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Leading Women: Phyllis Brookshire

by Naomi Gitlin

Being a Leader Means Building Strong Relationships

Phyllis Brookshire

Real estate is in Phyllis Brookshire’s DNA. In her current role as regional vice president of the Allen Tate Company, she brings more than 20 years of real estate experience that she honed working at York Properties, a construction, property management and real estate company founded by her father.

After Brookshire graduated from the University of North Carolina, she helped build the residential division for York Properties. And she grew professionally as the company grew – first as vice president and then chief operating officer.

Brookshire took a break from real estate in 1987 to pursue another passion, training horses. Along with her expertise in the real estate world, Brookshire has earned prominence in the equestrian world as a multi-titled World Champion equestrienne. And that is where she discovered another passion, her now-husband Don, who trains and shows American Saddlebred horses.

In 2000, Brookshire returned to what was then called York Simpson Underwood, where she worked until December 2006 when she left to find a new challenge. Brookshire really wanted to do something different. And then the phone rang. Brookshire was recruited by Pat Riley from Allen Tate to expand the company’s business into the “Triangle” (North Carolina’s Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas).

In 2007, Brookshire joined the Allen Tate Company and currently leads a team of 180 in eight Allen Tate offices throughout the “Triangle.” She manages one of its four regions throughout North and South Carolina.

An early riser, in the office by 7:30 a.m., Brookshire works before the phone starts ringing. Typically, she meets with and mentors agents, works with her branch leaders and tackles company-wide projects.

Transparency and “high touch” are two hallmarks of Brookshire’s leadership style.

As Brookshire learned from a colleague early on, “People don’t care what you know unless they know that you care.”

“You need to listen and take the time to establish the relationship first,” she says. Brookshire works to create a collaborative environment where ideas and viewpoints can be presented with ease.

A good leader also knows that she may need to adapt her leadership style to meet a person’s particular needs. And a good leader can make and stand by tough decisions. “Motivation comes from within,” Brookshire says. A good leader can help identify how to trigger that motivation. Defining goals and sharing goals helps to build and focus the team.

Brookshire emphasizes the importance of respect, ongoing learning and making yourself truly valuable as some of the keys to her success.

“You have to earn the respect of your peers before you can be tapped to lead them,” she says. Patience goes hand in hand with that process. “Learn all the jobs,” she advises, “because there is no job that should be considered beneath you.” The ability to jump in on a project or pick up a “dropped ball” can be invaluable.

Because Brookshire believes that “we are the result of all of the various influences in our lives,” she thrives on reading, always learning and having people challenge her to think differently.

“If you get one good idea from a class or from reading a book, it’s worth it,” she says.  “Gather different perspectives, whether from other people or other industries, to spark new ideas. Volunteer to participate on a committee and get involved.”

Given her own involvement and commitment, it’s easy to see that Brookshire leads by example. She is active in local real estate and served as 2007 president of the Raleigh Regional Association of REALTORS®. Brookshire is the immediate past chairman of the Board of Advisors of the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University. She is a director of the REALTOR® Foundation of The Triangle and dean of the Triangle REALTORS® Leadership Academy. She also participates in many community organizations.

Another key to success is outside-the-box thinking. “Today’s market is teaching all of us to re-think the status quo,” Brookshire said. She encourages her agents to stay focused and maintain a positive attitude and outlook. And because “we can only work in the market we have,” Brookshire stresses the need to work on your business and in your business every day. “Success happens one step at a time.”

How can REALTORS® best navigate through this tough market? “Anything that can allow us to get face to face with someone and tell the story one to one is so important,” Brookshire says. “Real estate is so local.”

Brookshire remembers the early Internet days when people thought that technology and increased access would decrease the role of REALTORS®. But she argues that because a home is typically the largest investment an individual will make, just as one would seek professional help for legal counsel or medical treatment, the role of a REALTOR® is really more important than ever.

Brookshire observes that more women have assumed leadership roles in the last 25 years, and she sees more opportunities in the future. “Technology has increased accessibility. So for women, who have traditionally handled many family responsibilities, it is now easier to take on leadership responsibilities, too,” she says.

Maintaining a work/life balance is a work in progress. “My husband and I both recognize that sometimes you have to devote more than usual to either work or family, and you need to let the pendulum swing back and forth.” Brookshire says she “figures out what’s most important and makes it happen.”


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