Get comfortable using your voice and leverage the support that your team provides. You don’t need to know the answer to everything. Use those around you as mentors and delegate to the superstar team that you’ve assembled. The bottom line is, no one can do it on their own and it takes a great team to make a great leader.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sue Yannaccone.
With nearly two decades of leadership experience in franchise management and real estate brokerage operations, Sue Yannaccone assumed the role of regional executive vice president of the Eastern Seaboard and Midwest regions of Coldwell Banker® / NRT in 2018, overseeing the sales operations of 239 offices. A mentor and advocate for women in real estate, she is involved in Realogy’s women’s employee resource group and the founder of the What Moves Her series within the CB Women initiative across the country each of which encourages women to pursue their goals, whether they seek leadership positions or choose to run brokerage teams.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Growing up, I moved around a lot and I believe that left me intrigued by the idea of what “home” meant, and how important it is to the feeling of well-being and stability. I always had a feeling I would end up in real estate. “Home” is such an important part of our lives, and having family in the industry, I naturally gravitated into the commercial side before realizing how much I loved the residential aspect too.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Recently at a conference, a woman approached me to ask advice on how to expand her team. She had been in the industry for years yet didn’t know where to find that support. I connected with her during my “off time” to discuss what her end goals were, what steps she was prepared to take, etc. It was so rewarding to help her to not just define her goals in a way she never had, but to reach them. Since then her business has been on an upward trajectory and I periodically check in and am thrilled to see her success. I see how difficult it is to know where to go or how to even ask for help, yet it can be the most important thing you can do for yourself.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I’m really proud of Coldwell Banker’s CB Women initiative. We support women in real estate by promoting leadership development, representing shared values and providing resources to develop leadership capabilities. We host a number of events where leaders in real estate share tools and strategies to help women be successful in real estate, whatever their path or role. In January, we launched the What Moves Her campaign as part of the larger initiative within the Coldwell Banker brand to spotlight women who are leading in their companies, businesses, and communities. As part of the initiative, we produce a regular series of CB Women podcasts. So many exciting aspects of the initiative are still to come, and we’re ready to elevate the voices of women in real estate!
What do you think makes Coldwell Banker company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are many ways Coldwell Banker stands out. We’ve been in the business for 114 years and our sales volume speaks for itself but it’s really our people that make us different. From our leadership to our agents to our office managers, we really care about individuals and helping them find homes. The support that comes from the company across the board is really incredible and leadership is always finding ways to help others reach their goals. We lead with people and heart and that’s what has made an impact on the industry.
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? Can you share a story about that?
Somany people have helped me along my journey and I have to thank each of them for where I am now. It’s interesting, in my career I’ve never directly worked for a woman. That has helped fuel my desire to want to help elevate women into leadership roles. The people who inspired me the most were those who challenged me and stood behind me when they put me into those leadership positions. I wanted to work hard for them because we had a mutual sense of respect for each other. I never wanted to let them down because I know they would never let me down.
The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women-dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20% of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
Afew things are at play here. One is a legacy view of women in the industry. In some rooms, there still remains this idea that women entered it as a part-time career or a way to get into business while they were still home with their kids. The industry at large has been slow to realize that it’s so much more than that today for women.
Another is that if we look at the recent lists of top brokers in this country, it happens to be all men leading the game. We have a lag in diversity in top industry leadership at a time when there’s a true need for diversity in the room. It takes companies like Coldwell Banker and those leading the CB Women effort to make the noise — for a long time there was silence within a sea of sameness.
There’s also a reality that there is a huge number of women not choosing to elevate to the highest profile roles because they’re seeing success in their current roles — agent, team lead, manager, broker/owner. It’s a difference of opinion on how to define Women in Leadership because there are many leaders at every level, but it’s a matter of making sure those who wish to rise to the very top don’t face a glass ceiling in getting there.
What 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
It’s all about education, awareness and willingness to prioritize diversity. All three should be held accountable.
Companies need to open opportunities for every qualified candidate and watch out for unconscious biases that might unknowingly influence business decisions.
Coldwell Banker’s CB Women and Diversity in Ownership programs give us a ground floor to build upon. And support from the top is key — Coldwell Banker President and CEO Ryan Gorman as well as Realogy CEO Ryan Schneider support our diversity programs that take concrete steps to foster diversity and not just be a company saying they’ll help.
It goes well beyond checking the box. When you demand a diverse slate of candidates, lean into the discussions and dialogue and attend education events, that’s when things change. Participate in groups like NAHREP, NAREB, NAGLREP and AAREA! Don’t be satisfied “checking boxes” or assuming they are checked by others, be proactive in your journey to grow and change.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women in my experience tend to have a more negative internal dialogue and often try to be more apologetic for the multi-faceted aspects of their lives. This can taint the view that others have for them as leaders. We need to own all of our different roles as women, and listen to ourselves when it comes to how we will define our path of leadership. Women also tend to be the default parent or caretaker in many relationships, it can be a lot to balance. Often, I see women don’t take as much risk as men do, yet they set bars for themselves that are unrealistically high. Maintaining realistic goals is crucial along with confident risk taking.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
- The limitless opportunities that abound the industry continues to excite me
- The tremendous momentum for challenging the status quo and ensuring that we are leveraging all we have to drive a more efficient and exponentially more meaningful transaction experience for both agents and consumers.
- The idea of a return to quality. The industry is demanding more today, in terms of tangible results and value. Coldwell Banker is focusing on providing support to agents to grow and achieve those limitless opportunities.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
The fact that so few women are leaders at the highest levels in the real estate industry concerns me, and it’s the central reason behind why we began the CB Women initiative. Bringing tangible ideas of change is the first step in reforming the industry.
As discussed earlier, the lack of diversity as well continues to be an area we need to improve on as an industry. This is not just within the levels of leadership, but ensuring that the principles set forth in the Fair Housing Act are lived by all. That requires commitment to education and to the industry and federal regulations which exist today and have for over 50 years.
All in all, this is an amazing industry that provides the most valuable thing — home — to so many people each and every day. There are always ways to improve and we are at a pivotal time in our industry and focus is right where it should be: on leading the charge through diversity & inclusion, holding true to our core values, leading in an ethical way and earning the trust of our customers each and every day.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Befearless. Get comfortable using your voice and leverage the support that your team provides. You don’t need to know the answer to everything. Use those around you as mentors and delegate to the superstar team that you’ve assembled. The bottom line is, no one can do it on their own and it takes a great team to make a great leader.
You are a “Real Estate Insider.” If you had to advise someone about 5 non-intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
Resiliency: Losing a listing or a deal is part of the job, you need to be able to move on to the next without missing a beat.
Maintain a growth mindset: Always be growing through education focused on learning what is driving today’s consumer and how that can apply to your business.
Create an agile business: The market is fluid and the pace of change is undeniable, create an agile business model that can flex as needed.
Emotional Intelligence is critical: This is a relationship-based business and the ability to understand your client’s perspective, without taking on all of their emotions, will prove invaluable as you help them navigate the transaction.
It isn’t as easy as it looks on TV: This is an exceptionally difficult business with tremendous opportunity, the sky is the limit but you must be willing to put yourself out there and work hard.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Tome the CB Women initiative is a movement I hope will inspire others. The movement will inspire women to challenge themselves and give them actionable advice to get to the next level. This is not just cheering on women for women’s sake — its inspiring action and encouraging everyone to take risks and be fearless in pursuit of their dreams.
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