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Leading Women - Elizabeth Mendenhall: A Leadership Force

by Tracey Velt

MendenhallarticleElizabeth Mendenhall, ABR, CRB, PMN, CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty in Columbia, Missouri and 2018 National Association of REALTORS® President, may have learned from the best—her father was the 2001 NAR president—but she says, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t hit some obstacles along the path to leadership. However, it’s because of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® that she was able to fail forward and pick herself up.

“My biggest screw up happened at Women’s Council,” says Mendenhall. “I was overworked, and I had volunteered for too many things. I was entrusted with a task at WCR,” she says. Thankfully, she accomplished that task, but she failed to communicate along the way. “The Council leadership could have said, ‘Thank you, but move along,’ but they didn’t. They coached me on how I could have done it better. They didn’t give up on me.”

That experience taught Mendenhall a valuable lesson about leadership. “Just because you screw up, doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s a reminder that there are things going on in everyone’s lives that contribute to what they do and giving up on people without coaching them first is not a good path to leadership.”

Setting the Tone

As NAR’s first female president in seven years and only the sixth woman to hold that spot, Mendenhall wants to create a culture at NAR that lives on through its CEO and its leaders. “The No. 1 job of the president and officers is to encourage and inspire the CEO, so we want to set the right tone for the future,” she says. What is that tone? “It’s a culture of inclusivity, a culture of yes—meaning we will explore ideas until we decide they’re not worthy. It’s also a culture of speed. I’d like us to be a little faster with decisions. Also, Bob (Goldberg, NAR’s CEO) believes in the culture of not invented here. We’re relying on the best strengths we have and partnering with others when it makes sense.”

Getting to Know Each Other

Thanks to the leadership training and experience she received through Women's Council, Mendenhall finds that instilling this tone or culture into NAR is a natural fit. “At Women's Council, I was exposed to people from all over the country. I was able to see different viewpoints and perspectives.” But, that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing at the national level. One of her challenges is to get to know the leadership team on a deeper level. “When you’re at the local or state leadership levels, you know your line officers. Many times, you have deep relationships with them. But, at the national level, it’s different. You’re on a team with people you don’t know.” To get to know them, Mendenhall focuses on doing whatever she can with them—bowling, dinner, picking up the phone and checking in. “Knowing what someone’s passions are or where they came from is critical in developing trust and speeding up the time frame to make big decisions.”

Finding the Work-Life Balance

Many of Mendenhall’s views of leadership and productivity came from Real Estate Coach Brian Buffini and Leadership Expert Jack Canfield. “I’ve subscribed to Buffini’s coaching program for years. We’ve also been a big fan of Jack Canfield’s Success Principles. We follow that in our office and with our agents,” she says. She says that Buffini focuses on balance, so when two years ago, the NAR president had the leadership team block out personal and family time, vacations and events before they even started their scheduling for the year, she says, “I bought into it completely. It gave us the freedom to say no sometimes and kept us all more balanced. We’ve done it every year since, and it’s made such a difference in helping us trust in the team if we aren’t available for something.”

Overall, says Mendenhall, her experience as a competitive swimmer keeps her grounded. “The advantage you learn in sports is that practice makes you better. If you’re unsure or you fail, you pick yourself back up, keep practicing and refining things. Remember that failure is just a moment,” she says. “It’s the same with the leadership process. It’s a process and, with practice, you can get better at it.”

About the Contributor

Tracey C. Velt is a real estate and business writer and editor based in Florida.

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