How to be proactive, not reactive, in business and leadership

By Shawn Preuss

We often think of leadership as a role, leading a group of people. We also see leading as having the ability to direct, guide, advise and mentor. Leaders are the “expert” in their industry or profession.

While this is a part of leadership, I would like to offer another perspective. I see leading as a proactive practice that brings balance to the reactivity of business and life. Proactive means being out in front, looking ahead, planning and communicating. When we are proactive, we are naturally leading, whether with ourselves or with others.

We are in a world of constant change, which puts us in reactivity rather than proactivity. If we are not careful, we could end up living our lives as a reaction to everyone and everything around us, including our business! Getting off the hamster wheel of reactivity is challenging, and it can be done, even in real estate. The question remains: How?

This is where self-leadership comes in. I define self-leadership as a proactive way of being that brings alignment between your outer-world actions and your inner-world essence. Why is this important in sales?

Sales can position us to be constantly reacting to fluctuations in the market, to meet our clients’ needs, to drive new business. All this reaction is necessary. We do need to be agile enough to react and shift. However, when we tip the scale from balance to a steady diet of reactivity, we end up confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, discontent, avoidant, resistant or even angry. This is when we most need self-leadership.

These proactive practices will help you reduce reactivity. The more you practice, increasing your self-clarity, the more you’ll be able to effectively lead others.


Communication at our fingertips has increased the noise in our lives. We feel the urge to fill the space. Silence allows us to listen deeply. Allow yourself to turn off the radio in the car as you’re driving and sit in silence. The more you increase silence in your life, the more you support yourself in hearing what your heart may be telling you is important.

Curiosity mindset

As adults, we forget the childlike magic of wondering. Our desire for knowledge supersedes our desire for wonder and exploration. Curiosity opens the space for exploration and creativity. Curiosity brings a balance to “what we know” with “what we can discover and create.” Now, take that curiosity mindset inward and step into observation of self.


We are typically focused outward to our environment, people, places and things we can see. This is our outer landscape. We have an inner landscape, our essence, the thing that drives our outer-world behavior. Becoming your own observer is all about shifting the focus from your outer landscape to your inner landscape. We are observing the many sides of self that show up through our behavior and language as a response to the world around us. The more we shift our focus from other to us, the more power we possess to create change based on what’s important to us. Observation with a curious mindset will lead us to questions.


Have you ever asked yourself a question when you’re trying to remember something … what was the name of the actor who … and then three days later the answer pops into your brain? This is the power of self-inquiry. Your brain never stops working until it finds the answer! What is frustrating me about this? What am I expecting here? What’s important for me in this situation? Getting clear on where you’re coming from and owning that is a powerful practice of self-leadership.

Reflect and change

All the above practices will lead you to self-discovery. Reflecting on your discovery and what you’ve learned about yourself helps you to make choices in alignment with who you are rather than reacting solely to your outer landscape. Sustainable change comes from one’s own self-discovery and desire to live more authentically, rather than reactively.

These proactive practices of self-leadership are easily transferable to leading others through effective communication, resulting in deeper, more collaborative relationships.

Shawn Preuss is a Master Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation. She is an executive coach specializing in leadership and team development. She developed and taught the Life Coaching Certification Program and Workplace Coaching Certificate Program for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Preuss has been coaching individuals, teams and leaders worldwide for 17 years.

Tips to succeed during an economic downturn

By Leigh Brown

Y’all, I hate to lick all the red off your candy, but the days of a super-hot real estate market are behind us (at least for now). While on the surface, that sounds like a bad thing, I have news that will make your day.

A recession is your time to shine!

Think about why someone calls a Realtor. They want someone else to be in charge, especially during a recession, when people might be going through a challenging situation or uncertain time. With your skills, network and knowledge, you have the unique ability to help them navigate the road ahead. How special is that?!

Tip No. 1: Call your people

Calling your past clients is nonnegotiable. I don’t care if you’ve sold one house or 10,000 houses. I can hear you making excuses already (I have a special radar for it; I’m a mom): “But Leighhhhh — I can’t call them out of the blue! I haven’t spoken with them in five years!” Pump the brakes. You can, and you’re going to; I’ll even give you the script.

You: “Hey, [client name] — this is Leigh Brown calling.”

Client: “Oh, hi! We love the house. How are you doing?”

You: “Great to hear! I’m just calling to check in and see how everything is going.”

After you exchange pleasantries and the person realizes you might have an inside scoop to share, they will lower their voice conspiratorially and say, “So tell me — is the market crashing?” After all, they’ve seen the news. They don’t know how to interpret it as you do. Tell them that some days are up, some are down and others are sideways. Every ZIP code is different.

Ask if they’d like you to do a quick value update on their house. If they say yes, inquire about any upgrades they’ve made since you sold them the property. Do your best to come up with a range, even if it’s wide. You will either set off alarm bells or give them a sense of security. Either way, you open the door to being able to ask more questions and reestablish your credibility.

Tip No. 2: Don’t sugarcoat it

Through every interaction you have, remember that your clients are real people going through significant changes. During the last recession, I would bring sellers into my office so we could go down the financial road first. There was no point staging the house if we couldn’t figure out the finances, because so many were in short-sale territory.

In the middle of the table, I had a bottle of Pepto Bismol, a bottle of wine and a box of Kleenex. When people sat down with me, I said, “Pick your poison. This conversation will not be fun, but I am here with you, and we will figure it out together.” Laughter, after all, lowers all defensive barriers. Once I had calmed their nerves, I talked straight with them.

Be upfront about the current market conditions, and provide them with realistic expectations — even if it means acknowledging a loss. If you want to dominate during a recession, tell the truth: not with ugliness, judgment or pessimism. Price the house correctly, keep your client’s personal details to yourself, and let your work and knowledge speak for themselves.

Tip No. 3: Just say hi!

Where I grew up in what-used-to-be rural North Carolina, it was common for people to go out “visiting,” making the rounds with people in the community who might need extra love and conversation.

My grandmother was the first person I ever saw do this, and people loved her for it. She would come in with her friendly, relational approach and could get anyone chatting. If you approach a customer like my grandmother would have, it’s easier to get people to let you in. Many salespeople mess this up by thinking about their business through the lens of leads, metrics and numbers, forgetting that an actual human is looking to be served behind each indicator.

Like what you read and want to be friends? Reach out, DM me on Instagram @LeighThomasBrown and say hi!

Leigh Brown is a CSP® (Certified Speaking Professional™) and international keynote speaker with decades of experience helping real estate agents build their industry presence and confidence. She is president of NC REALTORS®.