branding, marketing, franchising, training and operations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When I put my mind to something, I’m all in, which is why I became a top producer in my first year in real estate. The problem was, I gave away a large portion of my commission and I remember literally thinking, “don’t mess with my check!”
This was the idea that drove me to start Realty ONE Group, and you’ll still see that messaging throughout our marketing. It wasn’t necessarily about the money, it was about giving real estate professionals every opportunity to advance their careers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the first managers I hired in Las Vegas always showed up polished in a suit and tie. Once I was looking for a pen and couldn’t find one, so I quickly opened his desk drawer and a bunch of candy bars came flying out, scaring the heck out of me! That reminds me to this day to not to take yourself too seriously.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Every morning, we choose the right mindset that sets the tone for the rest of our day. I recommend avoiding the news, especially right now, and even checking emails first thing in the morning. Every new day starts with a mindset to win! I begin each morning practicing gratitude with my family, and that sets the tone for everything we do that day.
And, I know a lot of people often say it, but I really do encourage spending lots of time with family and friends, doing the things you love. It gives you a fresh perspective on the job, and reminds you why you do what you do, and what matters most.
Work hard. Stay humble. Treat each other well, and the rest will come.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?
Realty ONE Group real estate offices are set up to support busy real estate professionals who are always on the move. We provide a lot of systems and services that help them do a lot of their business virtually and on mobile devices. So, it makes sense that our headquarters staff and teams have the same capability.
For me, it’s always been about finding the right people and building the right teams to keep this company growing and thriving. In the last few years, we’ve built an incredible Executive team with several key professionals who live remotely. Now, the leadership team is basically all remote, living in different cities across the country.
Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?
№1: Don’t lose touch. You should have effective communication platforms and strategies in place to stay connected. We use a variety of communication channels including email, Slack, and of course, lots of video. We find that our teams need a certain level of face-to-face communication, and video calls seem to work.
№2: Don’t work too hard. We constantly emphasize a nice, healthy work-life balance with our employees. We know that some of our employees tend to work harder at home since it can be more difficult to “unplug,” and there’s less in-office, casual communication. So, it’s even more important for them to take breaks, get outside and even make plans to socialize with family and friends (when appropriate, given the current pandemic).
№3: Prioritize and manage your time wisely. We also make sure that we help our teammates, however we can, with prioritizing work and managing their time, keeping tabs on them through project management platforms, and with regularly scheduled meetings. But working from home allows a certain amount of flexibility that we want our employees to enjoy. Some of our teammates work better in the late evenings, while others are early risers.
№4: Challenge of email/text/Slack communication. Working remotely means we depend even more on emails, text and messaging which can be widely misinterpreted. We encourage our team members to call if they should need to clarify messages. A quick phone call can do the job.
№5: Maintain good habits like regular exercise, drinking plenty of water and eating well to keep you motivated and energized.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?
I think it’s important to set a precedent with your employees that honest, constructive feedback is valued. With that, leaders must be ready to listen and understand the varying personalities of people on their teams. But it’s true that constructive feedback can be even more difficult when you can’t meet in person. Again, we try and use video as often as possible, and at minimum, conduct phone calls for this. We follow up any conversation with written emails that allow us to give greater details and be objective. We’re finding this to be very effective.
Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
We recommend starting with positive feedback — the things that the team member has been doing well and any recent wins, and then follow with constructive feedback. Again, this must be constructive, giving them direction on the ways they can improve and meet expectations. Before wrapping up, we recommend asking for their feedback in turn, clarifying any questions and then ending on a positive note.
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
Working remotely as a team, at times, means you need to overcommunicate. Our teams check in at least once, if not more, every week on an all-team video call. We rely more heavily on our project management systems to make sure we’re hitting deadlines and meeting milestones. And, we encourage team members to ask questions immediately to help them move forward. If it feels like a more complicated subject, question, or even response, it’s best to just pick up the phone and have the conversation.
Again, because our Realty ONE Group offices were set up to support busy real estate professionals on the go, we’ve had a very smooth transition to being fully remote during the pandemic.
What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
We created our company to have a very dynamic Coolture (Cool + culture) so that it could withstand any fluctuations in the market or economy, and we’ve only seen it strengthen during this time. Not only are we all still working, but we’ve focused in on ‘seeing’ each other and our entire network of real estate professionals through daily and then weekly Town Halls and special events. Our intimate teams host happy hours as a way to still get ‘together,’ share, and enjoy each other personally.
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. :-)
To stay closer connected in the communities where we live, work and serve. To be better brothers and sisters to our neighbors, and make a positive impact in people’s lives. We’re able to achieve that across 44 states with Realty ONE Group
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Avoid the drift. No lazy river!
Thank you for these great insights!