Leadership Insights from Diana Shin
2020 was extraordinary in every sense of the word. While the year ranged from “unprecedented” to “wtf,” it was also remarkable to witness th
You just arrived at the office (back when you could), and the owner of your company calls you into his/her office and asks you to close the door. He then says: “I have an opportunity for you if you would take it on. It isn’t glamorous and is a bit off the normal course of business and you will get no extra compensation for it other than visibility in the community.” Have you ever been asked to take on a project that had no direct benefit to you immediately and at that moment you couldn’t really see its long-term benefits? How did you react?
Since August 2019 I have interviewed 35+ industry leaders in the Washington DC area for my podcast, “Icons of DC Area Real Estate,” who deliver that “extra” to their business and their companies and it is why they are so successful. In almost every case, the leaders have shared either stressful or challenging situations where they and their team have been “called” to prevail when circumstances were dire, and the decisions were very tough. Real estate, by its very nature, is a “long game” and the successful leaders in the business understand that concept, not only in their investments of time and physical resources but in their people. Taking well-conceived risks on major undertakings, like a large mixed-use development project, often takes more than project experience and quality input from a good team. It requires an inner calling that what you are doing is the right thing because there will be moments when decisions are difficult, and delays are inevitable. Those times require an inner strength that comes from a “calling.”
Early in my career at the B. F. Saul Company, I was a mortgage banker who represented life insurance companies and our compensation was primarily based on loan production. My boss at the time asked me to handle “affordable housing” investments that were a fraction of the size of our typical transactions whom our largest investor, Aetna, was providing with no extra compensation for us other than community recognition. The amount of work involved was equivalent or even more time consuming than more lucrative commercial lending business. I took on the responsibility without really understanding the implications, yet I felt an inner sense that it was the right thing to do. Some people with a long-term perspective might see this as a tremendous opportunity, even though on the surface it looked like a burden. They would look at the opportunities to meet new people and provide a benefit to the community and thereby creates a better image for the investor, the company, and themselves in the community and perhaps uncover new clients. Others might think it is just an “opportunity cost” to have to bear that offsets time that could be spent on more productive opportunities. After closing three of these affordable projects, I realized that my instincts were right, and this was a productive effort in the grand scheme of business and an important part of giving back to the community. Understanding this intuitive obligation may be challenging initially, however, here is a context of how you might consider it as a real estate professional:
Often times in your career there will be “callings” to do a little extra. Those can come either from introspection where you sense that doing a bit more is your “code” or from an unknown source that opens your eyes to how your “little extra” means so much to others. Next time you are asked to do something or even in your normal course of business, stop and consider: Is this my calling and how should I respond? Take time to decide whether it resonates.
John C. Coe
Principal, Coe Enterprises, LLC
ULI Washington, Advisory Board Member
ULI Washington, YLG Mentor
In ULI Washington’s new Leadership Insights column, ULI Washington will regularly feature member leader’s thoughts and insights as we adjust personally and professional to a “new normal.”