Saturday, January 19, 2013

Leadership without PowerPoint / DTZ Annual Real Estate Outlook / Team, Team, Team / Customer Service

To My Loyal Readers:
I apologize to those of you who did not receive last week’s column on a timely basis – as well as those of you who received it twice (or more).  This should not happen again as I’ve moved to a new server.

This week I’ve come across some very interesting pieces in The New York Times.  As a public service I’d like to share an excerpt with you hoping you too will find something of value.

Leadership without ‘PowerPoint’

The Business Day page of The Times (1/12/13) included an interview with Dinesh C. Paliwal, chairman, president and chief executive of Harman International Industries, called “Trying to Stop Office Politics in Its Tracks.” It’s worth checking out.  Here’s my favorite part:

Q. Other important leadership lessons for you?
A. I have learned that leadership is all about demonstrating and exuding confidence. One of my former bosses used to say: “There will always be uncertainty in your life, doubts about yourself, about the decision you’re about to make. Keep it inside. Process it. But don’t let it show on your face. You need to come out with a confident but simple description of the problem and tell people a simple three-step process for how we’re going to get out of the problem. Because they need to know that the leader is in control.”

Q. You mentioned the importance of simplicity.
A. That same boss told his direct reports: “Whenever you’re going to talk to investors, to management, to the board, or at quarterly meetings, I want you to write it first. It may be five or six pages. Then I want you to write one page. Then I want you to write half a page.” He used to say he hated PowerPoints: “Where is the power and what’s the point?” He also would say to us, “If you cannot explain it to me without slides, you haven’t understood your problem.” That still resonates with me.

And these quotes resonate with me too!  I thought you might appreciate them.

DTZ Annual Real Estate Outlook

Thanks to Steve Gardner of DTZ for inviting me to attend their 2013 Annual Real Estate Outlook.  A group of sophisticated real estate people, chatting over coffee, agreed that 2013 was going to be a good year for commercial real estate.  As we’ve been observing, some of "The Next New Thing" in commercial real estate investing is finding hidden gems of markets and properties - the ones that not everyone and his brother feel compelled to own - and buying at the right price.  But, as one of DTZ’s senior researchers stated, “When an economy is in recovery every boat doesn’t float at the same time.”  This suggests that, more than ever, solid research and analysis of deals is paramount in the decision-making process. When the economy is in good shape, and it feels like “everything is coming up roses,” the thorns just aren’t as visible. 

Team, Team, Team

While also a direct quote from one of my favorite films, “Hoosiers,” teamwork seems to be the mantra for so many firms today.  Sound simple?  Well, not really. Teamwork, just like any corporate behavioral trait starts at the top. 

I experienced a small example of team play last night when I went to sit in on a long-standing music jam at the home of a good friend.  He’s been inviting me for years and last night was the first time the stars aligned.  The group has been getting together regularly for a really, really long time and you know what it feels like to walk into a situation where you’re the ‘new guy’ right?  But these guys made me feel comfortable right away.  They welcomed me as part of their band, their team. And, as the evening turned into the morning we got more and more comfortable with each other. I listened and joined in where I felt I could add another dimension to the song.  And the more they heard me, the more they encouraged me to step out in front and take some solos (Thanks guys!).  

Teams, by their very nature, are complex:  dynamics of different personalities; insecurities that manifest themselves in less than constructive ways; petty jealousies.  You know what I’m talking about.  We’ve all been there.  But imagine, just imagine, taking a deep breath before going into your next team meeting, walking into the room with a smile on your face and peace in your heart.  Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Well, you can make a difference in your next team meeting by being the change that you wish to see on your team.  It’ll take time but your ‘new’ approach can be contagious and, no matter what your position on the team is, you can make a difference.  

Customer Service

Several recent and varied service experiences warrant documentation.  First, I had been using a service for my blog offered by a well-known search engine company.  It was free and it served my purpose.  Last week, however, it didn’t.  I had no idea why my blog was not delivered and was troubleshooting the problem every which way.  I discovered that others had written in their blogs about this same company basically abandoning this free service without telling anyone, even their own ‘customers.’  Amazing. That service provider, from what I can now tell, does not offer customer service of any type.  And, they own their space.  Go figure.

Now for two dramatically different first-time restaurant experiences….  At one, our server (conveniently named Steve) turned what could have been a not-so-good experience into one that will have us going back again (and have been talking about since!). It involved ordering a bottle of wine and how, while admitting that he wasn’t well-versed on the wine list, he did everything possible to accommodate us.  We recognized his sincerity of intent and appreciated his instinctive efforts to please us. We were ultimately happy with our wine selection, had such a good experience, and a good meal to boot. We will definitely be dining there again.  

Now the other…It was only 6 p.m. and the restaurant was quite empty. We were offered a table with the understanding that we had to finish in 90 minutes or less. Already ‘put off’ as we were surrounded by empty tables, hunger took over so we stayed. Our ‘server’ immediately came over and asked us if we were ready to order.  Aren’t you first supposed to ask if customers want a cocktail or beverage?  We ordered drinks.  But before they had even arrived he was back again. “Are you ready to order?” After he asked us for the third time, I told him that I would signal to him when we were ready.  Was he taught to handle himself that way? Neither of us would ever go back to this restaurant again.  Do they even care that we would not be going back?  In this case, the service was so poor that I didn’t even want to take the time to comment.  

In every type of service business we must, repeat must, remember that we have only one opportunity to make a first impression on a customer.  And that first impression will last.  How do you want to be remembered?

This nameplate stood proudly on the desk of the receptionist at an office I visited this week. The 'Director of First Impressions' told me herself that the company's former CEO brought this back from a business trip.  Apparently this struck a chord with him and he needed to share it with his own organization.  The receptionist said that so many people comment on this title.  I wonder how many people actually understand the lasting impact of the first impression.  Do you?


John Faust joined JPMorgan Asset Management - Global Real Assets. John is now Managing Director and Client Portfolio Manager - Real Estate.

On the road…

Jan. 25:  Columbia Business School and Goodwin Proctor Annual Real Estate Capital Markets Conference, New York, NY

Jan. 30 - 31:  NAREIM (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers) Asset Managers and Acquisitions Winter Meeting, Dallas, TX

Feb. 20 - 21:  IPD (Investment Property Databank) U.S. Investment Property Forum / Launch of the PREA / IPD U.S. Property Fund Index, New York, NY

Feb. 27 - Mar.1:  NCREIF (National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries) Winter Meeting, Phoenix, AZ

Mar. 12 - 14:  MIPIM (The World’s Property Market), Cannes, France (Tentative)

Apr. 9 - 10:  PERE (Private Equity Real Estate Magazine) Global Investor Forum, Los Angeles, CA

Apr. 28 - May 1:  CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) Mid-Year Meetings, New York, NY (To include a studio jam with the CRE Rock Band, Sound Counsel.) 

June 4 - 5:  PERE (Private Equity Real Estate Magazine) Summit Europe, London, UK

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