TMJ TV

KEY LEADERS OF INFLUENCE | SADHANA SMILES | EPISODE 12

By September 18, 2017 No Comments

DOWNLOAD SADHANA'S LEADERSHIP INSIGHTS HERE (FREE)

 

Resources Mentioned:

Dr. Brené Brown | The Power of Vulnerability
Dr. Brené Brown | Listening to Shame
Dr. Brené Brown | It’s Not the Critics Who Count

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Hi, Tanja here, and welcome to TMJ TV, a weekly video series aimed at real estate leaders and teams who want to grow themselves, and their business in the least amount of time and, my next guest knows a lot about that. She has 27 years experience in the industry, currently leads a team of 1,000 people here in Victoria, recognised as the 2013 Telstra Business Woman of the year in Victoria and Westpac AFA’s top 100 Women of Influence for Australia for 2016. Please give a warm welcome and a round of applause and drumroll for Sadhana Smiles, the CEO of Harcourts Victoria. Welcome and thank you so much for being here.

Sadhana: My pleasure, thanks for having me. So excited to be on the program.

Tanja: What an impressive intro, right? Like, I mean you know you are…you are a woman up to stuff. Like anyone that’s in the industry knows that you are regularly on the speaking circuit. Not only in the industry, but in other industries. Really, from my perspective, waving a flag for not only women but, you know, men also to rise and shine.

Sadhana: Yeah. For the industry, I mean.

Tanja: I get it.

Sadhana: I see myself more as someone who actually represents the industry outside of the industry.

Tanja: Was that, you know, what inspired that for you? To go beyond, you know, your own backyard?

Sadhana: Yeah. I think that the Telstra Award opened up the doors for me, and when you enter an award like that, and actually someone else nominated me and I didn’t do it myself.

Tanja: Thank you to them.

Sadhana: Thank you to them and I don’t know to this day who that person was.

Tanja: Really?

Sadhana: Yes, genuinely thank you to them if they are watching, and I had no expectation of winning and when I won the award, it was interesting because for a number of months, there was that questioning of “Why me?” So there’s all these…

Tanja: After you had won?

Sadhana: After I had won.

Tanja: Okay. Well, why did you win?

Sadhana: Well clearly, you know, I interviewed really well and my presentation that I wrote which is pages and pages of information that you have to provide, was outstanding compared to anybody else’s, at that point in time. But it is a question that you ask yourself, because I went into it not expecting to win because I thought there were all these other amazing women in front of me, and they were. When they, you know, sort of pull my name up on stage, I was like “Oh my God” and so it took me a couple of months to get my head around the fact that I had actually won this award, and I was deserving of it. Isn’t it interesting? We do this as women, right?

Tanja: Well, look. Research does show and you… I know you and I have briefly spoken about this before. There is a pattern in women’s behaviour of sometimes taking a back seat, you know, Sheryl Sandberg’s book of “Lean In,” invited women to lean in to the conversation, lean in on the boardroom table, lean in to leadership.

Sadhana: That’s right.

Tanja: Which you stand for.

Sadhana: Which I do stand for. It was at that point in time, and I remember it was December 2013, and I had a good chat to myself.

Tanja: Yeah.

Sadhana: It was like, you know, you went into this awards, you’ve won it, now you have to own that space…

Tanja: Wow.

Sadhana: …and owning that space meant standing up and having a voice around things that were important to me and I felt important to women as well. Standing up around leadership, standing around for my industry, and so that started a whole change process for me personally. As the doors opened, I actually made the commitment to myself not to say “No” to anything. That despite how much time it took up, how hard it became, I was not going to say no, and for two years I didn’t. I said “Yes” to everything that came my way. Every door that got opened up, I pushed it open wider, because I wanted to see where it would take me and, you know, here I am today.

Tanja: Well that kind of really makes sense, that, you know, in 2013, you would be recognised as the Telstra Businesswoman of the year for Victoria. Then three years later, recognised as, you know, one of the top women of influence out of 100 women. You don’t get to be recognised with a three year gap if you’re like, “Woohoo! Yeah, go me, thanks.” and then back to the grind. So, you know, well done you, for…

Sadhana: Thank you.

Tanja: …choosing to use that platform to spread a message of…Actually what is your message? What is your fundamental message? Why do you say yes to all those opportunities that come your way?

Sadhana: So for me I broke it down into three areas. The first one which is really important to me and the reason why the 2016 win was so important to me, was I’m a migrant to this country. So, you know, I arrived here when I was 16, I have developed the career that I have, but I represent a minority group. Not just in terms of the ethnic representation in this country, but the ethnic representation around boardroom tables of women who are from migrant backgrounds. So, it was really important for me that every time I stood up, I asked the question of the leaders that I’m in the room with. A lot of them are non-real estate leaders. So, these are corporate Australia leaders. “What are the colours of your organisation looking like? Do they reflect the communities that we actually work and live in?

Tanja: Amen.

Sadhana: One of the things that’s amazing about real estate, is that we do have a very diverse industry. Because we attract people from all walks of life, we work in all different suburbs, and so it’s so proud to represent an industry that is actually diverse, genuinely diverse. So that was my first platform.

Tanja: Can I just ask on that point, what is…have you been surprised by the answer to that question? Or, you know, what is the colour of your organisation?

Sadhana: Very much so, because when I look around the room and I could have anywhere from, you know, 50 to 400, 500 people in the room, the representation of the ethnic groups is still very low, even at that function that I’m at, and so, I challenge people. Look around the room and if you’re a leader of this organisation that you’re sitting in, you need to make some changes, because the face of Australia is not going to change, it is going to become more and more diverse. So as businesses, we need to keep up with the pace of change that diversity is bringing to this country, and it is not about more women at board levels, it’s about the colours of your organisation.

Tanja: In men and women.

Sadhana: Men and women.

Tanja: Yeah.

Sadhana: Correct. So that was my first platform. The second platform was this issue of parity, you know? We look at all the data, we look at all of the issues that we discuss, and women genuinely are going to be, you know, from my age group, probably my great grandchildren are going to achieve parity. That to me is just ridiculous. It’s an easy thing to fix. If leaders in organisations sat down and actually had a look at the parity issues in their organisation, and made a commitment, and set a target in place, and said, “We are going to get parity,” 20%, 30% across our organisation, across all areas, then we will genuinely start to see some traction. But instead we’re waiting in a lot of instances for someone to make legislation around it. So, we need to challenge that leadership to start thinking about, let’s be proactive on this issue, let’s not wait for somebody else to tell us what to do.

Tanja: So you say it’s simple, what three things could be done to increase it?

Sadhana: Well, if I was leading an organisation that needed to have the issues of parity discussed, the first thing I would do is have a look at how many women do I have in my organisation? What roles they occupy? What are they paid in comparison to skill levels versus the men? It’s a good place to start.

Tanja: It’s a great place to start.

Sadhana: The third thing for me was the issue of violence against women.

Tanja: Yes.

Sadhana: That was the third platform for me and I became very involved with that… In fact, I’m about to, you know, go into the advocacy program with them because I’m very passionate about this issue of violence against women. It’s not just physical violence, but it’s emotional violence, it’s sexual harassment in the workplace. it’s a whole layer of things that start to happen when women are in these situations.

Tanja: Why did you choose that one?

Sadhana: Number of reasons, you know, I go back to 2012, when Jill Meagher was murdered and it was a time in Melbourne where the issue of women’s safety came to the forefront. There were a number of women and I was one of them that were demanding women to have safety at night and for the first time in a long time the issue of violence against women actually came to the forefront. Politicians started to discuss it, there were marches in the streets. People were genuinely involved to make a difference.

Tanja: Because it was on the radar.

Sadhana: It came on the radar.

Tanja: Yes.

Sadhana: Then a number of other people subsequent to that became involved and, you know, we are where we are today. But when you look at the numbers, in 2012, one woman a week was being killed in Australia through domestic violence, and in 2017, it is still one woman a week. So the numbers haven’t changed. I remember sitting at home going through Facebook, and I found this event in Canada where men had put on high heels to walk to make a statement. I said to my team… and I love the business I work with because you know the men in my organisation stand up for this and it’s so easy to say no.

Tanja: Yeah. Yeah.

Sadhana: A number of organisations have said “No” to me before, to kind of work with us. But it, you know, my guys actually seek it, because the issue of violence particularly against women is not going to be solved by women alone. Men have to stand side by side with women to solve the problem. What I love about what we do at Harcourts, is that men in our organisation stand up with us and say “No”. Not just for within us, but within the communities that we work in as well.

Tanja: Yeah.

Sadhana: Such a strong statement to make. It’s probably one of the, you know, you talk about leaving a legacy behind in businesses that you worked with, and if that’s my legacy I can’t ask for anything more.

Tanja: I think you’ve got a couple of legacies up your sleeve just quietly which we might touch on. So, yeah, so the campaign is called “Walk a Mile in their Shoes” and it invites men to walk in high heels for a mile to raise awareness and funds for women that are experiencing domestic violence. Is that correct?

Sadhana: Well, the money actually raised goes to White Ribbon and it goes to support the schools program because I really…

Tanja: So it’s like an education…

Sadhana: Generational change.

Tanja: Right. Yeah.

Sadhana: You know, if we’re not seeing a genuine shift in numbers today, then hopefully if we teach the next generation about respectful relationships then in 10 years’ time, in 15 years’ time, we will genuinely see a shift in those numbers.

Tanja: I’ll have no doubt that you will be tracking it and in 15 years’ time see, has it shifted at all?

Sadhana: Yeah, and if it has shifted as a company, as a group we can actually say, “We had influence on that.”

Tanja: Yeah.

Sadhana: That’s pretty special.

Tanja: So we’ll come back to that campaign and also the recent media exposure because you and I, we spoke on the phone yesterday about this, I saw it on the news. So, you know, I think it’s… A, it’s a great strategy to be humane, use any platform or organisational energy to make a stand for something that is in alignment with your values or your, you know, your industry ethos and make a difference. B, you also can potentially get some great exposure, and elevate your level of awareness and the great work that you’re doing in the communities. So there’s many…it’s a win, win, win really.

Sadhana: It’s a win-win. Yeah.

Tanja: I want to know though, what is it about your character that has you see a statistic, and, you know, it’s kind of like the whole swipe philosophy now. We can be at home on the couch in our pyjamas, swiping through life, and we see, you know, hurricane here, and a flood here, and children killed here, and, you know, celebrity bust up here. I believe we’ve become like a society of swipe. What is that innate character in you that goes, “Stop, pause, hang on.” What is that? Where does that come from?

Sadhana: How do I explain that? I genuinely believe that each of us has the ability to make a difference.

Tanja: Yes.

Sadhana: Okay. We don’t get the time that we get on this planet to just take and not give back.

Tanja: Yes, well said.

Sadhana: I truly believe that. So giving back is different for different people. You know, my way of giving back is different to your way of giving back. I’m this sort of person that never accepts no for an answer. It doesn’t exist in my vocabulary, and people when they say “No” to me, I look at them as if they’re talking a foreign language.

Tanja: Yeah.

Sadhana: I’m a very value driven person. So I think when I see something or I experience something that I know that just isn’t right, then I will do whatever I can within my power to influence, to change, to push, to question and drive the changes that need to happen for that issue to get either highlighted, or viewed in a different way, or genuine change to take place.

Tanja: Yeah, and resolved in some form.

Sadhana: Yeah. I’ve always been like that even when I was a child.

Tanja: Really? Where did you get that from?

Sadhana: Probably my…well my grandfather was a slave so probably from him.

Tanja: Wow.

Sadhana: You know, I think my tenacity, my desire for good in the world.

Tanja: Your justice.

Sadhana: My justice.

Tanja: Yeah. Yeah. I get it.

Sadhana: That sort of my own stand that I have. Probably something that I’ve got from having grandparents who spent most of their years until they were in their early 20s’ working under the most brutal conditions for CSR, you know.

Tanja: Wow. If anything, it’s going to develop a level of resilience. Tell me as a leader’s perspective, when you create platforms for your people to join you and make a stand and make a difference, what does that do to the culture within the brand at Harcourts?

Sadhana: What come out as a really good example of how it has had a huge cultural impact on our organisation, I’ll talk uniquely from a Victorian standpoint, we’ve been doing it for five years now. It’s become part of our culture within our organisation, but I can clearly see the difference it has made in terms of how men work with women in our organisation.

Tanja: Wow, what are you seeing? What are you noticing?

Sadhana: Well, there is standards of behaviour that our guys simply won’t accept anymore.

Tanja: Right, so like the little innuendos or subtle references that are not appropriate just are not happening.

Sadhana: Just not happening and quite often they’ll say to other people, “We do walk a mile, we don’t do that stuff in here.” And that to me is, you know, that’s awesome. If that’s what we’ve achieved internally I couldn’t ask for anymore.

Tanja: Isn’t that cool because it’s not like a gig that you do once in a year. The essence of the message has been adopted and is now being broadcast from the guys that wore the heels.

Sadhana: It’s all about respect.

Tanja: Yeah nice, really nice. What else are you doing inside of your brand, Harcourts Victoria, to raise the level of leadership with your team? because, you know, we’ve just done a national survey with Core Logic. This whole interview series is about hacking into different key leaders of influences opinions about what matters. So you’ve got three key things that you’ve been focusing on, as you’ve said yes to all those opportunities that have come your way. What are you doing to elevate your state of leadership within the brand and within Victoria?

-Sadhana: So Harcourts is the brand. I mean, we’ve been really clear and it’s interesting you know, 2016, I came out and I made a very bold statement that was picked up by…

Tanja: Can’t imagine.

Sadhana: Yeah, can’t imagine that, right? Was picked up by the AFA and our statement was that we want to be the number one brand in this town. You know, we want to own that space. But, it’s not so much about having more locations than anybody else. Or, you know, doing more sales than anybody else, or making more money than anybody else. My statement about being number one is around the consumer. I want Harcourts to be number one in Victoria, because we deliver the best service than anybody else in real estate.

Tanja: How do you measure that?

Sadhana: So we measure in different ways. We’ve done mystery shops in the past, we now are going down the track of NPS, the net promoter score. We have a huge focus on training in our organisation around delivering service, around understanding what those moments of truth are, around understanding how to create different experiences that become memorable, and genuinely wanting to help people as opposed to, you know, I’ve done the sale, or I’ve rented the property. It’s a transaction not a relationship and move on. But that’s a massive shift. It’s huge…it’s going to take us a long time to get there, but it’s a great goal to own and a great influence to have as a lead on organisation to say, you know, “We will become number one, because we’ve earned the right to be number one, because we deliver the best service.”

Tanja: Then once you get there, it’s about sustaining it.

Sadhana: Yeah, exactly. It’s about anything, it’s about sustaining it all the time.

Tanja: So you’re measuring performance, you’re investing in training and development. Tell me and you say we’re not…you know, we’re on our way, you know, we’re not there yet. It’s a long way to go. But if I know you…you will not…It’s a plate that will not be unspun, you know? You won’t drop that ball.

Sadhana: Well, I don’t know whether you know this or not but Roy Morgan does the poll.

Tanja: Yes. Yeah.

Sadhana: Real estate agents have been voted the third lowest profession not once but…

Tanja: For four years.

Sadhana: Four years in a row. Right?

Tanja: Consistently. That’s part of the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Sadhana: So I’ll look at that now and this is a great one around leadership, because I look at that and I go, “As a leader I can run away from that step.” In all of my organisation we don’t do that. I can accept it and do nothing about it or I can own it and go out to the public and say. “You voted us the third lowest profession. We get it, we understand why you have, but we’re actually doing something about It.” So the message is really clear to our consumers and to our clients that Harcourts have heard you, and we are doing something about it. So from us expect something different.

Tanja: Nice.

Sadhana: Do you know the interesting thing is? If our guys don’t deliver it they come directly to me.

Tanja: Whose they?

Sadhana: The public.

Tanja: …because you said…

Sadhana: “Because you said it. Your radio ad told us you were going to be different”. So you know as a leader you put yourself out there.

Tanja: That’s risky business. So what would you say, Sadhana, you know, I have a deeper appreciation of your grit, your fight, your justice card, because your story of your grandfather who was a slave and I can appreciate that level of resilience and tenacity. A skill that leaders need to have because many leaders would rather be liked than lead. They’re not willing to have the straight talk and one of my favorite quotes is, “The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept”. Oh, I just got goose bumps because you seem to be a leader that’s just not willing to accept standards that have the consumer not experience a great experience when selling their biggest asset. Or are you willing to accept certain social behaviours and impacts occurring where you know you can do something about. In this quest to be number one, there will be times when consumers as you say call, you know, “You said, you told us on the radio”. What do you do about that? How do you let your people know the feedback that you’re getting?

Sadhana: So we have a process in place, and again I think any organisation that has a quest to achieve anything or has the right culture in place, it’s all supported by the right systems and processes. So you know, if we get a complaint we go straight out to the franchisee or to the business owner in that office and we work with them to resolve the problem and then we go back to the client. So there’s high levels of communication. There’s high levels of involvement from the corporate team and involving our business owners to really understand what the issue is from both sides and then going back to all parties and hopefully coming out with some resolution around it.

Tanja: Yeah, because it’s not easy when you’ve got a corporate structure and you’ve got a thousand people and there’s…you know, at the top you you’re hanging out in the cream and you’re really clear of what the standards and objectives are. Then when you get down to the person that’s you know in property management that eight hours a day solving problem after problem and managing unrealistic expectations from numerous stakeholders. What is one of your strategies to make sure that you know creamy message doesn’t get diluted as it gets down to the people on the front line? How do you keep it consistent?

-Sadhana: It’s a language that you use, the training that you do, the marketing that you have, the radio advertising that you do, the connections that you build, the associations that you have. It’s not just one siloed piece in our business, everything in our business is about the consumer and delivering the right level of service even our conference themes are around that. You know, moments of truth, protect the experience, our promise. So it’s not just one siloed language piece that goes out, it’s everything, everything.

Tanja: So you’re saying that Harcourts Victoria no matter whether it’s a training or one on one feedback to a principal or a sales agent or property manager or admin person, whoever you know didn’t deliver an extraordinary experience to a customer, you’re saying that you always come back to a client-centric focus. Everything you do is about the vendor, the buyer, the landlord, the tenant.

Sadhana: Yeah qnd we do a lot of work around when we run our training sessions I mean starting on this equal moments of truth, our conference theme. This year was moments of truth. We take that theme and we start to unpack what does that mean, and how can we create amazing moments of truth for our clients, and it won’t happen every single time because that would be unrealistic but we know the key moments we know that there are certain things that we can do that we can put into processes, into businesses. We can train our staff in too that becomes a consistent delivery on the front end. But again, Tanja, that takes years to achieve. It’s not something we’re going to be able to do in six months but it’s a very clear vision that we have in place.

Tanja: Yeah, and you’re congruent with it. Like there’s no shortage of passion over there where you are.

Sadhana: No. No.

Tanja: Okay, biggest leadership challenge for you right now?

Sadhana: I think change and may not just be even for me. I think for most leaders these days it’s change.

Tanja: What’s in here?

Sadhana: It’s in your survey.

Tanja: Yeah. You know, keeping people positive in times of change is one of the most difficult things to achieve.

Sadhana: We’re working in the most significant time of change. You’ve got technology, you’ve got clients wanting more, you’ve got disruption happening across all sectors of business. As leaders we are working in a time where there has never been as much change as there is now. So that’s a huge thing to undertake. Leaders become change fatigued as well, as do their people but you can’t actually show that. So your businesses need to be so agile and move so fast that you have to make sure that people are still on the journey with you, that you haven’t left people behind or you haven’t miscommunicated. I think if we were to look at leadership challenges around the globe today change would have to be a big one, because how you manage it, how you communicated out, you’re not always going to get it right, you are going to make mistakes. How do you play in that space is so challenging for anybody.

Tanja: Sure and change elicits uncertainty. So when there’s a change people intrinsically and naturally get into fight or flight. They’ll often get defensive, they’ll go, “What’s wrong, and how it’s going to affect me?” If you’re saying the biggest challenge is change, what is your practice around minimising any negative impacts towards change?

Sadhana: It’s that fine balance, right? You can’t change for the sake of changing, you can’t change too fast because you make mistakes and you’ll lose people and you can’t lose the opportunity. So you’ve got to take the risks. It’s playing, you know, in a really finite in all of those areas, right? So it’s about doing your research. So as a leader you must know the research around the direction you want to head in. So whether it’s numbers, whether it’s you know, mystery shop, whatever it is, know the research, know the data because data never lies. Secondly, it’s about getting people engaged with what the research tells you, which is why you should be moving in that direction and have a really robust plan that as you learn, which is what you do, your mistakes are your learning. As you learn you can make the decisions to change really quickly and in a really agile way that allows you to navigate all of the roadblocks that are potentially going to come along with you. The key thing around the engagement is getting those people who are not confident, not sure, fight or flight, getting them engage in the change process. So understanding why they don’t want to do it, understanding what their fears are, understanding why they perhaps won’t engage in it, and then finding a way to bust through those myths to show them a different story and sometimes they go…

Tanja: …and sometimes they go.

Sadhana: …and that’s part of change.

Tanja: So I’m curious to know what are you doing as a leader to elevate your skill set of your leaders to cope with the waves of change?

Sadhana: Internally within our own organisation we have a fabulous training program for our leaders and we take them through all of the challenges, the changes that they’re going to have when they become business owners.

Tanja: How regular do you do that?

Sadhana: We deliver them on a regular basis, so whether it’s once a fortnight, once a month. So they just book in advance. We might have something on recruitment, we might have something on managing your people, we might have something on creating the right culture for your organisation, we might have something on one on ones. We break them down into little modules and we then run them. I might run some, my trainers might run some. We have my Mike Green who is our managing director and he loves talking about recruitment because he’s so good at it. He’ll come and run some. Irene Green might run some. So we have our own leaders at the executive level come in and join us and our guys love that because they get to hear from people who, you know, were so pinnacle in getting this business to where it is today.

Tanja: So you use what I call asset mapping. You elicit the skills and the wisdom from within the business to really share best practice so everyone can learn and grow together.

Sadhana: Yes. Right.

Tanja: I know we’ve talked a lot about change, was that the point that you felt was the most important in the key insights…

Sadhana: Yeah, I did and it was great to see that so many people believe that their leaders are doing the right thing, which I think, you know, there was a time in this industry when that wasn’t happening but it’s good to see that that has actually changed, 27 years, I’ve just about seen it all, as they say. But you know it’s good to know that from a leadership perspective there are many of us who have seen change as one of the biggest challenges right now.

Tanja: Yeah, and there is work also to be done on…the statistics are showing us there is a bit of a gap from how leaders perceive themselves to how their teams perceive them to be. Around 16% are saying the quality of leadership in their organisation ain’t so flash. So it sounds like you’ve got a pretty comprehensive program in place to elevate the skills of leadership and do you regularly measure and manage their performance at a leadership level?

Sadhana: You know the best way to measure a performance of a leadership is how many people are staying or leaving the business. If they have a revolving door, we know that we’ve got an issue and we will have conversations. It’s a good point you raised around this issue of how people perceive leadership because I think a lot of us go into that leadership mode, we’ve come out of sales, come out of property management, there is a real lack of training in our industry around how to be leaders. We don’t go to university, get a degree on how to run a business. Most of us haven’t even seen a PNL until we become business owners.

Tanja: It’s like, what?

Sadhana: Right?

Tanja: Yeah.

Sadhana: So we go into this arena with our skills sets being quiet low and then we suddenly have to manage people and keep them accountable, because if we don’t then the business suffers because…

Tanja: Cash flow issues.

Sadhana: Cash flow issues. You know we get thrown a number of things at us when you are a new business leader and that’s when you need the high levels of support, but amongst all of this stuff that’s being thrown at you as a business leader you still have to remain authentic and vulnerable.

Tanja: Yes.

Sadhana: Right?, because they are the key things that people connect to with a leader.

Tanja: 100%.

Sadhana: If you’re authentic and you’re vulnerable, I’m probably going to connect with you more and forgive some of the other stuff that you are not doing. People leave managers not businesses.

Tanja: Well, let’s just go down that vulnerability path which I’m a huge fan of and I’m sure you’re familiar with Dr. Brene Brown’s work of the power of vulnerability in listening to shame. If you haven’t watched those TED Talks, some of the best TED Talks there are as far as viewership and content. Please check them out, Dr. Brene Brown, “The power of vulnerability and listening to shame.” Her other one is “It’s not the critics who count.” The average age of leaders in the industry is between 40 and 50. Not from a research perspective but being out in the field working with these people, predominantly men, vulnerability is not necessarily an innate part of their DNA. They’ve come from a different breed generally speaking of sometimes “my way or the highway,” “suck it up, get over it.” Define vulnerability for you as a leader and secondly why you think it matters?

Sadhana: Well for me as a female leaders, it’s about bringing yourself to the table right? Vulnerability is about bringing your authentic self, your real self to the table. I remember when I took on the role of CEO, this is nearly six years ago now. I’d sort of thought, had this picture in mind that I had to be tough, I had to wear the pants, put on my shoulder pads and wear pants and that just didn’t work and it’s about being okay to bring yourself to the table, to acknowledge when you may have got it wrong, to let people know that you may not have the answer to the issue, to let people know that you have been emotionally impacted by something that you may feel just as hopeless as they do. On the flip side of all of that, is to show the fun that you can have, to show that you can actually genuinely cry, and laugh, and dance, and sing, you know all that that people connect with because…

Tanja: Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Sadhana: Don’t take yourself so seriously. Yes, there are going to be times as a leader that you’re going to have to make tough decisions and that’s when you might have to put your serious hat on. But other times you can just be yourself. People connect most with you, they will trust you and they will follow you when they know that you are genuinely the person that you say that you are.

Tanja: Do you find that if you’re doing that when it does come time to have that straight talk, that truth serum, those tough conversations, it’s built on a foundation of trust and they know… You know, one of my favorite quotes is “Speak your truth even if your voice shakes”.

Sadhana: Yes, absolutely. When people trust you, it’s easier to have conversations that are either great conversations or difficult ones because it comes from a place of trust.

Tanja: That’s what vendors and buyers want, to keep things they want- from the research that Core Logic have done- are trust and transparency. So, if we’re practicing those core qualities at home, in the business, it’s easier just to authentically be trustworthy and transparent at a listing consultation. I don’t know if I when calling an auction because how you do one thing is how you do everything.

Sadhana: Well it becomes part of your culture in your organisation.

Tanja: Yes, your DNA.

Sadhana: I look at my corporate team and then I ask the question the other day, “What is it like to work here?” I was putting a presentation and I thought I’ll ask my team what it’s like to work here. You know, it was interesting the answers I got because it was like we’re a team that’s brutally honest. The team that loves accountability. We’re a team that’s so driven on the vision that we have in place for Harcourts Victoria. We’re all in the same page and we’re so driven to be the best and to take the business we want to get to, we’re all in the same page. We’ve also got each other’s back. We won’t let the other person fail. But most importantly, I love one of the answers that I got is, “We can bring ourselves to the business”. How awesome is that the people who worked with me know they can bring themselves to the business and be authentically themselves.

Tanja: Their whole self.

Sadhana: Their whole self which means that my group, Harcourts Victoria, sees the whole self of the entire corporate chain so that then creates a culture of authenticity in the conversation, right?

Tanja: That’s really good. Congratulations. Not easy to do.

Sadhana: No.

Tanja: Really not easy to do but I’m clear because of your passion and your consistency that the people around you know that well, that’s where you stand and you’re either going to be in alignment with these core values or not and if not that’s okay. Go find a place where there’s alignment so you can be in flow or play…

Sadhana: Somewhere else. As a leader you can’t be wishy washy. Wishy washy leaders are actually not good leaders. As a leader you need to make a stand that people connect with.

Tanja: Sure.

Sadhana: You’re not going to go and do something really crazy and silly and be all that left wing stuff. But you need to make a stand that people connect with. If you are wishy washy as a leader then your organisation is probably going to reflect that as well.

Tanja: So as we wrap up, you talked about leaving a legacy before and you’re a busy woman up to stuff. I don’t know that everyone knows all the things that you do both personally and professionally.

Sadhana: No one does.

Tanja: I bet. I just intuitively get a hunch. My goosebumps never lie. You know you invite your people, the thousand people that work side by side with you to make a stand for things that matter and they do and they have been and you’ve done it for five years now and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. You’ve been recognised within the industry and then within corporate Australia for the leader that you are. You also personally make a difference by you know you’ve adopted how many children now?

Sadhana: Well it actually goes back a little while now but in 2008 I met a beautiful lady who was dying of cervical cancer and her husband had died four years earlier and some of the work that I do in Fiji is around taking, or going back home every year, sometimes more than once a year to do pap smear clinics in remote islands of Fiji or in remote villages in Fiji and in one of my trips in 2008 I met this lady and I actually made a documentary about her life because we use her story to encourage other women to have pap smear because cervical cancer is one of the biggest killers in Fiji of women. One of the questions I asked her in my documentary was you know, “Limba, what are you scared of?” and she said to me, “I’m terrified of dying and knowing that I don’t know who’s going to look after my children.” As a mum, I could think of nothing worse than that happening and you know not knowing what was going to happen to my kids. We’re talking about a country that doesn’t have all the social support systems that we have in Australia. We’re so lucky in this country, really. So I promised her that I would look after them and I hope that if there is a place that we go to, then she’s looking down on me now because, I believe that you know if we do go somewhere, that she knows that I kept my promise so they… I looked after those kids and I’ve got one more left at school. Most of them are married and have their own kids and all that sort of stuff but you know I did, I kept together, I educated them, I fed them, I dressed them, I sent them to school and I didn’t become their mother but I became that person in their lives who saw them on a regular basis, spoke to them every single weekend and I became that person in their life that they knew that if anything ever went wrong I would be there to fix it.

Tanja: Yeah, and as I said before how you do one thing, it’s how you do everything. You are that person in the workplace. I’m sure you are that woman at home and you are that humanitarian out there in the world.

Sadhana: That’s a big word I don’t know if I’m quite the humanitarian but I had an opportunity to give back to the country that I was born in and I’m really so proud of everything we’ve achieved ever since we’ve been running the program we haven’t lost one woman to cervical cancer.

Tanja: Go you, that’s awesome.

Sadhana: We’ve now created the program where we’re making this island self-sufficient, we provide them with the with the product, they go out and do it.

Tanja: For those that are watching, what is the program? How can they get involve in supporting? You can look down the camera and let them know.

Sadhana: The foundation is called Links Fiji. We have a Go Fund Me account called Smear Campaign. So if you go to the Go Fund Me account it’s called Smear Campaign Links Fiji and every single cent that we raise goes to the foundation and a hundred percent of those funds are used to taking pap smear kits, the whole kit. It gets landed into Fiji and then the nurses in Fiji use that to go out into the field to conduct pap smears every single week. So we’ve gone from me going over two, three times a year to the foundation now supporting the programs in the field and these clinics being done every single week which means we three X the number of women that we see.

Tanja: Amazing, really really good work. Well done. Thank you. On behalf of all the families that have a positive impact from the work that you are doing and have done and I know will continue to do. One final message to the industry sad enough, to the Australian real estate industry particularly around leadership. If you could just give one invitation, one tip, one thought leadership, what is it?

Sadhana: Wow, that’s a big question.

Tanja: So if we were going to keep it really simple, if we as leaders in an industry, that is facing all the things you talked about, could focus on one thing that would make the biggest difference what in your opinion would it be?

Sadhana: So I’m going to go back to some of the values that attracted me to Harcourts in the first place. Two of our values, the first two values that we have is, to put people first and do the right thing.  The other two are be courageous and have fun and laughter. If as an industry we actually said, “Let’s put people first,” and do the right thing by them. So that could be the people who work in my organisation, they could be my buyers, my vendors, my tenants, my owners, my colleagues.

Tanja: Your local business owners, your community, yeah.

Sadhana: My community, my coffee shop guy down the road. If we just looked at the business from just those lenses and then ask ourselves, “How do we be the best?” That I think might go a long way to perhaps raising us from the third lowest trusted, least trusted profession, up the ladder a little bit.

Tanja: I’m with you. Well, the thing that’s most obvious to me about you as a leader is you are a woman of your word. So I want to thank you for taking a moment to share some of your words with us and thanks for being a real ray of light as what’s possible when you make a stand, put a bit of energy consistently in what you gave you word to, and as Michael Jackson’s saying, “Don’t stop till you get enough.” Doesn’t seem like you’re ever going to get enough.

Sadhana: No. I’m living till I’m 100 so I’ve got a long way to go.

Tanja: Good for you, no doubt you’ll get there. So Sadhana, really thank you so much for joining us on the couch for TMJ TV.

Sadhana: Thank you for having me. It’s been fun.

Tanja: You’re welcome. Sadhana Smiles.

I hope you found that useful. If so, please like it and share it. If you’d like access to the free downloadable tool, just click on the available link. If you also have any questions or challenges, specifically in the area of leadership or mindset, just write it in the comments below and, when possible, I’ll provide solutions to your requests. Remember, let love lead and you can turn your workforce into the life source of your business. I’ll see you next week for more TMJ TV.

Tanja Jones

Author Tanja Jones

With a core belief that people buy people, not products, I am fundamentally dedicated to having real estate professionals achieve their desired results in the least amount of time, with the least amount of suffering and the most amount of fun.

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