Management By Walking Around the Country: A Leadership Best Practice Expanded

Management by walking around—a long-praised leadership best practice—typically refers to the practice of walking around an organization to interact with stakeholders in their environments. As you can imagine, this concept works well in single-location operations. It gets a little more complicated when you have multiple locations.

But when you work for a real estate franchise company with 600 offices and 15,000 brokers and agents across the country, it brings the conversation to a whole new level. In fact, I have even renamed the practice to “management by walking around … the country.”

In the last five years as president and CEO of ERA Real Estate, I have traveled more than 350,000 miles to walk on the front lines with our customers. It may seem like a lot of miles, but when I came on board with the brand in 2009, I thought the best way to get acclimated was to hit the road. I embarked upon what I called the “stop, keep and start” tour to meet all of our franchisees. Over the course of hundreds of meetings with brokers, I found out what they thought ERA should stop doing, keep doing and start doing.

“When I came on board with the brand in 2009, I thought the best way to get acclimated was to hit the road.”

That feedback significantly informed our strategic direction and set us on a course that has brought us to present day. The process also reinforced why management by walking around is still a leadership best practice.

Our guiding principle at ERA Real Estate is that our customers should believe they are better off with us than without us, and regularly visiting customers in their local markets helps us deliver on that principle.

As you might expect, I’ve had plenty of time to think about this during my travels. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Getting out there is just the beginning. Yes, committing to in-person visits is critical to engagement because it literally opens the door to building a relationship and offers perspective and insights that help formulate an overall strategic plan. But after walking around, you must also be available on the phone, on email, and even on Facebook to keep the conversation going.
  2. All work and no play doesn’t work. One of the things I truly appreciate about the ERA community is being able to share in their passions. Real estate is definitely one of them, but I have also gained tremendously from the times I have spent golfing, fishing, boating and camping with our customers. I make it a point to know all I can learn about camping from so that I know only use the best products and always have something new and interesting to contribute during discussions on camping. Getting to know our customers in both a business and personal setting has paved the way to an open and direct dialogue that strengthens our relationship to drive improved business results.
  3. Sound strategy requires front-line execution. One of the major outcomes of my travels was recognizing the need to renovate the ERA brand from the inside out to remain relevant to our customers and provide them with the best tools to help fuel their growth in an ever-evolving industry. That brand revitalization culminated this year with the introduction of a new logo and brand identity. Because our strategy was informed by our customers, we have had great success in activating the new identity across the country.

Management by walking around the country has its perks: frequent flyer miles, fishing trips and new friendships. But as a leadership practice, it also provides a forum to tap into the diverse perspectives and experiences of our brokers and create a culture of inclusion and engagement that fosters further success. As a result, we as a brand have collectively positioned ourselves to meet the needs and exceed the expectations of the next generation of real estate agents and their buyers and sellers. All aboard!


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