Leading Women: Wendy Forsythe
Sometimes fathers really do know best. It was her dad's advice ("If you want a career in business, you need to learn to sell.") that prompted Wendy Forsythe to enter the real estate industry while still a business student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Forsythe since has risen to executive vice president with Carrington Real Estate, where she oversees global operations for more than 30 offices and 1,400 agents.
Forsythe started as an agent with Realty World Elite Realty in Coldbrook, Nova Scotia. She eventually purchased the business, holding onto it for about five years, before selling it and moving to Toronto. There, Forsythe shifted to the corporate side of the business, as Vice President, Service, with Toronto-based Royal LePage Real Estate Services.
In 2007, Forsythe headed across the border to the U.S. and helped launch the Better Homes & Garden Real Estate brand. She remained there until late 2012, before accepting her current position with Carrington – attracted by the opportunity to again "get more involved at the field level."
Leadership Style & Management Tips
Forsythe points to several factors that have helped her manage the myriad responsibilities inherent in a high level, demanding position. First are her colleagues and employees. "I have a great team; it's not like I'm a solo player on the field."
Forsythe has learned to allow her team to manage many of the details, so she can focus on the larger picture. "I don't want to get too far down in the weeds," she says. "If I do, I won't move the company forward." That's a discipline that's not always easy to master, especially for some women, who can feel a responsibility to make everything perfect.
Another piece of advice Forsythe keeps in mind: if you've taken a project to 80 percent of completion, it's often (of course, not always) good enough. "Don't get too caught up in getting it to 100 percent." She reminds her team of this as well. "We've got a lot of things we're responsible for. We don't want to get bogged down."
The pervasiveness of technology in almost all areas of everyone's business and personal lives also can make it easy to lose sight of the larger objectives. "It's easy to get distracted on things that won't lead you down the path to your goal; you feel busy but you're not moving forward," Forsythe says.
To counter this, Forsythe tries to use technology as effectively as possible. As she points out, "Sometimes a phone call is a faster solution," than engaging in a lengthy back-and-forth via text or email. Her rule of thumb: if responding to an email will require more than three sentences, she'll try to talk to the person.
When possible, Forsythe also tries to answer her own phone. "It makes a difference." Along with often being more efficient, it can enhance a relationship. "When a consumer dials a real estate agent, they want the agent on the other end of the phone," she says.
Forsythe says her experience working in fast-paced environments also has helped instill the discipline required to remain focused on the overall goals. "Big goals and short time frames are always part of the equation," she says. "To make them happen takes a lot of discipline each and every day."
Focusing on the big picture doesn't mean being unorganized. "I'm a devoted Evernote user," Forsythe says. "I always have a to-do list."
She brings a similar discipline and focus when working with her team members. While eschewing "meetings for the sake of meetings," Forsythe holds weekly team meetings – but limits them to roughly 60 minutes. And meetings must follow a consistent agenda.
First is a discussion of industry and organization news, then a review of production numbers and finally brief overviews of key projects from each department head. "This is how we avoid working in silos," she says, so all departments can move forward together.
Forsythe goes on to point out that no one can control the economy or the employment numbers. "But we can control our daily activities and how we build the brand," she says. "That's what I focus on."
One activity Forsythe recommends is volunteering, both within and outside the industry. She has used her interest in running marathons to raise money for cancer and has been a member of local real estate boards and professional committees. Along with contributing to the profession, "it's a wonderful way to learn the business and shape the local dynamics of the board and industry."
"I love this industry," she adds. "I love working with sales professionals."
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