Leadership and Mindset Secrets From a Big Time CEO

I had the opportunity to speak at a big-time commercial real estate firm, Cresa about two months ago, and absolutely loved my time there. The people in the room, who happened to be some of their top producers, fired me up as I was firing them up! What I found was that Cresa is building an amazing company culture.

There's certain leaders that you come across in life that you know you have to spend more time with and Jim is one of those individuals. I knew the moment I shook his hand that I needed to learn more about him, about his background and about how he leads. I heard very good things from people that he works with about his leadership style and his vision for Cresa. 

Just a little background about Jim. He was a Washington elite, a varsity grad, he got his MBA from Harvard, and he has had an extensive career with Trammell Crow Company and the Staubach Companies. He was CEO of Americas for Cushman & Wakefield before almost three years ago now, taking on the CEO role at Cresa.

He is based out of Washington DC and again, it was just an absolute pleasure to get to meet with him while he was in Denver before my speech. 

Here is a little taste of our convo, but you will have to listen to dive into the rest of the juicy content. We discuss topics ranging from Mental Toughness, radical honesty in business, staying steady through tough financial downturns, leadership and getting your employees to bring their boldest ideas to the table.

But before you dive in, let's see what Jim has to say about Mental Toughness (It is after all, one of our favourite topics around here at Pro Athlete Advantage.) PLUS he has a solid piece of advice for you guys! Read a few of our favourite moments from this week's podcast below.

Where I wanted to start with you is when you hear Mental Toughness, how do you define it? What kind of phrases, words come to your mind when you hear those words? 

Jim: It's a great term. I figure that may be what really defines high performers and successful people not just in business life but in personal life as well. The word that I associate to it would be perseverance, having the discipline to take on the things that we know are hard. Obviously, you don't need a whole lot of mental toughness to do things that are easy! In all things in life, both personal and business, we all have challenges. To me, it is about bringing the discipline every day to make sure that you're doing the things that are most important to get done.

Very often, they are the hardest things to get done. In a leadership role, obviously, a big part of that is to set an example for others. That they see it happening at the very top, that you're ready to charge up the hill, and yes we've got knocked down a few times but game on, let's go. I think that's a key role of anyone in a leadership role is to provide that example of mental toughness on a day in and day out basis and to be consistent about it.

What's one piece of advice that you'd pass on to the folks listening today just so they can professionally and personally stand out from everyone else?

Jim: Well, I think it is around the discussion of vision. The first part is letting people think boldly. We had a meeting. We did Nashville about a month ago and brought in a somewhat impromptu group of people together. My invitation to them was you only get to come to this meeting if you bring two outrageous ideas about what we could be in five years. I said, "Don't show up without it." I expected we would laugh at many of them but, if one nugget comes out of that meeting, then it will have been well worth the time, and it was that. It was a very creative opportunity to have us discuss things without any risk to anyone.

The risk was if you weren't ambitious enough, you were not going to get to the next one. Part of it is you have to think boldly or you are just like everybody else. You have to get real. What will really make you different? What do you stand for? Then, we talk about purpose and the like. It's what differentiates us.

If we are just like everybody else then it's luck and can you turn it into a commodity business? Top people shouldn't be here. They should be going to a company that's got bigger ambitions, clients who will follow those people. To me, it is thinking big, then part B is committing to it. It's easy to talk about it but when you commit, you lay out an action plan.

We have just gone through a five-year strategic planning process and we've broken it down into bite-size pieces of three phases. We've got a lot of measurable action items that we need to do and that's where the rubber meets the road. It's accountability and making sure that you are day in, day out taking the steps that you know you need to take to fulfill that objective. 

That's maybe, the not-so-much-fun part of discipline and running a really good business but it's what separates the high performers from the dreamers. The third leg of that is having the right people around the table like we talked about earlier. If they are not committed, then they are going to drag the whole thing down. You asked for one, I gave you three legs to it. Hold your position, commit and the right people.

Listen to the full length podcast here.

This article was originally published on Pro Athlete Advantage.

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Get to Know James Vietzke

James is the VP of Project Management and is responsible for PM initiatives for Cresa’s Portland office. As the single point of contact, James oversees strategic planning, design, construction, move management, and the close-out process. His primary objective is to understand his clients’ needs so that he can deliver services that save his customers time and capital.