Episode 23: Hamza Khan – What Makes a Leader?
Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, the podcast for and about Canadian REALTORS® brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association, one of this country’s largest single industry associations. I’m your host, Erin Davis.
Today it’s my pleasure to share with you an amazing chat with Hamza Khan, about what makes a leader. Hamza, as you’ll soon hear, knows where of he speaks. He’s a bestselling author, a teacher, an avid learner, and of course, a sought-after public speaker. Mr. Khan has two TEDx talks that I know you’re going to want to look for, especially after hearing our discussion. I can’t stop thinking about some of the things we talk about today. Active inertia, you stress, and how your social media are all about, give, give, give, and then ask.
Hamza Khan joins REAL TIME to talk about what it means to be a great leader as the workplace and workforce continue to evolve. What do employees look for in leadership? How can those in charge pivot to thrive in the future of work? What does that even look like? How can employees thrive to be seen as a leader in real estate? We’ve got a lot to cover. Buckle in and get set to take some mental notes from episode 23 of REAL TIME.
Thank you so much for joining us here, Hamza. We are so excited to be listening to you and chatting with you. You’re a celebrated thought leader who has spoken to hundreds of audiences globally about the future of work, and of course, you’ve written books on business resilience, even delivered a TEDx talk about the differences between management and leadership. Whew. All right. How did you get here? Tell us a bit about your journey.
Hamza Khan: Wow, wow, wow. First of all, thank you so much for having me on the podcast. I’m really, really excited. A little bit about my journey, I began my career working in the education space, specifically within student affairs, both at the University of Toronto and at Ryerson University. Those experiences then set me down the path of entrepreneurship. I created a boutique digital marketing agency that worked primarily in the education space as well. I got to work with institutions outside of those two that I just named. Then that put the wind in my sales to start my current company, which is a soft skills training company known as SkillsCamp.
Throughout that journey I’ve been very fortunate to do a lot of public speaking, to write two books, and to do considerable research on the future of work where I’m now studying at Ryerson University. I’ve come full circle in a sense. I’m studying the future of work, specifically the relationship between organizational leadership and occupational burnout, really interesting stuff.
Erin: It is, it is, and you’ve never stopped learning, which it’s a great message right off the top too.
Hamza: Yes. Thank you, Erin. I would describe myself as a lifelong learner.
Erin: How about the time you were an intern at Sony? That is a fascinating little beginning as it were, and something that you saw that a lot of people didn’t.
Hamza: Yes, that was a really, really formative experience in my career. One of first jobs that I had while I was at university, studying at the University of Toronto, Scarborough in my fourth year, I got an internship at Sony Music that was supposed to only span three months. Now mind you, this was in 2007 at a very interesting time in our history. This was right before the 2008 financial crisis, and then at the same time, the music industry was going through considerable disruption.
I watched from the inside out as an intern, as a fly on the wall, as somebody who had access to all of the different conversations, as many as I could at the time, just hopping into meeting and talking to this person and that person, I got to watch from the inside as active inertia, the tendency to repeat tried and tested behaviors, even in response to dramatic environmental shifts. I watched how active inertia collapsed Sony Music entertainment.
This is a company that had to engage in layoff after layoff during the time that I was there, and what should have been a three-month internship ended up spanning for more than a year, Erin. Actually, my boss pulled me a set and said, “Hamza, I know you’re only here for three months, but you might want to stick around. This is going to be like a compressed MBA for you.”
It truly was because I got to see again how Sony music, but not just only Sony Music, the entire industry responded to these external forces of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, and it was a compressed MBA, an unforgettable rehearsal of the four stages of an organization’s evolution. Every organization is introduced, it grows, it matures, but then it has to decide, is it going to renew or decline? Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, Sony didn’t renew itself in time. They eventually did, but it was quite a turbulent journey. I consider myself very fortunate to have seen that from the inside and then taken those lessons with me throughout my career.
I think often about this quote from Jack Welch, the ex-CEO and chairman of General Electric, which interesting fact about them, they’re the only company from the 1917 Fortune list, which remains on the Fortune list today, the Fortune 500 list specifically. I think it’s because they’ve embodied the ethos that Jack put forward, which is, change before you have to. That’s rooted in another one of his quotes that I think about often. He said that if the rate of change on the outside of the organization exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is nearer.
Erin: As Jack Welch himself would say, prepare for when your leadership is challenged, and that really brings home the message that we’re talking about today. You’ve been quoted as saying that you sink to the level of training, preparation, and character with belief that another crisis will happen and more things will test you throughout your career. Can you explain what that means, sinking to the level of training, Hamza?
Hamza: That’s really interesting. I had a very vivid experience at the start of the pandemic. Like many people, I was afraid, I was spending time with my family, not sure how all of this was going to play out. My father, God bless him, a very hard worker, a very resilient man, but he was terrified at the start of the pandemic. Anxiety got the best of him and one night he suffered a panic attack, and thank God I was at home. I was able to see it and get him the necessary help. In that split second where I saw him fall on the ground and have a panic attack, which then led to a seizure, my mind went to a really dark place. It was an out of body experience. In the flash of a second I rehearsed my entire life experience with my father, every memory, good, bad that I’ve had with him just in the blink of an eye.
When I reflected on that experience afterwards, because suddenly in that moment, I remembered how to deal with somebody who was going through this, I remembered how to administer CPR, all of this training that I picked up throughout my life within the Canadian Armed Forces and courses that I’ve taken with the Red Cross just came back. I booted up a dormant program, if you will.
When I reflected on that experience, Erin, it reminded me of something that I talk about quite often, especially when I’m talking about burnout and stress. There’s something known as the amygdala hijack that happens to people when they’re overwhelmed by sudden and unexpected stress. A part of their brain known as the amygdala, a primitive part, overrides their prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that you and I are using right now. It’s used for high cognitive functions. It’s used for complex planning, creativity, so on and so forth.
When we are stressed in a sudden and unexpected way, like I was, when my father suffered his panics attack, the amygdala took over, it overrode, and in effect hijacked the prefrontal cortex and sent blood away from my brain, away from my prefrontal cortex towards my extremities. It got me prepared for fight, flight, or freeze. I learned in that moment something that I had been theorizing up until that point, which is when faced with a crisis like COVID or anything for that matter, a new competitor entering into the space, a conflict at work, whatever the case may be, a leader doesn’t actually rise to the occasion. That’s an optical illusion caused by other leaders falling back, and you sink to the level of your training and preparation, and your preparedness for that leadership moment depends on what happens in the moment, it depends on the days, weeks and years of planning and preparation that go into that.
Erin: Hamza Khan polishes his crystal ball and focuses on soft skills and what we can expect the next decade to bring. One thing that’s hard to predict is style, but you can stay on top of what’s new and now in everything from housing trends to design tutorials at REALTOR.ca/Living Room. Check it out for inspiring and entertaining articles always at REALTOR.ca. Now, back to Hamza Khan.
Hamza, your keynotes are grounded in preparing organizations to thrive in the future of work. What does that future look like?
Hamza: Excellent question, Erin. I appreciate you giving me the space, the platform to share these insights.
Erin: Are you kidding?
Hamza: Published a book.
Erin: We’re so glad to have you here. Honestly, this is amazing. Sorry, go ahead.
Hamza: Thank you. I’m getting a little emotional thinking about that experience with my father, because that served as the impetus for me to then write my second book, Leadership Reinvented, a book that I immediately started writing after reflecting on that experience, because I thought to myself, Wow, every leader in the world right now, government, nonprofit, or business leader, especially in the real estate world as well. Every leader who is being forced to contend with the increased volatility, complexity, and ambiguity caused by Covid-19, this is a reflection of who they truly are. The actions that they’re taking, the thoughts that they’re having, this is their true leadership disposition because they’ve all sank to the level of their training and preparation.
Anyways, that experience inspired me to write Leadership Reinvented which is about being distinctly human in the future of work, of leaning into the things that can’t be easily distilled down to binary code. The things that can’t be reduced to ones and zeros. I believe that in the future of work, the things that are going to be done by human beings are going to be those that can’t be done by machines.
The future of work, like I said, looks distinctly human. By 2030, Deloitte estimates that 70% of the workforce as we know it, will be disrupted by technology. Advances in automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, you name it. Like I said, what’s left will be the jobs that can only be done by humans and those jobs will require the soft skills, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking. To anyone listening to this, get bullish on the soft skills because by 2030, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be forced to rethink your entire career game plan. I promise you that what’s going to be left are going to be the things that make you, you. The things that make us human.
Erin: The job of leaders is going to be, if I understand your message correctly, taking care of their people, enhancing the human resistance to creating leaders.
Hamza: Amen. Absolutely. Couldn’t have said it better.
Erin: You did say it. I’ve read your stuff. You’ve also said something that stuck with me from the jump, and it should be a meme, it should be a t-shirt. It should be on everybody’s desk, if we have desks. You can’t always make the right decision but.
Hamza: You can make a decision and then make it right. Story of my life.
Erin: That’s beautiful because it encompasses forgiveness, forgiveness of ourselves, for others to look at us and see the humanity but can we delve into that a little bit deeper please, Hamza.
Hamza: Yes, certainly. We can’t always make the right decision but we can make decisions and then make them right. Especially when we’re talking about the future of work and being prepared for those leadership moments, the key is to just keep on moving. Keep moving forward and keep striving to reach that forth point in the evolution of an organization and have the necessary training and preparation, so that when you are faced with the turbulence, the stress of that decision, the decision between renewal and declining that you default, you sink to the level of training and preparation that results in you automatically engaging in the behavior that will lead to the organization renewing itself.
It’s a messy process. We can’t get it right. You can plan as much as you want. You can forecast as much as you want. At the end of the day, it’s still you, it’s still your colleagues. It’s still the organization that has to go through the process and take the actions and you’re going to misstep along the way but that’s part of the process, that’s part of the journey.
Erin: I think the time in this case though, time is seen as a luxury when it comes to making things right that perhaps was not the right decision to begin with. You’ve got to be given that time. It’s a necessity and not a luxury.
Hamza: Well said, and I think it was Boston Consulting Group who said that changes that were planned over the next five years will need to be made in the next two. That’s how much time is being compressed according to them as a result of the pandemic. Every organization, entrepreneur included, sole proprietor, somebody listening to this who might just be an agent of one, running a one-person operation, that includes them too. They’re going to have to change faster than they think. We don’t have as much time as we thought.
Erin: Why is it compressed?
Hamza: I think a whole host of factors. Again, I keep on coming back to that acronym that I learned when I was in the Canadian Armed Forces as a way to describe our external environment. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, VUCA. If I had to break them down even further, the more volatile the environment, the faster and further conditions change. The more uncertain environment, the hard it is to forecast, the more complex the environment, the harder it is to analyze and the more ambiguous the environment, the harder things are to decipher.
Another way to think about VUCA, those four forces, is as entropy. It’s essentially a law of the universe that things that are unattended to get worse over time. If anybody listening to this is engaged in avoidance, if they’re ducking and cowering and thinking that the external environment will reset to a more comfortable time, I think they’re in for a rude awakening. Like I said, if left unchecked, disorder and randomness tends to increase over time. Let’s just put it this way, Erin. Chaos is hungry for failing organizations, failing professionals and it thrives when people are unprepared.
Erin: That’s chilling, and undoubtedly dead on. We’ll be back in a moment with leadership speaker, author, educator and so much more, Hamza Khan imagining the world a new and envisioning fresh ways to work.
Celebrate two years of REAL TIME with us by revisiting some of our most popular episodes from these two seasons. We’ve talked about design ideas, social issues that affect us all no matter where we live, living green and plenty of great ideas on how to get your message out. Hamza discusses that a bit later too. Catch them all and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss one episode of REAL TIME.
Other than the entropy that we’ve talked about, what work related trends are we seeing as a result of the pandemic? Let’s get positive here because there have been a lot of good things that have come out of this as we now have two years in the rearview mirror. Let’s look at that and what you think is or are likely to stick.
Hamza: Yes, and I appreciate you shifting us in this direction because I think, especially given the focus of my research, it tends to focus on the consequences of inaction. It tends to focus on the people and the organizations who aren’t moving fast enough, but you’re absolutely right. There’s so much to be gained by this. I often think about a quote from a poet by the name of Arundhati Roy who wrote at the start of the pandemic.
She wrote, historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. I love that quote because it gives everyone, yourself and myself included, the permission to innovate, the permission to see new ways of working. Your question is a really good one. What work related trends are we seeing as a result of the pandemic and what’s likely to stick?
I think the big ones, Erin, are permanent working from home arrangements as well as hybrid work arrangements. Those two things we have demonstrated over the last two and a half years almost, not only can people be productive while working from home and having flexible work arrangements but in most cases, I would say, they can be more productive. That I think is going to stick, it’s going to be left to the leaders to figure out how to do so in a way that also respects the need for collaboration, for the serendipity that comes from being in a physical workspace.
There’s benefits to all three of those styles in-office, hybrid, and working from home. I think in the prevailing paradigm of work, working from home and hybrid work arrangements were the exception to the rule. That’s perhaps the biggest one that I think we’re seeing as a result of the pandemic and what’s likely to stick.
We’re also seeing this final sweep of digitization. Any industry that hasn’t been touched by digital disruption, to be honest, every other industry I can think of has gone through it, beginning with the entertainment industry back in 2007.
I think the final bastion of change is traditional education, a space that I’m intimately familiar with, that I currently work in. To a certain extent I would also say the real estate industry has a couple of elements that require digitization but I think it’s already happened as a result of the pandemic. I’m not too worried about that. We’re also seeing an increase in uptake in gig work and side hustles. More people are getting into the industry. More people are adding on different components to their portfolio of work which is really great.
The one that gets me really happy or the two that get me really happy, Erin, are a reprioritization of well-being at all levels. I get really happy about that. People taking the time, taking the opportunity to step back and reflect on where the imbalance in their life occurs or maybe present and thinking about well-being in a more holistic way. Not just physical well-being but also mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. That’s been really cool to see.
Then, I also think that we’re seeing a great leadership reinvention. Every leader in the world right now, myself included, is taking a hard look at their assumptions about leadership, their leadership style and are thinking about ways to be more human-centric.
What’s likely to stick from everything that I just listed right now will be everything except the great leadership reinvention but not if we can help it and that’s why we got to get this podcast out to as many listeners as possible.
Erin: The great leadership reinvention. What do you mean by that? Can you elaborate a bit on that?
Hamza: Sure, sure, sure. There’s so much over here but I’ll try to keep it succinct because I could go on for like five hours about just this topic alone.
Erin: We could listen, trust me.
Hamza: You think about the old way of leading or like the old playbook. It was rooted in what was known as the Theory X style of management. This was advanced by Douglas McGregor, a professor from MIT. In the Theory X style of management, the leader assumes that the employees are lazy, that they want to avoid work, that they need to be micromanaged. This is how some leaders thought about their employee at the start of the pandemic.
What was true was that younger and younger generations, certainly my generation, Gen Y, and I know this to be true for all of the students that I teach as well in Gen Z, that they require a Theory Y style of management, which isn’t really management at all. It’s actually just being led. It’s assuming that these people are adults. They’re perfectly capable of managing themselves. They have the best of intentions. They’re creative, they’re self-reliant, they’re resourceful, et cetera, et cetera.
In the words of Admiral Grace Murray Hooper, you manage things and you lead people. The great leadership reinvention is going to see people shift away and just abandon the Theory X style altogether, unless you’re dealing with a problematic employee in which case you might have to step in and micromanage a little bit over here but I would contend that it’s also the leader’s responsibility to see to it that those employees are phased out of the organization. I’m a big believer that there’s no such thing as bad employees, there’s only bad leaders. I will be the first to say that as somebody who has been a bad leader in the past and is actively working to be a good one.
The great leadership reinvention is ultimately about four qualities, of leaders becoming more human-centric. That’s prioritizing people over everything. It’s about them being changed friendly, making innovation a priority. It’s about becoming values-driven and Gallup has shown this time and again that what employees want out of the workplace more than money, more than titles is they want purpose, they want meaning, they want engagement. I think that being a values-driven leader is really important and that can go into a whole other area of study which is the Theory Z style of management. I’m not sure we have enough time for that one.
I gave you human-centric, change-friendly, values-driven and the last one is self-disrupting. This goes back to the quote that I shared earlier from Jack Welch which is, change before you have to. All of the organizations and the people listening to this podcast who were shocked by Covid-19, this is a wakeup call for us, that this event can happen. It can stress us out, it can disrupt our business. Let’s use this as the impetus to start disrupting ourselves well in advance of whatever that next disruption may be.
Erin: You’ve also talked about embracing the flexibility. It was birthed through necessity totally like so many great things. Now can you put that genie back in the bottle once people have said what I really hate that commute in the morning or I’m enjoying having this melded life, this balance of home and work? Now, of course, with real estate and REALTORS®, you can’t do everything virtually, but can that flex be flexed even more in the future as we head through that great gateway as you quoted the poet earlier?
Hamza: This is going to be tricky. I think about this all the time as somebody who does a lot of solo work. I’m studying right now attachment theory and it’s talking about how at the end of the day we are social creatures, we need each other’s company, we need to be with people that we like including our coworkers. The research is showing that this is a great way to reduce our stress, to reduce cortisol, and to produce oxytocin, the bonding chemical that has tremendous benefits for us just on a biochemical level alone. Being around other people, engaging with customers, with clients, with colleagues, with managers, it’s really important.
I think that Zoom and Microsoft Teams and other virtual communication technology that we’ve used, Slack, Discord, whatever you may be using over here, was a good holdover. It has shown us that we can maintain relationships. We can continue to do work, if needed, virtually but where possible we should find ways to incentivize employees and teams to come together in-person. I think the onus is on leaders and I would also encourage leaders to include their subordinates in the decision-making process with the question of how can we make our shared workspaces more conducive to productivity and collaboration?
I think you’ll be surprised by the answers that you get. Like where I’m recording this podcast right now, I can look out and I can see an office building right beside my home here and it’s empty. It’s empty at the time of recording and I think that’s largely because if I look inside all of these windows, I see a very boring space. It’s cubicles. In a strange way, Erin, cubicles reinforce isolated work.
Can we reimagine what a shared workspace looks like? Maybe it’s hot desks, maybe it’s an eclectic combination of seating and standing arrangements. Maybe it’s something that’s conducive to bumping into people. It allows for the kinetic energy that comes from when the right people, the right engaged people are in a shared space together. Maybe leaders need to think about intentional ways to bring people back to the office. For theme days.
Maybe they can say, if you’re coming back to the office two to three times a week, and let’s say that that’s your prerogative, on Wednesdays from this time to this time, we put our computers away and we all meet up in the boardroom or we all meet up in this creative space and we do some innovation exercises. We try to imagine what sort of organization would disrupt this one and we try to emulate attributes of that organization. There’s so many possibilities.
We sometimes focus on all of the things that we’ve gained from working from home but I would encourage everyone listening to this podcast to also think of the things that you’ve lost. Trust me, one of the things that we have lost is people and being in an environment where the magic that comes from people seeing each other and not being mediated by the screen is possible.
Erin: When Hamza Khan returns, sharing the lessons he teaches about social media, this is so good.
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We return now to our enlightening and fascinating talk with educator, speaker, author, and leadership expert, Hamza Khan.
Part of what we are embracing now is of course, the myriad ways that we can get our messages out, whether it’s TikTok, Insta, Facebook, all of these different platforms. How important is it for people to be using these keys in order to reach the audience? What do you put out there? You have a pretty good formula as to the give and ask that’s really important for people to hear.
Hamza: One thing I should mention is that I’m also an educator teaching at Ryerson University and prior to that, I was one of the founding members of Seneca College’s social media certificate program, which was the first in the country and I’m really proud of that. I teach social media classes. It’s a really interesting class because it transcends the technology itself and it has less to do with the individual platforms like Instagram and TikTok and more to do with branding, marketing, and communications as disciplines.
I assure all of the students, and I want to give the same assurance to all the listeners today, that being effective online in terms of branding yourself, in terms of using social media to get your business out there comes down to these four words. Do things, tell people. It’s really that simple. Do things, tell people and you’re already doing incredible things. The business that you’re running, the sales that you’re making, the testimonials that you’re acquiring, the connections that you’re fostering, the events that you’re volunteering at, your presence in the community, you’re doing these things but now you have to let people know because this is where our market has gone.
At least for the last 10 years, certainly I would argue even longer than that, there’s been a gradual shift to people living their life offline to living it online to the extent that now we’re having conversations about we’re going to go fully online with the metaverse. I don’t know how we’re going to eat in the metaverse. I think we’re going to have to come back out of our virtual reality from time to time to perform some very basic bodily functions, if you will. The point remains that the audience’s expectations and behaviors have shifted to spend increasingly more time online.
The last time I checked, Gen Z is spending something 15 to 17 hours a day connected to the internet. This is where our audience is. If this is where our future customers are going to be, then the onus is on us to present ourselves in a way that is memorable. That we’re top of mind when it comes to this generation. I would include myself as well in that to make decisions about buying a home, about renting, whatever the case may be, about getting mortgage, all of that.
There’s a couple of things that you can do to create an effective personal brand online, again, and they all fall within the do things, tell people model. The first thing that you can do is share testimonials that you’re getting from the different clients that you’re working with. Ask for them. If you’ve done a really good job with a particular client, ask them to write you a Google review. That’ll go long way towards increasing your searchability. You can also take that Google review and turn it into an Instagram quote and share that. You could also perhaps even record them if they’d like talking about what it is that you did for them and how hands-on you were and what the experience of working with you is like and that can serve as some social proof that you can broadcast across your social media.
You can then also ask for warm introductions via social media. I’ve seen a couple of REALTORS® do an exceptional job of giving resources and information generously. I’m in the process right now of buying a home. I’m working right now with a REALTOR® who I followed for a number of years and didn’t do any business with but they were so great in terms of providing education.
What’s the word I want to say? I don’t want to say it was easy because as a social media user and a content creator myself, I know how much work goes into this but they seem to have found their groove with producing their Monday tips and providing eBooks that I can download. A whole manner of things. Do that. I would say, what should govern all of this, the sharing of testimonials, asking for warm introductions, giving resources and information generously, just be a mensch. Try to be helpful, try to be useful to your community. You give, give, give and then you can make that ask. I think a lot of people make the mistake of jumping onto social media, creating a website and making the ask right away, but you actually have to earn the trust of your audience first. I think that this real estate agent did a phenomenal job of earning my trust over years of nurturing me in their funnel.
Erin: That’s amazing. Build the bond without necessarily being on topic but on brand. Playing the long game, it is a long haul.
Hamza: Playing the long game. Actually, earlier today, Erin, I was looking at another one of my friends who is running a fantastic real estate account on Instagram. They were talking about their experiences of going through a pregnancy. You might think listening to this, what does being pregnant and sharing that have to do with my business? Well, it creates a bond. It humanizes you. It makes your story very compelling.
In 1927, a doctor by the name of Dr. Bluma Zeigarnik advances a theory known as the Zeigarnik effect that states that humans are irritated by unfinished tasks. I think that this can also apply to social media. If I’m invested in your story, I’m more likely to continue to follow your story until it reaches its resolution. By simply engaging with one piece of your content, that’s all I need, if I just for the first time see your post about you going through your motherhood journey, I want to know what’s going to happen next because I’m invested at a subconscious level. I want to see this through until the child is born, but then I’m not going to stop at the child anymore. I actually want to follow through the child’s evolution and development.
Throughout that entire process of you sharing, you can definitely weave in elements about your work. Even if you don’t want to talk about your work at all, if I’m curious enough, I will actually click on your bio and then I’ll see, oh, wow, you’re an agent. If I go on your website, you’re offering this webinar series that I can attend. Fantastic. It’s free of charge. Next thing you know, something will click. I’m looking for an open house and then I remember what’s top of mind for me is that you shared on your Instagram story or on TikTok that there’s an open house coming up this Saturday. That’s how the new sales funnel looks like in this digital world.
Erin: As my mentor, Valerie Geller, who is an amazing broadcast journalist and teacher of broadcasters, just this tidbit is, be personal but not private. There is a line in there and it’s brilliant.
Hamza: Be personal, not private. I love that.
Erin: She’s great. Is there a telltale sign in the online world, Hamza, that tells you, that’s a good leader?
Hamza: That’s tough because it really depends. I’m thinking about this especially in the context of like some of the listeners of this podcast are sole proprietors, others are organizational leaders and especially online, trust, leadership, and authority are tightly grouped together. Be ridiculously helpful. I can’t stress that enough. I think that everyone, regardless of what you do for a living, if you strive to be genuinely helpful, that is going to take care of all of your other success metrics, because the natural byproduct of being ridiculously helpful is all of the success that comes with it. I would advocate that the best leaders that I see out there are ones who are genuinely helpful and actively helpful for that matter.
Erin: You’ve said that there are two kinds of marketers, pull marketing and push marketing. Can you tell us what that’s about?
Hamza: Yes, sure. The push marketers, you know them, and you’ve probably unsubscribed from their newsletters and you’ve probably muted them on social media. They’re annoying. They’re in your face. They’re human popups, if you will. God bless them. They’re trying their best, I understand. But maybe if you are a push marketer listening to this, let me tell you very respectfully that you might be annoying your audience.
What you want to do instead is become a pull marketer. Again, provide value. Solve a problem for your audience. Help them do something better, faster or cheaper. At the very least, help them do something better, faster, cheaper. If you do this enough, if you do it consistently, if you do it actively, and if you do it with good intentions, eventually what’s going to happen is you are going to pull people towards you. You are going to be top of mind for them. You are going to be unforgettable.
I’m a very good example of this. The agent that I defaulted to when it came time for me to make the decision about who I want to work with to go through this process of buying a home was the one who earned my attention over this long funnel. I was pulled to them. They didn’t have to push their services to me, they pulled me into their orbit.
Erin: Excellent. Now how can sole proprietors, Hamza, like many of our REALTOR® listeners strive to be seen as leaders in their field? I know you’ve been reading a really good book that has this acting as if sort of an underlying theory here. Have you got anything out of that that you can share with us?
Hamza: Winning by Tim Grover. What a book. It’s quite an intense read, I must say. Again, I feel like a broken record over here, but think it’s worth repeating over and over again, but you just have to be useful. You have to give, and that’s how you’re seen as a leader. It’s very clear to your audience that you are helping other people. Unabashedly share those testimonials that I alluded to earlier. Capture them and share them.
Like I said, if you’ve done a great sale, if somebody is happy with your level of service and you’re working with them, make that known to your followers. It’s a feel-good story. It’ll impress people and it’ll create the narrative in their minds that you are somebody who is helpful, who can get the job done, who is effective, who is again, human-centric, has all the values that we’ve been talking about throughout this entire discussion that we’ve been having so far.
Act like the sort of person that you would want to work with. Act like the sort of person that you would do business with. Act as if you are already this successful business owner, this business person, this REALTOR®, whatever you may be right now. Act as the best version of yourself and conduct yourself accordingly online and the rest will take care of itself, I promise you.
Erin: Our final segment with Hamza Khan is next. We’re going to talk about stress. Guess what? There is a good kind, and he’s going to share that insight and wisdom with us in just a moment.
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Now, as we’ve discussed, real estate runs on an entrepreneurial spirit and certainly, so do you, so tell us, how do you stay grounded and healthy and avoid burnout, Hamza?
Hamza: That’s a great question. There’s something that’s very helpful in the conceptualization of burnout known as the conservation of resources theory. We experience stress typically in three instances. The first one, when there’s a threat of a loss of resources, the second one, there is an actual net loss of resources and the third one, there’s a lack of gained resources following the spending of resources. I’m not just talking about money, I’m also talking about time, energy, and attention.
It’s really important for entrepreneurs and people with an entrepreneurial spirit to do two things. There’s so many I can give you, but I think the chief among them are to assemble boundaries and to guard your precious resources, to guard your time, to guard your energy, to guard your attention. One way to guard your time, for instance, is by putting non-negotiables in your calendar.
Let’s say that it’s really important for you to replenish your energy by working out in the day. Well, don’t leave that to chance. Don’t let it be something that is occasional. Make it likely. Make it consistent. Put it in your calendar every morning from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM, I’m going to work out. Fantastic. If you find yourself consistently pushing off lunches, well, put them in your calendar the same way that you would reflect a meeting in your calendar or a showing in your calendar. Put in from 12:00 to 1:00 every single day I’m going to eat lunch and I’m not going to do any work while I’m eating lunch, because that’s just working while eating.
Assemble those boundaries against your precious resources, number one. That also includes your attention. Being very intentional, for instance, about turning off notifications, maybe using some app, like I use the Pomodoro technique to guide how I work. I work in 25-minute bursts with five-minute breaks.
The second part of the solution that I would advocate for entrepreneurs, and those who are entrepreneurially spirited is a guilt-free replenishment of your energy. Imagine that every day you start your day with four full buckets of energy and you have the mental bucket, the emotional bucket, the physical bucket, and the spiritual bucket, and you empty these buckets as the days’ tasks require.
Now, most people wait until the end of the day to maybe sit down with a warm meal and watch something on TV and replenish their energy, but they never quite get all of their energy back. They go to sleep waking up the next day feeling groggy. The year that I burned out in 2014, I didn’t take a single break for 11 months and I hoped that I could take this miraculous trip around the world in December of 2014 and recover. Unfortunately, I burned out in the process. I learned the hard way that if you don’t pick the time to relax, your body will pick it for you and it usually picks the most inopportune time.
Replenish your energy on a daily basis, ideally throughout the day, if you can. If you have the opportunity in the middle of the day, if you’re big on naps and you can take a nap, take a nap. If you have the opportunity to drop your kids to school and that replenishes your energy, build that into your calendar, make that non-negotiable. Guilt-free replenishment of your energy, I would argue, is part your job. It’s not a nice-to-have. It’s not an augment. It is essential to the work that you do.
Erin: I love that. It’s permission. Thank you. Then there’s your idea of reconceptualizing bad stress as good stress?
Hamza: Yes, yes, yes. I thought, like many of the listeners, that there’s only one kind of stress, distress, and that is stress that causes trouble, danger, feelings of alarm. I learned, after I had burned out in 2014, that there was such a thing as good stress, eustress, E-U-S-T-R-E-S-S. This is stress that is helpful, plentiful, is a precursor to something more desirable.
Research out of Stanford by Dr. Kelly McGonigal who wrote The Upside of Stress, a fantastic book, by the way. She revealed through her research that simply reframing a stressful experience as one that produces eustress instead of distress is enough to change your reaction, your body’s reaction to that stressor. You actually register that stressor as less stressful.
I actually did this quite recently too. I’m in a master’s class right now and I thought to myself, “Oh, man. I don’t want to do this. It’s a huge drag on my time. I don’t feel quite ready for this.” I found myself going into a mental spiral. Then I took a step back and said, “Well, this is actually a precursor to something more desirable, I want to continue to develop my understanding of this subject matter. I want to become more adept at the work that I do. So, this is necessary for me, this is the thing I got to do to get to do the thing that I want to do.”
I know that many of the listeners right now feel that way about a lot of their portfolio, there’s things that you don’t like to do right now that are causing you psychological stress. Coming back to the conservation of resources theory, you might be perceiving it as a threat, a net loss, or an insufficient reward. I promise you, if you drop a T-chart, and in one column you write down distress and the other you write down eustress as the labels, and then you just move things from one column to another, there’s a very, very good chance that the things that you are perceiving to be stressful right now, for example, let’s say updating listings, you think, “Wow, I don’t have the time for that right now. It’s really stressful.” If you see this as important to building your book, to meeting your targets, and then you take it a step further, what is the transcendent end result of doing this work? Well, I get to have all the things that I want and enjoy them with my family. I promise you that you will actually process that stressor quite differently.
Erin: That’s amazing. As we end, could you – there’s just been so much. You have filled our buckets again and again here, Hamza. If you could share one last tip to help our listeners become stronger leaders, what would it be?
Hamza: Okay. Ready for this one?
Erin: I am.
Hamza: As counterintuitive as it sounds, be more human.
Erin: Be more human. Is there any way you can elaborate on that at all?
Hamza: Absolutely. Coming back to an earlier question that you asked about what the future of work looks like, I think that, again, everything that can be automated will be automated. By the year 2030, we are going to find ourselves in a very, very different epoch of work than the one we are in right now. The most effective leaders, the ones who are able to attract and retain and engage top talent, the most effective entrepreneurs, those who are able to compel others to work with them, the most happy people are going to be those who have made considerable investments in their humanity.
These are people who have gotten bullish on soft skills, they’re creative, they’re empathetic, they’re emotionally intelligent, they’re collaborative. Again, the jobs that we’re going to do in the future of work are going to be those that can’t be done by the machines or can’t be easily done by them. You just have to extrapolate a little into the future, not that far, just 2030, those jobs are going to be distinctly human. That is what is going to remain at the end of the day.
In the words of futurist Alvin Toffler, I think about this quite often, he said that the illiterate of the 21st century won’t be those who can’t read and write, it’ll be those who can’t learn, unlearn, and relearn. Mental dexterity, flexibility is another fantastic skill to invest in that’ll allow everybody listening to this to be prepared for when the next change comes and to continue to change themselves and arrive at that fourth stage of the organization’s evolution, and renew every single time. In this way, you cross the chasm of time, time and again.
Erin: Thank you so much for the time you’ve spent with us today, you went past your Pomodoro rule of 25 minutes. We are so, so grateful to you, Hamza, it’s been a pleasure and all the best to you in the future. Thank you for helping us with ours.
Hamza: Thank you so much, Erin. I really, really appreciated this.
Erin: We appreciate you listening and joining us for this 23rd episode of REAL TIME from the Canadian Real Estate Association. We know your time is precious, and thank you for spending some of it with us.
On our next episode, we’ll keep our eyes on the road ahead with an expert on AI and the future of work, Sinead Bovell. You’re not going to want to miss it, so be sure and hit that subscribe button.
REAL TIME is produced by Rob Whitehead with Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. I’m Erin Davis, and we’ll talk to you here next time on REAL TIME.