Without a doubt, family is everything to me. I grew up in the Philippines where everything revolved around family. No matter what was going on in life, family always came first. I moved to the United States when I was 11, but that sense of commitment and community remained with me and has always directed my path forward. Being part of something larger than myself provides me with an emotional safety net—it offers support and comfort when I need it most. When I look back at the jobs I’ve had throughout my career, the ones where I thrived offered a similar sense of family, belonging and acceptance. I looked forward to going to work because I enjoyed myself and felt surrounded by people who cared about me and my well being. The bonus, of course, was that I was also making money.
When I first joined TTR Sotheby’s International Realty as Vice President of Business Development, there was a noticeable lack of family and culture. A cohesive company identity did not exist. No one gathered or socialized in a company-wide, organized way. Rather, they were just a group of independent contractors housed under one roof. The lack of community felt foreign and uncomfortable to me.
After months of being miserable by the disconnect I was experiencing, I decided to create the environment and the culture I craved, and which I knew would help this company grow. As I witnessed in previous jobs, the presence of cohesiveness, community and a sense of family increases productivity, efficiency and retention while also promoting personal wellness. Win-win.
Here are three practices I rely on to create culture within a workplace:
Last year, I introduced a selling-focused seminar at TTR that emphasized the importance of starting out each day with gratitude. Feeling grateful starts your day on the right path. Before getting out of bed in the morning, think about things you are grateful for, for example: your health, your breath, the joke that made you laugh the night before. Daily positivity naturally evolves into an abundant mind, which creates a happy and successful individual. I often tell my agents this: when they feel as if they are spinning, take five seconds to make a gratitude list. Your blood pressure will decrease and your heart rate will slow down. Gratitude and negativity cannot live within the same space.
Along that same line, most of our associates now begin their days by writing affirmations, and I have most, if not all, my agents practice meditation or some kind of introspective activity. They are able to use meditation before big meetings, during stressful situations, or simply as a tool to center themselves as needed.
I also encouraged firm partners to instill small, yet thoughtful, gestures into the workplace, such as saying thank you for small favors, offering help with large projects, and sending flowers on an employee’s birthday or when there is a death in the family. Better yet, I tell the partners, pick up the phone and call the employee personally. It doesn’t have to be overdone. With any of these gestures of gratitude, the message is clear: We are a family. We are grateful for you. When good things happen we celebrate together, when bad things happen we are there for you. We appreciate you.
It doesn’t matter where we fall on the ladder, everyone wants to feel valued and seen. Being acknowledged in positive ways just feels good.
Establishing culture requires going back to the basics. People crave and respond to human connection. Emails, texts and video chats are quick and easy, but they cannot replace the human element offered in a phone call or face-to-face meeting. Technology is an efficient tool, but it undermines human relationships and connections, and those are the elements needed to instill a sense of trust, support and belonging. Especially in a tech-dominated world, people and relationships matter.
At TTR, we consciously create opportunities for community. We organize business events on a quarterly basis so our associates can come together to network, exchange ideas and enjoy each other’s company. I also founded a wellness program that encourages fun, team-building exercises that allow our agents to interact outside of the office. Whether it’s a private yoga class, an Escape Room challenge, a cooking class or a walking tour around the city, the agents get to bond on a different level and create relationships that will benefit them personally and professionally. The events don’t have to cost a lot; people just enjoy doing things that take them outside of their workspace. (Bonus points for coming up with activities that don’t run after-hours or include a bar or alcohol.)
In addition to the wellness program, I developed a free, coaching program for our associates. The program offers access to an internal real estate coach who focuses on their business, and sessions with me, a certified leadership coach. More specifically, in this role I help associates define what success means to them, what their ideal life looks like, and what might be getting in the way of what they want to achieve. We work together to determine where they would like to go and how they can get there. Once a path has been established, we work toward it as a team.
Real estate is an all-consuming profession; to be successful you need to live and breathe the work and have it become part of your identity. But at TTR, I have made it a priority to assist agents in establishing a healthy work-life balance and make that balance work to their advantage. I help them set boundaries, such as, no answering emails past 10 p.m., or Saturday is family day. I encourage them to make their personal lives, and their family, a priority, which improves their quality of life, and, ultimately, their job performance.
The most astonishing result of the various programs I have implemented is how grateful our agents are to be able to talk and have someone listen. They have things to say and would like to be heard. Active listening deepens that sense of trust and belonging and results in a commitment to themselves and to the company.
Creating a culture of giving back to the community is key for any organization, large or small. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also feels good. Helping those in need naturally uplifts our spirits.
Community outreach is one of the pillars of TTR. We are in Washington, D.C. where people are naturally wired to give back, and being leaders in the communities where we live and work is one of the keys to our success. We encourage our agents to become involved in an organization they feel deeply about, and we support their philanthropic endeavors. The more present and visible they become as a volunteer, the more we help support their efforts and the organization’s mission. By creating partnerships with local organizations, we open the door for them to reach out to us when they need assistance.
We offer our agents the time, space and support they need to give back and work for the greater good. By doing so, our agents are able to become positive examples in the community, the industry and within their own families.
No matter the industry or size, companies are only as successful as their people are happy. Happy employees thrive, and they are productive and committed. Change is hard. The only reason people change jobs is because they are unhappy or something is missing. The importance of making employees a priority, and creating a culture for them within a workplace, cannot be overstated—it can make or break a business. Take a look at the people who make your company what it is, and start with them. Go back to the basics. Teach gratitude. Interact. Build relationships. Listen. Be present.
The practices are simple, but the benefits are boundless.
Trish joined TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in September of 2009 as Vice President of Business Development and Community Leadership, responsible for the firm’s continued growth and development of each agent. Her prior experience of creating the #1 Agent in Washington DC, allowed her to transfer her skills to the agents as well as expand her leadership abilities to further enhance the company. She works with each agent, team and group to create strategies to improve their business and acts as their advisor to ensure that they are acting to their fullest potential. Likewise, she engages each office in community events to impart the importance of every agent being leaders in their respective communities. Trish has been instrumental in the development of nine offices and increasing the sales volume of the firm to over $3.3 billion. Not only is she an expert guide and confidant, Trish is a certified Executive Leadership Coach with credentials from Georgetown University. She has created an internal coaching program for agents to further help their businesses and reflect on how they can reach their highest potential.
Trish works closely with N Street Village, the largest homeless facility and resource for women in the Washington area. A member of their Ambassador’s Council for the last seven years, Trish created Celebrate Logan, a food crawl along the 14th Street corridor, to continue to raise awareness and funds for N Street Village. Whether it be in or out of the office, Trish continues to be a model of giving back to the community, which has already provided her with so much opportunity. In her spare time, she loves to run up to Boston to visit her son, Matt, who attends Northeastern University.
Trish is an accomplished leadership coach, senior executive and entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience and success in the real estate and nonprofit industries.
Throughout her career, she has held various leadership positions with companies including: TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, Washington Fine Properties and Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. In her current role as Vice President of Business Development and Community Leadership for TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, she serves as an executive coach and has established and created several internal leadership coaching programs for associates. See Trish discuss her role here.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Maryland;
Certification in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University, Institute for Transformational Leadership, and she is a Licensed Real Estate Associate and a certified Yoga Instructor. She is an ICF (International Coach Federation) Certified Coach.