Re-evaluate your goals. While this pandemic has impacted many large aspects of our lives and businesses, try to use the extra time at home to identify your goals and sharpen your skills to reach those goals. For Coldwell Banker, this crisis has given us the momentum to accelerate our plans for increasing diversity and inclusivity in the industry. There’s always time to sell homes, but the time to take further action for equality in housing is now, so we’ve shifted our focus to work towards that.
Leave your mark. Doing our part to help others and do good for the world is a core value for the Coldwell Banker brand. When we return to a normal world one day, what will you look back on and feel proud of from this time? Take time to make an impact and pay it forward in any way that you can.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Liz Gehringer, chief operating officer at Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. She oversees the brand’s growth, field service, operations, talent attraction, international and commercial teams. Having been a part of Realogy leadership since 2006, her combination of operational, franchise and legal experience, as well as her proven ability to build a world-class program from the ground up, uniquely position her to drive strategic growth within Coldwell Banker Real Estate.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Before working in the real estate industry, I was in the car business working for Ford Motor Company and then practiced law at a litigation firm. I made a move to work as an in-house lawyer and in 2006, I was offered the role of Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer at Realogy, the parent company of Coldwell Banker. I couldn’t pass it up. I’m very proud of what my team and I were able to accomplish during my time in that role, including recognition for our company’s cultural and programmatic approach to ethics which eventually led to my current role as Chief Operations Officer with Coldwell Banker. Getting to where I am today required stepping out of my comfort zone many times, lots of collaborative teamwork, gathering learnings from each position, and saying “yes” to new opportunities.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
Had I been asked this prior to the pandemic, I may have shared a different story, but I have to say that leading my teams through COVID has been my most interesting experience to date. As soon as the lockdowns were enforced, Coldwell Banker immediately shifted gears to figure out how to keep our entire network safe, and how to conduct business remotely. I was so impressed by our team’s ability to adapt quickly through working virtually and launching initiatives to offer guidance to anyone in the industry, including live townhalls from our President and CEO Ryan Gorman.
We also supplied business-to-business guidance to our affiliates on what to do during a crisis. We provided them with information about the crisis, from the latest data and CDC guidelines to how to apply for government aid. And we counseled them on topics like how to keep their people safe, what procedures they need to fulfill and how to guide a company through hardship.
Once we were on track in a different but effective way, we were able to service our clients and keep business going. I am amazed at what we were able to accomplish as one big team and believe that we can get through anything after seeing how we adapted to the pandemic.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
There are two very exciting growth market projects being worked on within Coldwell Banker right now to empower communities of all kinds. For women, we’ve been working to expand our What Moves Her campaign. During the pandemic, we started a virtual online series called “Portraits of What Moves Her” for women in the industry to listen to discussions with influential female guests about all different topics relevant to the challenges women face today. Additionally, Coldwell Banker recently launched its Inclusive Ownership program, which is an initiative to increase the representation of ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQ+, and veterans in the real estate industry; from agents to leadership roles. Equal representation has always been a top priority for Coldwell Banker, but now more than ever it is crucial to take impactful action.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
The person I am most grateful towards getting me to where I am today is my Mother. As I reflected on her life, and mine with her, I realized that she never told me what to do. Instead, she always helped me realize my choices and how to approach them. She conducted herself beautifully; full of kindness and can do. She was hard-charging, accomplished and admired by many for helping them with their careers. Our living room was a regular gathering place for people of all ages and issues seeking a guiding chat with her.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
What’s been challenging for me since the start of the pandemic is being physically present, yet absent. What I mean by that is that COVID has blurred the somewhat typical structure of working in an office. Now that we are working from home, children and spouses and pets wander by, expecting us to be able to give them our full attention. They are used to us being available when we are with them and now we have very long days and many nights of not being very available, yet being visible. I think it creates a new kind of unavailability. Also, many team members and customers need empathy and listening more than ever as many have faced illness, loss and business challenges.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
What I’ve found to be a solution is acknowledging the challenges, talking about them and relaxing into the needed blend of work and home. As much as I’d love to work in the kitchen all day, where all of the coffee and food and natural light is, I can’t focus in there when my family wants to be in there too. Letting certain areas be available to the whole family, while saying we all need some peace and quiet for work and studying has been very helpful. Meeting on the porch for coffee or the deck for dinner is a great way to regroup, and getting to see and know my team’s family and pets through virtual meetings is a COVID silver lining. We’ve all drawn closer that way, making time to think about and listen for each person’s highs and lows and challenges on the home front is a new part of teamwork.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
As a woman, I think we thrive off of overcoming obstacles — and when taking on the obstacles of COVID, we entered totally unchartered waters. I think all leaders, no matter which gender, faced the challenge of not knowing what to do next when things were so uncertain at the beginning of the pandemic. At Coldwell Banker, my biggest concerns were the mental health of each of my employees and for business to go on successfully. Finding the balance of demonstrating my very real concern while prompting us to continue to tend to our business was an interesting challenge. We did that, and our business was ready to reopen, having been nurtured throughout.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I’ve found that having empathy has been key in addressing the challenges at work. To make sure each of our employees was in a good headspace, we made sure to connect in as many ways as we could. I immediately started holding daily meetings to touch base and check in on how everyone was doing. We also made an effort to go the extra mile in building culture by doing virtual book clubs, Netflix review discussions talks about challenges we’ve faced in COVID and any other sessions we can have to just be with each other. Through those activities with our employees, work has become a much more personal experience. We’re learning about each other’s lives, families and even pets as well as their passions while becoming mindful of each other’s hardships. I’ve made sure to bring my entire self to work so that other people feel okay doing the same thing. I come as a leader, a mother, a wife, a friend and a listening ear. We’re trying to make sure everyone is comfortable doing that. I feel so much closer to my team through this time, and our methods to connect are no longer just a balance, but a rhythm.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Put your family first by figuring out their pressing needs. If they are school age, determining their schooling schedule and teaching needs is critical. With some fundamentals like that in place, you move on to balance the rest. My advice for balancing working from home with the needs of a family is to have flexibility. For many of us, there’s a unique opportunity to not have to work the same set hours every day. Being open about what you have going on in your life for schooling or elder care, whatever it may be, and being able to work around it makes things a little easier. If you can, try to give yourself both flexibility and boundaries. We need time to focus on work, but we also need time to unplug and unwind so we don’t get to a point where we’re completely burnt out and not effective.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
On top of yoga, gardening, biking and walking, I actually bought myself an hourglass to use in the mornings. If I don’t force myself to stop and switch off, the hours become blurred and I end up working way longer than I should. With the hourglass, I’ll sit down, flip it, and allow myself to do personal things — whether it’s sipping on my coffee, reading a book, doing some writing, playing with my dog or anything that’s mind-opening and just for me. It’s an old-fashioned way to literally “unplug,” during which I don’t use my phone as my guide. Without the hourglass, I’d dive right into my computer and start working first thing in the morning, so it’s really been effective for me. However you unplug, I suggest using anything that represents a countdown or separation for you — maybe just a different space to use to do whatever you want before or after working.
In addition to my hourglass method, I’ve found that having allies has kept me sane. Whether it’s a work best friend, personal best friend or your partner or sibling, having that person who totally “gets” you and being able to talk to them whenever is so important. It’s my instinct to cheer people up and solve every problem they mention to me, but sometimes I need someone to bring me up or level me out, so having a support system has been crucial in staying positive, venting about challenges, and definitely having a laugh at it all when needed. Which is frequently!
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Find the silver linings and focus on them. Many things are out of our control, but focusing on what you can control and especially what you can appreciate during challenging times helps to keep a positive mindset. New aspects of your business may be thriving.
- Re-evaluate your goals. While this pandemic has impacted many large aspects of our lives and businesses, try to use the extra time at home to identify your goals and sharpen your skills to reach those goals. For Coldwell Banker, this crisis has given us the momentum to accelerate our plans for increasing diversity and inclusivity in the industry. There’s always time to sell homes, but the time to take further action for equality in housing is now, so we’ve shifted our focus to work towards that.
- Realize your strength. As easy as it may have seemed to just give up and close when times got tough, so many people and businesses pivoted their plans and grew through the challenges. No one was prepared for the difficulties brought on by this pandemic, but we’ve reinvented our service delivery and that is a strength in itself.
- See the good in people. It’s been amazing to see how many people have stepped up and given back during this time; including many Coldwell Banker brokerages and agents who have given back to their communities in remarkable ways through making masks, bringing food to healthcare workers and families, and even providing wi-fi to children without access to it. We started a campaign called #CBGoodNews to spread those stories which have been so heart-warming.
- Leave your mark. Doing our part to help others and do good for the world is a core value for the Coldwell Banker brand. When we return to a normal world one day, what will you look back on and feel proud of from this time? Take time to make an impact and pay it forward in any way that you can.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Many people are isolated and lonely right now. Try to reach out and stay in touch with your family and friends that you can’t be with during the pandemic; whether it’s through a Zoom call or FaceTime or any method to connect. Sending anything unexpected, like a hand-written letter or small bunch of flowers can truly brighten a day.
Within my own household, we try to keep a positive mindset by shutting out negativity when we can and focusing on our good health and a brighter future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. I’ve always loved that quote, but never has it been more important to live by than right now, when so much action needs to be taken in our world by each of us. There is a lot of call for change, and it’s important to not just be a critic, but be a participant.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!