5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team, With James Dwiggins the CEO of NextHome

Be the leader you want the rest of your team to be… in other words, lead by example. Instead of just telling people what to do, jump in on…

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Be the leader you want the rest of your team to be… in other words, lead by example. Instead of just telling people what to do, jump in on a project and do it with them. When your team sees that nothing is beneath you within the organization, you’ll earn the respect of everyone in your company and you’ll inspire them to do amazing things. Your people will end up driving the success of your company.

I had the pleasure to interview James Dwiggins the CEO of NextHome

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading the company?

Pentagram is a world-renowned design firm that created and developed the NextHome branding. I remember during the creation of our brand, Luke Hayman — a partner in Pentagram and the lead Creative Director on our project — pitched the idea of having a “company mascot”.

When Luke pitched this idea, I especially felt that it was going to come off corny or even silly. I remember when I addressed this concern with him, he put me through an exercise that made me better understand the emotional connection consumers have with brands. He asked me, “What do you think of when I mention Geico, Coca-Cola or Budweiser?” After a bit of a pause, I mentioned a Gecko, Polar Bears, and Clydesdale Horses. He smiled, and I said “Okay, maybe you’re right.”

This taught me that trust is key with any relationship.

After agreeing to have Pentagram provide ideas around the mascot, and after many revisions, we ended up with a final version of the French Bulldog mascot. Our team thought the mascot was super cute, but we not certain it would catch on.

Now, the French Bulldog has caught on like nothing we could have ever expected. Whether our mascot is featured on a balloon or on the cardboard cutouts placed near our listing signs, people LOVE the dog.

This was a great lesson learned. It taught me that trust is key in any relationship, including trusting those you work with. Our entire NextHome team believes this to our core.
 Oh, and of course I should mention that we named the mascot Luke.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

Every Monday morning, our Senior team sends an email update out to each other to illustrate the projects that are being worked on that week in their department. These updates include ongoing major projects and the status of each. This approach helps each of us know what the other departments are currently working on.

We then meet for one and a half hours to discuss topics that require management decisions. Each officer is given 12 minutes to discuss these topics with larger discussion topics being moved to the end of the meeting. At the end of the first hour, these larger discussion items are addressed during the final 30 minutes of the meeting. Our Senior officers then meet with each department’s mid-level management to relay the decisions that have been made. That information is then deployed to all employees across the company to help synchronize everyone.

In addition to our weekly updates, we also hold a monthly company-wide all-staff meeting to discuss our team achievements and challenges from the month prior to demonstrate what we have been able to accomplish as a company. Each department presents these topics in front of the entire team to help create synergy of achievement and work towards the same company goals. We even reward team members who have had the best testimonial from a client.

Ultimately, ongoing transparency in communication is crucial in assuring teams are synchronized and effective.

What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?

With over 300 locations nationwide, staying connected with our colleagues, or NextHomies rather, remains a priority on the list. The key to being connected to all members is through the deep relationship we have with our brokers and franchise owners. Our NextHome agents make a willing choice to work with these talented leaders at their individual locations. Therefore, when the local leaders pass ideas, information, suggestions, and standards to these agents, they really do take it to heart.

Whether the communication occurs via company-wide videos, emails, training sessions, webinars or face-to-face office visits, communicating valuable information to our individual agents is crucial so buyers and sellers are receiving every product and service we provide.

We also create an environment where franchise owners and brokers are heard and can openly share ideas. Our teams know that any and all suggestions do not fall on deaf ears. An example of that is how our Broker/Owner Fall Retreat came into fruition. The retreat is a voluntary two-day event where we ask franchise owners, brokers and managers to come together and work on best practices for successful brokerages and to create a place for them to share ideas with the Corporate team.

Standards and expectations are important. However, knowing why we have those standards and expectations is critical. Our team works very hard to have a clear explanation and reasoning behind each and every decision we make at our company, and we believe our franchisees respect and like the transparency we provide.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

When people ask what my secret to early success is, I always answer it the same — our people. You can have the best products or services, but if you have the wrong people in your company who truly do not love what they do, believe in the cause or care about the goals we’re all working towards, your company will never reach its fullest potential and your employees will not thrive in the organization.

When some team members care, and others do not, it creates an uninspired environment, causes internal conflict and does not allow the employees and company to thrive to its maximum potential.

More importantly, when you have great people, be sure to take care of them. A large portion of a company’s operating costs should be allocated toward the growth of your employees. You must work with each of them to determine paths for financial growth within the organization, provide benefits for them and their families, hold culture building events to make the team closer and provide extra perks so they are certain to feel valued and cared for. Treat them like your family.

My final advice would be to truly figure out what you want your company to be, then decide who the types of people are that will get you there. Stick to those character traits and principles you know the company needs. Hire people that share the same goals and vision and choose people with personality types that will make it happen. Be slow to hire and quick to let go of people if they’re not a good fit. Trust your gut and don’t settle for people who only have a portion of the characteristics you’re looking for. One bad apple can make it worse for everyone within your organization.

Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?

I don’t completely agree that “most times” employees quit their managers, but I do believe that to retain great talent, you need to have a path for every employee in the organization to vent or discuss conflict they might be having with their manager. Let’s face it — this is a slippery slope because people’s egos can get in the way if someone below them went higher up the food chain to complain about something.

One thing I’ve implemented recently is to not only meet with our Senior team over lunch each month, but also our mid-level managers within our organization. I ask them what I can do better to help them in their position or create a better working relationship to achieve the company goals. They know they can be open with me and I’ll take it to heart and figure out how to make things better for us, or their department. I find that when they see this kind of leadership, they’ll mimic these same traits with their team, creating a better working relationship. This simple approach helps reduce conflict between managers and employees.

Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

1.) Be the leader you want the rest of your team to be… in other words, lead by example. Instead of just telling people what to do, jump in on a project and do it with them. When your team sees that nothing is beneath you within the organization, you’ll earn the respect of everyone in your company and you’ll inspire them to do amazing things. Your people will end up driving the success of your company.

2.) Be humble, open and honest. Your team will trust and respect you more when you leave your ego at the door, are honest and willing to own your mistakes. Nothing is worse than criticizing someone for a mistake they made and not owning yours. There is simply no faster way to kill synergy amongst your team and destroy your company culture.

3.) Create an environment where your team can talk to you about anything. You must have open lines of communication, and allow your team to voice their concerns, even if it’s about you. If it’s done correctly, you’ll get tremendous loyalty from your people and you’ll end up hearing some of the best ideas to grow your company.

4.) Don’t micromanage your team. Help show them what to do, but let them run with it and be able to ask you questions along the way. They’ll certainly make some mistakes and it’s ok. Let them learn from those mistakes, own fixing it and grow as an individual. They’ll be better leaders in the long run and help drive the same mentality down to each of their team members. A company where everyone feels inspired each day to drive the company forward will succeed faster.

5.) Don’t forget to have fun with your team outside of work. Get together for company BBQ’s, invite their families, go to dinners, have cocktails together. Bonding with your team outside of work shows them you’re human and allows you to connect personally. There is no downside to creating stronger relationships with your team.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I recently traveled to London and one of the things I found fascinating was how the local communities gather at museums and art galleries. Not only were kids and families everywhere, but they would study history, art, sculptures, have picnics on the lawn, or even swim in the pools in some cases. So much of the world has little access to art, history, or places to gather and learn about other cultures that I believe it’s part of what causes people to be so divided. In Britain, access to most of these museums and galleries are free, which is why they become a central hub for everyone to learn about and enjoy each other’s company. In my opinion, this is a model for all societies to follow so we can have more humanity in the world. I would love to create a movement that preserves and teaches the history of all cultures, but also makes all of it accessible to everyone in a place people want to gather.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be the kind of leader you would follow”. I’ve made many mistakes in my career that caused my previous companies to not be as successful as they could have been. In the past, I was cocky, arrogant, and wasn’t much of a team player which only uninspired people, and slowed the company from achieving its goals. And it’s truthfully something I continue to work on each and every day of my life. What I’ve learned over the past four years, is that I’m just a tiny cog in a very big wheel of people who inspire me to be better each and every day. If you can realize that, as well as become more humble, patient, and caring, not only will your job be more rewarding, but you’ll create deep meaningful relationships with your team and success in your organization comes much quicker. A great leader should be out front pulling your team to success and leading by example. Nobody is inspired by someone who sends their troops in battle, while staying behind.

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