Lesson for Young Brokers from the CEO of Microsoft

I skim a lot of articles. Hundreds a week. Some are worthy of reading while others aren’t. Then there are a select few that I read multiple times to make sure I retain the information.

This past weekend, I read an article on Inc.com about career advice from the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella. The headline of the article promised that it could all be summed up in one sentence. I skimmed forward and looked for the lesson, which may sound simple, but is really brilliant.

"Don't be a know-it-all; be a learn-it-all."

I went back to the top of the article and read from the start. Nadella is trying to build a culture at Microsoft that encourages learning and failing. He wants his employees to test hypotheses and quickly move on to the next if one proves invalid. It’s re-framing failure as an opportunity for learning.

No two deals in real estate are exactly alike. In my opinion, if we are doing our jobs correctly, we are always learning. When we issue a proposal, it’s a hypothesis. The deal can be done this way. The other side can provide their response and hopefully, consensus is eventually reached by testing each deal point along the way.

Recently, we came across a deal point in a sublease that we couldn’t solve. The landlord, tenant and subtenant were all digging in and pointing fingers. I tried to reason with each side while fighting hard for my client, but I also reached out to several other landlords for their opinion on the issue. I was trying to learn something new so I could better represent my client.

It's also why I am always willing to sit through demos from new tech companies. It’s not only because I like to know what’s coming next. I want to learn how other people see our business and how they think we can provide better service to our clients.

You can always take a similar approach to canvassing. One of my colleagues has been known to say:

 “Every no is one call closer to the next yes.”

But if you don’t learn from each no, then you aren’t closer to the next yes. You are simply headed towards another no.

Roughly a year ago, Microsoft had a huge setback on a project into which they had invested significant time and resources. They quickly shut down the project 16 hours after it was launched, but the CEO issued an encouraging email to the team. His message included the following quote:

“Keep pushing, and know that I am with you…(The) key is to keep learning and improving.”

His team knew they had his support, even in tough times, which reinforced the freedom to fail and learn.

In our business, there are wins and losses, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. The way we handle the losses speaks volumes about who we are professionally, even more than how we handle the wins. If you are a young broker reading this, try to learn every day. Listen. Read. And take the advice above. It’s priceless.