By Stuart R. Levine

Published In, Forbes

Rethinking opportunity and change were repeating themes running through many events I have attended in the last quarter. AI and ESG’s impact on corporations are at the center of people’s minds. Executive teams are concerned about how AI will impact business strategies and how leaders will be able to respond to the seismic changes coming. Corporate leadership teams are also shifting to a longer-term and socially responsible view based on the new role on ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) and customer loyalty.

The notion of reframing business and challenging conventional thinking to solve problems was the theme of the most recent Passageways webinar featuring Grant Herlitz, President of the Howard Hughes Corporation. He shared many valuable thoughts on how to stimulate innovation and lean into the future.   The philosophy of the culture at Howard Hughes Corporation is to be curious and constantly ask questions.   Their leadership asks “why” until they get a strong answer and then they ask “how”. A body of trust surrounds these conversations, making innovation a reality through sharing knowledge and learning together in a relentless pursuit of excellence.

During the webinar Grant was asked the important question, how does Howard Hughes prepare talent to embrace change and adapt to disruption? Grant explained that the organization addresses the fear that employees will be displaced by expressing loyalty to them in their achievements. Leadership encourages all employees to participate in destroying processes and rebuilding from zero. Howard Hughes employees are trained to accept change with new technologies that are constantly being introduced. This acceptance of change encourages communication throughout the organization and enhances productivity within their spaces. The new incredible Pier 17 scheduled to open this spring 2018 at the South Street Seaport in New York City is a reflection of the energy, drive and innovative spirit of the organization’s culture.

This commitment to creating and engaging agile teams begins from day one. Senior leaders commit to investing the time to speak with all new hires, explaining the history of the company and its relentless pursuit of the impossible.   Setting the standards for behaviors and expectations comes directly from the company’s leadership team and is expressed as the culture/DNA of the company. Quarterly new talent two-day immersion sessions are conducted which share diversity of opinions. Employees are encouraged to find their story – what’s driving their success and to embrace it.

The one thing that stands out in conversations with Grant Herlitz is the company’s unswerving devotion to its people and the importance of values, integrity, reputation and morals.   Howard Hughes strives to stand behind its words and do something good at every step of the way. Embracing continuous learning is key. Leadership understands the cost of disengaged employees and the cost of recruitment, retraining and creating cultural alignment with new hires. They understand the relationships between disengagement, productivity, innovation and creativity. Their in-house Director of Talent Acquisition is full time and immersed in the company, the people, their culture and finding the right talent.

At the List Sell Negotiate 2017 Conference at the new International Convention Centre in Sydney this past month, Australia’s leading agents were brought together to learn how to drive their ambitions and gain the tools to renew, refocus and reboot their thinking and actions. Change was also at the center of the conference. The number one tip I provided to leaders during my keynote address at the conference was that in the face of industry disruption, do not panic. Getting oxygen in the brain gives you a change to think and learn. A commitment to learning as fast as the world is changing is a critical complement for success in the future. When asked about whether robots will have the potential to steal the role of real estate agents in the near future, my opinion is that robotics is an opportunity to increase your ability to manage relationships and add value. Embracing evolving technologies will define future growth markets. Making sure that the value you bring is highly focused, crisp and understood by your customers is key.

In thinking about what makes a truly great leader, it’s a commitment to prepare for every meeting, conversation and interaction; the ability to listen, digest and respond with speed; making precise decisions on eliminating toxic people from your world; and the ability to embrace learning.

Josh Phegan, the host of the List Sell Negotiate 2017 Conference, writes in his new book, Lonely In Business and Why You Don’t Have to Be, about his thinking on how to plot a course to greater success.   As an international star of the real estate industry and coach to many, he shares important insights on why who you are becoming is much more important than who you are. He is great example of someone who believes in dreams and embraces change.

The continuous themes around learning, value and dreams that can be achieved provide a positive outlook despite the tsunami waves of change that are coming.