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Presidents with Zeal

August 20, 2012

Association executives and elected leaders work together to build members’ business success, advance association objectives, and inspire members to participate. Association leadership is, after all, a partnership. Here REALTOR® AE features four outstanding association volunteers who are working with passion and enthusiasm for the REALTOR® mission.

Leadership by Example

“Our association is only as good as the effort we put into it,” says Chris Jett, 2012 president of the Coastal Association of REALTORS®, Md., who has spent his presidency trying to lead by example.

Maintaining his spot among the top 2 percent of local sales people while volunteering for the local and state REALTOR® associations, for local charities, and as a kids’ sport coach, Jett demonstrates his resolve to give back everywhere he’s needed.

“It’s been difficult in this market to get people involved,” says Jett, who hopes his visibility inspires others to volunteer. “It’s important to have a face in the community, not only for my business, but for the REALTOR® association.”

As an advocate for the association’s programs and products, Jett has boosted communication via technology and devoted time to meeting with members in person to drive home how REALTORS® benefit from their association. His priorities have been establishing more usable data products for members and launching data sharing with neighboring MLSs.

“I have told Chris many times, he is the right person at the right time for our organization,” says Sheila Dodson, the association’s CEO. “He exemplifies doing it all while keeping his priorities straight and always presenting a calm, cool approach.”

Jett says he’s a firm believer in following the procedures and processes involved in volunteer leadership, ensuring that issues are pushed through the proper channels and addressed by the entire leadership team without hidden agendas. “One of my strategies was to really focus on our strategic plan,” he says. “Too many times the objectives kept rolling into the next year. Tough decisions needed to be made to keep our association relevant.”

Technology Optimism

“If, at the end of the day, I haven’t helped members in their business, then I didn’t do my job as a volunteer,” says Holly Mabery, 2012 president of the Arizona Association of REALTORS®. And it’s through technology that Mabery says associations can best help members today.

“Members need quality technology from associations to make the transaction smoother, communicate, and make the connection with consumers,” says Mabery. Arizona is the only state that boasts a statewide transaction management program and is finalizing an online one-stop shop that will combine access to a wide variety of tools, forms, data, and listing information. “Showing members what tools we offer to help them out of the crazy downturn is one of my priorities this year.”

As a young, tech-savvy leader, Mabery is not only an advocate for technology but an enthusiastic user. For example, when the association recently launched a new e-signature member benefit, Mabery “tested the product extensively so that she could be sure it was the best option for the association and so that she could speak with authority about it to members once available,” says Tom Farley, the association’s CEO.

Communication via social media is another strength of this energetic leader. “By constantly engaging on social media, I find I’m reaching agents on different levels and they know that I’m here to help,” Mabery says. This is especially important when it comes to the younger generation, like the state’s YPN group. Launched this year, the group has been fairly energized, but they’re more engaged online than they are in actual meetings, notes Mabery.

Seeing the dynamic engagement of members on the Arizona REALTORS®’ Twitter feed and Facebook page, and the valuable information exchanged, Mabery decided to launch a Facebook group just for the state’s local association volunteer presidents and another for the 2012 president-elects where they discuss news, issues, and calls to action.

“There is no better job,” says Mabery, “and I get to remind people about that every day.”

Advocate for Engagement

Steve Banks, the 2012 president of the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS®, is very comfortable engaging his legislators, which accounts for a large part of the association’s success this year defeating anti-home-ownership legislation. In fact, Banks is a strong supporter of the REALTOR® Party and shares this message with members in monthly articles in the association publication and at events.

“He encourages members to become more knowledgeable about the legislative issues impacting home ownership—and to participate in each Call to Action and contribute to RPAC to support these efforts,” says Diane Ruggiero, the association’s CEO.

But it isn’t just Banks’ personal and professional interest in political affairs affecting his community that drives him; it’s the long tradition of involvement at the association, he says. “I’ve always felt that our members see political involvement as the biggest member benefit the association provides. They see it as something the association can do for them that they could never do for themselves. And what the members think is important, is important to me.”

So far this year, Banks’ push for political engagement and fund-raising has resulted in new major donors and more President’s Circle members. He’s particularly excited about the involvement of YPNers in RPAC, though. “When I took a few minutes at a YPN chapter gathering to introduce them to RPAC and why they should become involved, it went really well. It sparked a sort of resolve that we see in YPNers that makes the leaders of tomorrow.”

Banks takes every opportunity to communicate political involvement to members. “He actively encourages members (of all ages and experience) to get involved, because he realizes that the strength of the association depends on strong leadership year after year,” says Ruggiero. As the association’s spokesperson, that message of a need for perpetual strength is one Banks delivers to members at new member orientations, events, online, on video and in person.

“I invite people personally to give to RPAC, attend events and be involved in a committee,” says Banks. “This type of personal invitation is how I became involved 19 years ago, so I know it works.”

Raise the Bar for Membership Motivation

Encouraging members to participate in the association when the market is booming is difficult; inspiring them to participate during a slowdown is even harder. But at the Greater Louisville Association of REALTORS®, one volunteer leader set out to prove that association involvement is the path to business and personal success for area REALTORS®. “Strong leadership during tough times is critical,” says GLAR 2011 President Lamont Breland. “Leadership starts by building relationships, and that starts with involvement.”

Breland’s mission to inspire involvement began by getting involved. “I showed up,” he says, “to committee meetings, community events, chamber of commerce, KAR events, NAR events. I wanted to be visible—I even joined the Women’s Council of REALTORS®.”

Breland is also very active in GLAR’s community service projects, including helping to organize a golf outing that raised $9,000 in its first year for local charities, putting in sweat equity hours renovating donated homes for the Fuller Center for Housing, and serving ice cream at the ice cream social for St. John’s Center for the Homeless.

Behind the association’s culture of involvement was the idea that members could thrive through the downturn only if they contributed their energy and new ideas to association programs and services. “The message was always ‘be positive,’” says Breland. “Times are tough, we’re all in this together; we need each other. So next time you’re asked for feedback, a call-back, or just a pat on the back, help a brother or sister out, because what goes around comes around!”

Lisa Stephenson, the association’s CEO, says Breland “is charismatic, full of innovative ideas, and gets people excited about the projects they are working on.”

One project he implemented was the “Pay It Forward” initiative. This was a simple idea to tape 15 envelopes under chairs at the annual meeting, each with a $100 bill and ideas on how to help others with it.

Breland also started a YPN chapter to stimulate younger member involvement, taped several inspirational presidential podcasts, and spoke at every new-member orientation. He encouraged all leaders and active members to be intentional, just like they are in their real estate practice, when it comes to selling other members on the value of their membership.

The theme during his presidential year was Raise the Bar—Reap the Rewards, and a new award was created that let REALTORS® nominate a fellow REALTOR® who had gone above and beyond in exemplary and outstanding service. These Raise the Bar Award recipients were honored at the annual meeting and showcased in the newsletter to the membership.

At his inauguration, Breland offered this fitting quote: “Service is the rent we pay for living; it’s not something we choose to do when we have time.” These are words we’d all do well to remember—when motivating ourselves, and inspiring those we lead.