Sunrises, Grace and Corporate Synergistic Paradigms

Posted on October 28, 2014

I was preparing to speak to 39 new employees at our company as part of their day-one kick off.  This group joined us as the result of our acquisition of the Faison real estate services business.  I was fully synced on what I was going to talk about, namely our mission and our business goals; clearly a typical corporate “rah-rah” speech.  Well that speech never made it.  What follows are the expanded notes of what we actually talked about. 

Carolinas/Mid-South Team – October 16th, 2014

I was fully prepared to give a talk today that was in a certain direction but as it often happens, God “nudged” me down a different path.  Driving to the airport this morning through downtown, the sun was just breaking over the horizon and the sunlight was at that direct angle when it just bangs and pops off the buildings.  It was stunning and just beautiful.  I really love that first part of the day, it washes away my mistakes from yesterday and my self-centeredness hasn’t fully emerged as of yet.  While I was looking at this sunrise I started thinking about you guys.

I realized that today is a new day for you, the sun broke open and in some sense everything changed for you and you didn’t have a choice, you didn’t have a say in the matter and everything you knew in your work-life changed as you joined a new company.  I realized the irony, the fact that I am standing before you as the result of a similar change when the company I loved sold to another firm and I and my partners decided to leave.  The result of our choice is that we were able to become a home for Crosland and Crescent associates who are now joined with you.   My point is this, we are fully aware of how difficult a change of this nature can be and with that awareness in mind, I want to give you some perspective and encouragement to think about.

Your perspective and what you believe about the future will drive your behavior today. Let me repeat that, what you believe about the future will drive your behavior and your performance today.  If you are hopeful and excited about the future and where we are going then it will absolutely effect how you approach the day, how you interact with customers and face obstacles.  If you are worried or angry about the future or this change then I would guess that you will probably not give the day your best.

You were probably expecting some corporate speech about synergistic paradigms and corporate goals, truth be told, I was prepared to give that to you.  But what hit me is the reality of our situation, that this business will grow and thrive based on one simple thing…

Human Behavior and our awareness of it.

Let me give you two points to think about:

Point 1, we are all broken and messy.

When I was at Trammell Crow I once gave a talk to all of our associates that started with me in front of a white board.  I began by simply writing words on the board;

  • I am child of a divorce
  • Family dysfunction
  • Mother suffering from alcoholism
  • I have a temper
  • Father-in-law has cancer
  • I have a daughter with special needs
  • I am passionate and loyal

On and on until the board was filled up with stuff.  I talked about each of these items and how they have affected my life, my past and present.  My theme was that every day when I open the door to our office I am carrying all of this with me.  I may deal with it very well but it was all a part of me.  The fact is that all of us carry a lot with us through life and it’s just messy.  If you don’t believe I have issues, spend 5 minutes with me.  All of us are messy; leadership within the company, associates, our customers have difficulties, everyone we deal with and the simple truth is we will all make mistakes.  In that moment we have two choices;

  1. You can respond with “see I told you so”, and/or you can take someone out at the knees and respond to a mistake with anger or;
  2. You can respond with “let’s get better”, “Let’s not make the same mistake again”.  I am a better father, husband and hopefully a better leader because of Gregg Ickes, Scott Renaud and Nick McKinney.  Partners within this firm, while technically they are individuals that report to me, they had the courage to speak into my life about mistakes I was making in my interactions with others. 

Point 2, all of us want more than OK, we want more than fine don’t we?

We want to do more than just get by or to just get through the day.  My belief and my faith point me towards a key ingredient to this…grace.  Grace changes everything.  When I apply grace to my previous points all of a sudden the game slows down, I find myself trying to put myself in the other person’s shoes because I remember, you don’t know what happened at his house this morning. Was there an argument or is someone in their family dealing with sickness, was it just a bad drive into the office and they forgot to eat breakfast?  All of a sudden how I deal with that individual, associate, or customer changes and hopefully I deal with them the way I want to be treated, especially when I have a bad day. 

This is a really big point, can we become a company that is known for treating all of our constituents, associates, customers, partners and owners, in a way that is noticed.  Can we treat everyone the way we want to be treated?  We will always focus on the best for ourselves, can we focus on what is best for others?

Here is the point.  We are going to build this company into a great regional platform.  We intend to be disruptive and to do it fast.  I believe we can change the world and today the commercial real estate industry shifted when you joined us.  If we are going to give our full effort “with clear eyes and full hearts”. I believe that we should do it with grace and forgiveness in our hearts.  However, let me also comment on what grace and forgiveness are not.  They do not excuse bad behavior and the consequences of bad behavior.  They actually point towards hard work and improved performance.  Ultimately, our clients trust us with their money and their assets, and we can’t breach the fiduciary responsibility we have and we have to be excellent at that. 

I promise, if you embrace and get excited about where we are going, we will grow and thrive and there will be new career and financial opportunities.  Let me give you an anecdote.  When Susan McGuire joined us in exactly the same manner that you joined us, through an acquisition, we informed her that she needed to embrace that a big part of her role would be new business development.  She, very politely I might add, informed us that she wouldn’t be any good at that and didn’t think it would be a good idea.  Essentially her first response was no.  However, as Susan always does, she embraced the new role, she was nervous but she stepped into it with an amazing attitude. Today, after we doubled the size of our retail portfolio under her leadership, she is probably one of the best business development folks we have. 

In the face of this new day, you can also make a different choice, you can hold onto yesterday.  I say that as someone who has an 18-year-old son who has started college and I am trying like hell to hold onto yesterday.  Frankly, it is killing me to let him go because I love him and I miss him.  As wonderful as yesterday might have been though and as difficult as it is to let him go, I know it is good to do so.  It’s the right thing for him to grow and for me to let him go, even though I hate it.   

Today is a new day and I submit to you we will absolutely honor Mr. Faison by honoring you and by honoring his clients.  My hope is that you are as excited as we are.  This will not be easy work, there will be changes and different expectations around performance and how we do things, but if you join us in this effort it will be a heck of a lot of fun and we can remember yesterday with fondness but be even more excited about what the future holds. 

Let’s go change the world.

Written by Paul Ellis
Group President of CNL Commercial Real Estate 

CNL Commercial Real Estate is comprised of passionate individuals that love what they do. While our blog will primarily be directed towards our internal team, we hope that it gives those that we care about most, our customers, associates, partners and friends a look inside our culture and will give everyone a better understanding why we do what we do.