Marc King: How to Lead Your Team Effectively During a Down Year

Marc King - Director of Growth, Keller Williams | August 26, 2020

Like you, when I think back to January 1, this wasn’t the year I imagined. Between the uncertainty of a global health crisis, the fluctuating economy, and pursuits for social justice, one theme reigns supreme: shift. This year has brought pain and uncertainty even to the most seasoned of leaders, but even in the darkest of times, we have to move onward. 

When life brings unexpected dips, here are six leadership practices to put into play. Collectively, they will help you build a healthier, happier, and more resilient team. 

Know the Signs of a Disengaged Team 

Like anything, the sooner you catch the signs of a disengaged team, the sooner you can course-correct and establish your plan of action. Early warning signs can look like anything from team members being slow to respond to messages to missed meetings. To notice, you must stay in tune with those around you and be visible, now more than ever. That means switching phone calls to video calls to improve your social skills and emotional intelligence. Without being plugged in, you’ll be late to responding, identifying, and addressing the root of the issue.  

Don’t Make Long-Term Decisions During Stressful Moments 

In today’s constantly shifting business, political, and social environments, new challenges are brought to the surface followed by high-stress moments. It can feel tempting to act expeditiously to move past the discomfort, but short term, emotional thinking often leads to poor decisions that can last a lifetime.

When I think back to all the poor decisions I’ve made, they were always made during high-stress moments, whereas the best decisions were made when I was calm and level-headed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a breath, reach out to a trusted peer, and remember the moment will pass. The people you lead have entrusted their careers and dreams to you. Now is not the time to be making life-changing decisions. 

Build Up Your Emotional Bank Accounts

During challenging seasons filled with fluctuating stressors, we have to connect with our team members more frequently to build up our emotional bank accounts. This means setting aside time in the day to perform care calls, dedicating the beginning of every virtual exchange (Slack / text / email / video conference) with: How are you? How is your family? And – actively listening. 

Every time we show we genuinely care through action, we make deposits to our emotional bank accounts with those we lead, which over time become full enough to allow for more direct and, at times, difficult dialogue. 

Opt for Radical Candor Over Ruinous Empathy 

In the book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, author Kim Scott highlights the idea of ruinous empathy – caring so much about an individual’s feelings that we avoid having direct conversations. As business leaders, we’ve all been there. But when we decide to live in ruinous empathy, there are long-term implications, which are especially prominent during a down year. For example: if you have an underperforming individual but you’re unable to have a compassionate and frank conversation about their performance for fear of hurting their feelings, other team members will have to put in more work, which will add unecessary layers of stress and frustration to your team. 

Instead of ruinous empathy, we should steep our leadership in radical candor – a concept coined by Scott. 

“To have good relationships, you have to care about others as human beings. It’s not just business; it is personal,” she writes. In our world, radical candor is following through with our care calls, creating environments of emotional bravery, and telling people with compassion and honesty when they are falling short of their potential. It’s the ultimate form of care. 

Stay Centered on What You Can Control 

There are a lot of things that compete for our attention and energy as leaders. Similar to the concept of The ONE Thing, we have to center ourselves and focus on things within our control. Here are three questions that bring me back to center:  

  1. What am I doing that if I stopped doing no one would notice? These are things that may be filling your day, but not contributing to your team. 
  2. What am I not doing that if I started doing could dramatically improve my team? Maybe it’s making space for more social interaction or performing an additional hour of care calls. 
  3. What am I doing well in the area of leadership that I need to do more of? Always make time to celebrate your successes and wins. 

Keep Your Mission in Mind

Do you have a personal mission statement? If not, now is the time to create one. A mission statement will keep you motivated during the highs and lows of leadership. 

Because of the way I grew up – which has included both poverty and homelessness – my mission is: To challenge the limited mindset of a predetermined destiny. It allows me to see the promise in every day. While this certainly has not been the year we anticipated, all of us get to choose how we live and show up. We’re either preparing ourselves and our people for opportunity, or we’re robbing them from it.

Choose the former and you will be able to lead your team through anything.

About Marc King

marc king headshot

Marc King is President at Keller Williams Realty International (KWRI). A teacher and leader at heart, Marc is passionate about helping people succeed which is evident in his expansive, 18-year career at Keller Williams. During this time, he has had the honor of being: 

  • A Black Belt Team Leader, inducted into the Team Leader Hall of Fame (bringing over 2,000 agents into the company)
  • An investor in nine market centers
  • A KW MAPS Coach to multiple KW regions and 100-plus market centers
  • An operating principal of top-performing market centers in the Greater Heartland Region

When he isn’t busy pouring into others, he enjoys spending time with his family and reading. His favorite books include:

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  • David O says:

    Great message Marc!

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