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Leading Through a Challenging Market: Sue Yannaccone

With a special focus on supporting female leaders, Sue launched a series called “What Moves Her.” The wildly successful series encourages women in leadership and offers actionable advice. In this podcast, Sue talks about the self-imposed obstacles women place in front of themselves and offers advice on how to let go.

Tracey Velt:

Welcome to the REAL Trending podcast. This is your host, Tracey Velt, Editor and Chief of Content for REAL Trends. Today, we’re speaking with Sue Yannaccone, Executive Vice President for Coldwell Banker Realty.

With nearly two decades of leadership experience and franchise management and real estate brokerage operations, Sue’s management area includes the Eastern seaboard and Midwest regions of Coldwell Banker NRT. She recently led a session about obstacles women face at a Coldwell Banker event. So, welcome Sue.

Sue Yannaccone:

Thank you, Tracey. Very happy to be here.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, I’m glad that you could. And really, I loved all the work that you’ve been doing with the obstacles women face and just talking about women in leadership. So I’d like to kind of start with that, and talk to me a little bit about some of the things that you’ve done to advance women in real estate, and a little bit about some of your speaking engagements.

Sue Yannaccone:

Absolutely. And I’m super passionate about this focus in our industry, and really focused on helping women develop leadership skills to realize their professional development goals.

Sue Yannaccone:

And so I launched back in January of this year, a series called What Moves Her and it was really focused on just that. And the intent of course, was to travel around and have live events and bring in speakers and have it open to all women in the industry, and men. It was not specifically to Coldwell Banker. It was really focused on the entire industry. And obviously, we were required to pivot given the pandemic.

So we pivoted in May to a virtual series called Portraits of What Moves Her. And again, it’s open to anybody in the industry. And it’s really focused again, on developing women’s leadership skills. And we’ve been super excited to bring in a lot of voices from within the industry, but also leaders in their fields from outside of the real estate industry, women that have blazed trails in different ways.

Sue Yannaccone:

And it’s been super exciting. So we focused on topics such as emotional intelligence and how critical that is to leadership development. We’ve had a discussion on taking control of your career, something that I think women often struggle with, right?

So we’ve had people come on and speak about how they can do that and what that may mean. And we’ve leveraged our own Tanya Reu-Narvaez from our human resources department to talk about that and to provide real tactical actionable items.

Sue Yannaccone:

So I really wanted to take this beyond just sort of inspiration and feel good, to things that you can walk away with and implement to drive your career forward. And I’m happy to speak about some of the amazing speakers we’ve had on.

But that’s what we’ve really looked at focused on. And ironically, the virtual, we’re reaching more and more people. So it’s actually likely more successful than it would have been had I been trying to hop on planes to do this all over the place.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, it’s ironic how that happens. I’ve sat in on more virtual conferences than I could ever attend in person and it’s just been fascinating. So yeah, I’m really glad to hear that. And I would love to hear some stories. Obviously, Coldwell Banker is very active in inclusion, diversity, equity, and I want to focus specifically on women. But there are a lot of obstacles when it comes to business.

I mean, if you look at the number of women in real estate versus the number of women in real estate leadership, it’s encouraging to know that that number is trending upwards. But tell me a little bit about some of the obstacles you’ve seen and some ideas for overcoming them, and some people who you really feel are doing a great job of overcoming those obstacles.

Sue Yannaccone:

Absolutely. And I think there’s a variety of obstacles and they change over time. I think we’re doing a lot to face those today kind of openly and honestly. And that’s one of the things I’m super passionate about is being very candid about what it takes to rise in leadership, and whatever that may be. And I think we have both societal as well as self-imposed obstacles.

And I think as a society, certainly Coldwell Banker, but there’s lots of areas where we’re focusing on ensuring that there’s awareness of roles, that we’re promoting opportunities more. There’s a huge spotlight on women in the boardroom, women at the C-suite, and how do we do that.

Sue Yannaccone:

I think the other underlying area that we really, as women need to focus on our self-imposed obstacles. We tend to be less willing to take risks. We tend to allow guilt to cloud a lot of our decision-making and sort of try and be all things to all people and judge ourselves through other’s lenses.

And I think that’s one of the big things I had to personally overcome was really focusing on whose perception of me mattered, as I leaned into my career and decided to just kind of go for it. I’ve always been a little bit of a risk taker. I’ve always been comfortable being uncomfortable. And what I found, I was shocked with how many people were naysayers or kind of silently judging, in a passive aggressive way, my choice to put my career first for a long time. I got married later. I had a kid later.

Sue Yannaccone:

But then pivoting into after I had a family and whatnot, to saying, “You know what? That’s who matters?” The other people who are judging or trying to lean in on the guilt, I’m just going to ignore them.

And I think that’s something as women, we have to get much more comfortable doing; comfortable in our own skin, comfortable saying, “I’m not going to apologize for going after X, Y, or Z.” I think that’s really important.

Sue Yannaccone:

And then taking the risk. I mean, I think we could all… I know you’ve heard the stats on sort of the anecdote of men will… I’m not going to get it a hundred percent right. But go after a job when their resume has like 40 or 50% of the attributes, whereas women wait to weight of a hundred percent.

Go for it. Use your voice, find your voice, and go after what you want. I think those obstacles are a lot of self-imposed ones that still need a lot of personalized work.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Yeah. And the What Moves Her, I’m sure is helping. I know WCR has several initiatives as well. So it’s good to hear that a lot is being done to really bring women up.

Sue Yannaccone:

Absolutely. And I think WCR is doing some amazing things, and the focus we have. As their, with WomenUp, which I’ve been a part of, which has been fantastic. And I would also say to anyone looking to develop their career, make sure you know your business and know your numbers. That goes men and women. But I think women, don’t be afraid to walk in the room and have the facts and the stats.

And know what you’re asking for and what you want. And know what it’s going to take to get there, to fight for what you want. We don’t want to always approach things emotionally. There’s a need to have true, fact-based arguments to support why you’re the right person for something.

Sue Yannaccone:

And I think we also tend to not promote ourselves as well. We think our actions will always speak. And that’s not always the case. You know, sometimes you got to go in and sell hard for yourself for what you want. And I think that women are, in general, and I’m seeing it more in the next generation too, are much more comfortable doing that.

Tracey Velt:

Oh yeah. Definitely in the next generation, I’ve seen that as well.

Tracey Velt:

So how can real estate professionals get involved in kind of making the industry more inclusive in general? And what initiatives has been implemented through Coldwell Banker?

Sue Yannaccone:

Yeah, absolutely. I think awareness and education are fundamental to driving any change. First be open, honest and aware. Look around, pick your head up, get outside of your bubble. And then, education.

And so Coldwell Banker, we are a leader in our industry and with that leadership comes responsibility, and we take it very seriously to drive a more inclusive environment and more inclusive industry.

Sue Yannaccone:

And so, obviously for us, it goes action beyond just the words. It’s a heightened focus at all of our events on diversity and inclusion, both at our most recent Gen Blue session, which it was all virtual, Ryan Gorman’s public facing state-of-the-union.

Sue Yannaccone:

But we’ve taken that to action. So updated our fair housing handbook. We’ve created a new fair housing training program that we’ve made available to not only all Coldwell Banker agents, but also all agents in the industry, and everybody in the entire industry, because we feel it’s just that important. And we can help lead the industry in that.

Sue Yannaccone:

In February, we were so excited to launch Coldwell Banker’s inclusive ownership program to increase representation of minorities, women, LGBTQ, and veteran entrepreneurs at the broker owner level. And, we welcomed our first three affiliates in this program in August.

Sue Yannaccone:

So, for me, what I love is we speak about it, it’s a heightened focus, we have employee resource groups in the organization to focus on collaboration and awareness, and just real open, honest dialogue. But to take that action beyond the words. And we’re measuring that and the impact of that and the growth within our industry.

So, it’s vitally important and it’s also incumbent upon every individual. You know, we serve diverse communities and we have to be able to serve them through awareness and education.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And your initiatives are just spot on, especially in the climate today. I want to talk a little bit about COVID-19 too. I think what I’ve seen is I’ve seen a lot of people rethinking careers or rejuvenating them, really kind of thinking more, being more thoughtful of how they’re organizing their time. Are you seeing any trends with this, maybe more personal responsibility or personal development in your company?

Sue Yannaccone:

Absolutely. So we’re home, and it’s ironic that an industry that is all about home, we’re all there now. And everyone I speak to, and I don’t have any trends per se, that I’ve measured, but certainly anecdotally, everybody I talk to has taken time, or maybe been forced to take time that they otherwise would not have, to just reframe, to recommit and to refocus, and take a look at where they are, where they’ve been and where they’re going, and how they go about doing it.

I think people are, through this… I kind of referred to it at one point as the great pause. Me personally, I was generally on a plane every week. I haven’t been on a plane in seven months. It’s absolutely reframed my home life and the way I approach things. And it’s forced people to be more intentional, I think, and to think through different ways in which they can accomplish things.

Sue Yannaccone:

We talked about before, you and I, attending more conferences than I ever could have attended. But I can do it from my home. I don’t necessarily need to be on a plane. And I think people are thinking about what matters to them more, prioritizing a little bit more, not being so driven by the rat race, if you will.

I mean, our business is on fire. People are extremely busy. They’re learning that they can do their work in a different way. And so, one of the things that will come out of this I think, is a more focused and more efficient work process and mindset. And I think that’s incredible.

Sue Yannaccone:

And I think we are… I mean, I don’t want to be sort of altruistic and Pollyanna about it, but it’s putting home and family, whatever that family looks like… I’ve had more time with my daughter. I’ve also had more time with my parents who are older. And that’s important. I wouldn’t have done that otherwise. And I think a lot of people are finding that to be the case.

Tracey Velt:

Oh, definitely. Yeah. I’ve always worked from home, but my husband hasn’t. And so it was an adjustment at first for him, but he loves it now, although they are going back to the office.

Sue Yannaccone:

Yeah, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, how many people are willing to go back to being on the road, and how many are like running to the airport right now. Get me out of here.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, there’s something to be said for personal interaction though, meeting people face-to-face. And so as much as some of these conferences going virtual works right now, I think that people miss that interaction, that networking part of these events that you just don’t get when it’s virtual. And the energy.

Sue Yannaccone:

I couldn’t agree more. It’s critical.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Yeah. Maybe we’ll just be rethinking which events we want to attend more so than stopping doing them at all.

Sue Yannaccone:

Yeah. And I think looking at the events and saying, what is the value they bring? It is that networking, that relationship-building. We’re still a relationship-based business. No matter how much technology can make us more efficient and effective, it’s still about the relationships. And even COVID isn’t going to change that in my opinion.

Tracey Velt:

Right. So what do you find to be the greatest challenge you have in business right now?

Sue Yannaccone:

Yeah, that’s a great question because it does always change. And today for me, it’s providing the necessary support and flexibility to my employees, to my agents, to my colleagues, while still driving business forward and being focused on growth and performance. We have many people who are homeschooling.

I have a daughter upstairs right now who’s in school. We’re virtual, at least until December. The benefit of being home is great, but we also have a lot more going on at home right now. It’s one thing to work from home when your children are in school all day. It’s another to work home when school is next door, in the next room.

Sue Yannaccone:

So for me, it is that balance, because you do want to be empathetic to the realities of what’s going on, but there’s still a business to run, and you still need to drive results and drive performance. And so for me, it’s that balance right now, that as a leader, encouraging even my leaders of leaders, my managers, to be more flexible in the time that people can come to work.

And I say as long the job gets done, then if you need to be on a Zoom meeting with your child at 9:00 AM, don’t schedule a meeting at 9:00. But I still need the work to get done. And so, that’s a balance that you have to find. And right now I think it is front and center in my mind, in our leadership’s minds.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Yeah, and women tend to shoulder a lot of the responsibility of homeschooling and virtual school, and that as well. So it becomes a double challenge.

Sue Yannaccone:

We do. We tend to be the default parent on a lot of those things. So, yeah.

Tracey Velt:

I have a high schooler, but she is going to school. She just started as a freshmen. So, for now she’s going. She’s actually going virtual for two weeks next week, just so she doesn’t get caught up in the quarantining and she can play volleyball.

Sue Yannaccone:

Oh, good. There you go.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. But it is, it’s tough.

Sue Yannaccone:

It is.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Especially if you have younger children. So, yeah.

Sue Yannaccone:

Yeah. I mean, I’ve got nine. I have a nine-year-old, not nine children. But I can’t imagine. I have friends and colleagues with infants and toddlers and that’s really hard. So it’s something I think all leaders have to be top of mind and support and help people get through.

And provide solutions, not just lip service to it. And I think that’s really important. And it’ll help us in the long run, even when we’re back. Maybe we become more empathetic as a society to the reality of working parents.

Tracey Velt:

Oh, I agree completely. So I want to end the podcast on a real positive note, and I want to talk to you about opportunity. Obviously, there’s always opportunity in real estate, but where are you seeing the most opportunity for real estate brokers right now?

Sue Yannaccone:

I think the biggest opportunity for brokers right now is wholly focused on taking advantage and leveraging the momentum within the industry right now. We have a strong buyer demand. We have low inventory that we should be focusing on driving listings, and helping our agents drive their listing inventory.

Sue Yannaccone:

I think beyond sort of the tactical on the transactional nature, organic growth and growth opportunities continue to be huge, providing tremendous value and service that supports those agents in their development.

Sue Yannaccone:

And really diversification to better serve the communities that we’re in. There’s nothing more important in my mind than doing that right now. And there’s true business opportunity that comes from that. Right before this, I was listening to a live panel, because there are events going on right now, and just learning about…

The true business and economic opportunities that come through, being very aware of the trends in home ownership and how we better serve those. I think brokers will see continued success and exponential growth as they’re able to leverage and take advantage of those opportunities by serving the communities we’re in.

Sue Yannaccone:

So I think that’s a huge opportunity. And, we talked a lot about what Coldwell Banker is doing and what the industry is doing. And it’s serving those communities. And then it’s providing the value to our agents by helping make their transactional process more efficient and more effective.

We certainly do that through our Core 4 and our Value Proposition, but it’s allowing them to serve the consumer better. I think that all those and part of that for the opportunity. What is the consumer looking for today, and who is your consumer and how do you serve them?

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Well, great. Well, Sue, it was wonderful speaking with you today on the REAL Tending podcast. I really appreciate you taking some time to talk to us.

Sue Yannaccone:

Thank you for having me. It was fun. I appreciate it.

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