Anyone Can Hold the Helm When the Sea is Calm

Mortgage and Lending with Guaranteed Rate, Marin County, CA NMLS: 22343

Anyone Can Hold the Helm When the Sea is Calm


If your business is anything like mine, COVID is presently dishing out challenge after challenge to the way you (used to) work.  If it hasn't already driven many nails into the coffin of the way things were, then I'm willing to bet you're within earshot of the hammer.  If you've had time to collect your thoughts and countenance reality, you may have even begun to think about how biz will look in 2021, 2022 or beyond.


Many of us, in real estate careers we have built over years or decades, have assumed a form of de facto leadership.  We likely have staff that report to us and certainly we have clients to manage and lead through the complexities that even an ordinary real estate transaction can impose.  People referred or returning to us have come to rely on us commensurate with our experience, good judgment and history of positive results.  Yet even for the most seasoned of pros, there comes that day when we are just sailing along, minding our own store, and a real problem arises.  Because of our intuition, most of us would admit we can usually sense trouble before it truly gets momentum and in turn, this is usually the point at which we begin, on levels subtle and overt, to mobilize...


...or not.  As I have observed leadership during this same pandemic above, I am keeping a close eye on how it is being managed.  Or not.  Where it has faltered and failed, I have discerned these lessons below, to use and reinforce in my own life and practice:


Don't Ignore the Problem

Perhaps one of the first and worst responses to a rising sea is to pretend that it's not rising.  Those who have a nose for the wind can tell when a storm is brewing --- long before the gales are whipping through the sails.  Denial, wishful thinking and hope are bad strategies.  Historically over my career, I have felt less anguish for the times that I have been needlessly overcautious versus the times that I have been deliberately, negligently or lazily unprepared.


Don't Make the Problem Worse

Once a troublesome situation has developed, the next worst thing you can do is set in motion a pattern of dishonesty.  Small lies lead to bigger lies but eventually and inevitably they all crash into the truth.  Part of our job as professionals is to use discretion and specific judgment.  This often manifests itself as the careful framing of a situation.  After all, we're not going to rush out and tell every party to the transaction that we have a problem when it's first discovered.  If intent on actually finding a solution, we are going to circle our wagons and get very busy behind the scenes.  This may mean that for a period of time we have to be very selective in what we disclose, and to whom.  The pilot of an airplane doesn't need to scare the beejeezus out of passengers at the first onset of turbulence.  He can give a concise report when the time is right, though the clock is always ticking.  Just enough turbulence plus just enough silence will equal way too much panic.  


Don't Delegate the Problem

If you have the stuff to be a real leader, then you take, and likely have taken, ownership of the tough ones.  You don't throw people under the bus, you don't seek to blame as a go-to strategy and you don't delegate the difficult decisions.  Instead, you consult experts, you seek diverse advice, you confide and decide.  Just like water seeks its own level, if you want to know who the real leader is in any operation, observe to whom people run when there's a fire.  If that person is you, and you delegate that emergency to another, and that other person deals with the issue, don't expect to be viewed as the leader ever again.


Don't Hinder the Problem Solvers

Thomas Paine is often credited with the saying, "Lead, follow or get out of the way."  My guess is that the sentiment goes back well before his time.  When in the thick of trouble, if you're not going to commit to being productive and leading the way out yourself, then either follow the advice of others or get out of the way of both the leaders and followers.  Fast.  Once you have extricated yourself from playing a constructive role in the outcome, your counterproductive comments, criticisms and observations are no longer welcome.  Instead, focus your energy on getting yourself back into the good graces of the leaders or followers and do your part to help when and where you can.  Ultimately, problems get solved best when they have the highest percentage of buy in from those they impact.


Thanks to the pandemic, many of us find ourselves mourning the loss of the way things "used to be."  We want to attend gatherings, we want to eat in restaurants with friends, we want to watch our kids play team sports and go back to school with their classmates.  But soon enough, we have to move along in these stages of grief, become part of the solution and take progressive steps in helping develop and promote a new normal. When tasked with leadership, those we are leading are watching us closely and counting on us.  Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.  But the sea isn't calm right now and it's rising again.  No doubt, real leaders will also rise to meet this challenge.  I plan to do my part to be one of them.  And you?


Oh Captain, My Captain,


Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959


Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate's Human Resources Department.


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Comments (19)

Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Retired Home Stager/Redesign

Rob- very well said!  And I agree, often the true leaders are the ones everyone turns to when there is a situation!

Jul 28, 2020 06:26 PM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

There will be positive outcomes as a result of this pandemic..and hope I live long enough to see them!  When problems come up, doesn't help to constantly complain-vent for a bit then move on to brainstorming a solution.

Jul 29, 2020 09:02 AM
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

Rob excellent post. The waters can be turbulent +++++ and if handled well can be calmed down, so the path/solution becomes clear, especially during more challenging times.

Jul 30, 2020 04:27 PM
Chris Ivy
Ivy Vine Investments - Memphis, TN
Sell Your House Fast For Cash In Memphis Tennessee

Great post Rob!  Your below statement is definitely true.


"Denial, wishful thinking and hope are bad strategies"

Jul 30, 2020 05:24 PM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.

Jul 31, 2020 01:48 AM
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

Very well put together and something all of us can bookmark to read regulary to remind ourselves what true leadership looks like and how it behaves. A worthy feature.

Jul 31, 2020 04:51 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Rob - it makes a difference to choose the right captain even in good times but it becomes crucial when there are rough seas.  Good post.  

Jul 31, 2020 10:25 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Well said, Rob. The right leadership, whether with a staff or a solo practitioner, is one who will watch for issues, be proactive, deal with the problems effectively in a timely manner, and communicate. These times make it particularly challenging.


Jul 31, 2020 03:39 PM
Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta, GA 404-939-2727
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty - Love our Great City - Love our Clients! Buckhead - Midtown - Westside - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Rob Spinosa 
Loved your four "DON'T" summary points - great advice.
All the best - Lynn

Jul 31, 2020 08:50 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

It's a very different climate right now and you are so correct, being a leader requires strategic ( and calm ) thinking. Those who navigate these waters well will be around for a long time. 

Aug 01, 2020 07:01 AM
Don Baker
Lane Realty - Eatonton, GA
Lake Sinclair Specialist

not hendering problem solvers is not something I have a problem with.  My broker is the best problem solver I know.

Aug 01, 2020 12:53 PM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Rob,

Foul weather friends & colleagues are always hard to find, but once you do, they can become life-long partners. It may not be the same as before, but forged into something new.

Aug 01, 2020 08:42 PM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Time the swells correctly and you keep your bearings to get to solid ground. Not being to touch is less unsettling when you make the most of whatever situation. Channel those efforts into being helpful, productive, positive. These are always the best of times if you move beyond fighting change or living in fear. 

Aug 04, 2020 03:49 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Those are very wise thoughts, Rob Spinosa .  If we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem.

Aug 05, 2020 07:33 AM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Learning to adapt to challenges separates the best from the best, so, we can be optimistic and initiate positive outcomes by taking calculated actions or wait for the storm to pass. It's a choice, isn't it? 

Aug 09, 2020 01:54 AM