When a few of the advisors on my team were asked what effective leadership and team engagement meant to them, several common themes emerged: frequent communication, approachability and accessibility, motivation, accountability, a hands-on approach and truly caring about team members.

As Managing Director of Colliers’ Greater Toronto Area Brokerage practice, I work closely with senior management – Dan Holmes, Executive Managing Director, GTA; Peter Garrigan, Managing Director, Industrial, GTA; and Scott Addison, President, Brokerage Services, Canada – and I oversee the region’s team of advisors who are in the first five years of their commercial real estate and Colliers careers. This group specializes in any one of the following asset classes: office, industrial, investment and retail. I have the responsibility and privilege of mentoring these vibrant, ambitious and engaging professionals, coaching them on prospecting, presenting and pitching, business pursuit and more, and ensuring they have the tools and resources they need to succeed in this competitive industry.

I began my first day at Colliers four months ago, right at the time the majority of the workforce had begun working from home – and for the first three months, I engaged with my team and management without any face-to-face interaction. In the last month, our offices started reopening so I’ve been able to start meeting people in person for the very first time, after only having seen them virtually for every interaction! There are 41 advisors in my team.

Managing and Mentoring with a Difference

Upon being first faced with this atypical work arrangement the pandemic had presented, I asked myself: “How is this going to work now?” Considering the options and technology available to me, I decided to tackle the situation with a combination of my leadership style and lots of one-on-one Zoom, Teams and Skype calls – and “went for it”.

I was especially pleased, and relieved, to learn that my approach – and my team’s views on – leadership and team engagement, align. The way I see it, be it in or outside of the office, in a group or individual setting, in-person or remotely, the previously mentioned aspects of leading and coaching apply – and make a real difference.

The most important thing I have found is that managing and mentoring a team involves helping every individual attain their highest potential, and it is less about tying them to a specific job description, checklist or timeline, and more about inspiring them to reach for the stars. My goal is to encourage and equip them to overcome hurdles their jobs or the industry may put in front of them, and dare to dream. I am very fortunate that the management team at Colliers has also inspired me to strive to new heights.

I’ve learned that particularly with advisors, drive and engagement come from within. And so I work with each of my team members in finding their inner spark, igniting it and fueling it into a fire that drives their engine – and success.

Hidden Benefits of Remotely Managing a Team

While virtually managing a team has its setbacks, it also has some hidden benefits. In the past few months, I’ve observed that meeting someone for the first time on a video call seems to remove a layer of inhibition: The scenario works like an equalizer, making way for both parties to fully focus on the conversation and talk more candidly. In this environment, team members and I cover more ground and get to know each other better by asking thoughtful questions, actively listening and making a commitment to action items we discuss.

Achieving a Significant Goal in a Virtual Environment

I can say my team and I have been effective at connecting, literally and figuratively, via virtual technology. We’ve built rapport and trust, created a productive, positive team environment and achieved some lofty goals, including one I’m particularly proud of: upping our CRM usage.

Upon first joining Colliers, I was immediately struck by the quantity and quality of proprietary data contained in the company’s CRM. I’d used other CRMs in my previous jobs, but none as sophisticated and comprehensive as Colliers’.

I advocated for my team to use CRM to its full potential, demonstrating its benefit to building and growing their business. Business development involves effectively managing one’s time, along with a staggering amount of information. Next-level prospecting involves not only reaching out to contacts, but also researching and tracking critical information. CRM helps on all these fronts.

While I was vocal about the merits of CRM and maximizing it for day-to-day client and business interactions, I also asked for the team’s feedback on what they needed to get out of the database. Taking their insights and with the intent to further motivate them to use CRM, I worked with Neven Bradasevic, Manager, CRM, Canada, to create a CRM dashboard that shows for each team member the number of deals, phone calls, appointments and building walks they have completed in a given month, in comparison to their peers.

Driven to grow their business and innately competitive, advisors have responded positively, which in turn has led to a dramatic increase in the team’s CRM engagement: Between February and the end of June, the team’s CRM usage jumped from 54% to 78%. As well, in June, 62% of first-year advisors contributed information to CRM.

Key Factors in Fostering Team Engagement in a Challenging Time

My team’s “CRM victory” is a result of our connection, combined efforts, commitment towards a common goal, and yes, our competitive spirit. It is also an indication of the professional successes we can achieve despite the obstacles our current work arrangements may throw our way.

While team engagement can indeed be a challenge during this time, it also most certainly can be fostered and strengthened. Engagement that makes a difference is about getting to know your team on in an intentional and genuine level. There has to be trust. It warrants leading by example, fully understanding the tools and concepts empowering or hindering the team, soliciting feedback and collectively working towards solutions, and showing you really care. I have found these factors to be key to team cohesion and success, even in the most difficult times, and I know you will too! This is a time that is ripe with potential and reward.