YPP Member Since:
2021 Closed Unit Goal: 90 Units
Current Closed and Pended: 57 Units (as of October 2021)
Michael: Owner, Buyer Specialist, Rainmaker
Leigh: Owner, Listing Specialist, Team Lead
Size of Organization:
Sales People: 2
Support Staff: 1
With over a decade of success in the Atlanta real estate market, Michael and Leigh have helped thousands of clients achieve their dreams of homeownership. Michael and Leigh formed the Schiff Real Estate Team in 2006 to provide a higher level of service and a more personalized real estate experience for their clients. The team’s commitment to exceeding expectations is evident in the successful long-term relationships they’ve established, and by the fact that much of their growing business comes from the referrals of their happy clients.
Before launching his career in real estate, Michael enjoyed success in minor league sports management and ran his family’s textile business in Cartersville. With this strong foundation in negotiating, sales, and marketing, it’s no wonder Michael experienced immediate success in real estate, earning the Southeast Region Rookie of the Year award from his brokerage at the time. Michael’s philosophy is simple – he treats each client as if they were his only client and he strives to make the home buying process more enjoyable and stress-free.
Leigh’s successful career began on the other side of the closing table working with a real estate attorney. Leigh was also one of the charter members of her previous brokerage where she was also involved in establishing the company’s luxury homes division. An Atlanta native, Leigh Schiff has established herself as one of the area’s top producing agents, achieving close to $500 Million in sales during her 20+ years in real estate.
Both Michael and Leigh are passionate about giving back to the Atlanta community. They support a variety of local charities including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Habitat for Humanity, and Give Back Homes. Michael currently serves on the Board of Directors for Most Valuable Kids of Atlanta.
Michael is an avid Wolverine fan and joys playing golf and ice hockey. Leigh is an avid hunter/jumper equestrian. They enjoy traveling and spending time with their family as well as supporting their two daughters in their NYO sports activities.
We hear so many people talk about learning from failure and the idea of failing forward, but not many people open up about what it’s like when you are in the middle of it. This is a year where you have had to start over in many ways.
LS: Yes, the first half of our year was spent doing a lot of self-reflection, and focusing on what we want the next year to look like. We realized that if you just put your head down and keep running, you may end up someplace you never intended to go. Choices and priorities become easier when you know where you are going.
MS: The first half of the year was very busy. We had a lot going on; focusing on both our personal life with two active girls preparing for their bat mitzvah and professional life, running our real estate team. We realized we had to take a step back from our business in order to be present for our girls at an important time in their life. When we did this, it magnified the cracks in the foundation of our business. We realized we didn’t have the team we thought we did.
LS: This led to the breakdown of our team, and every breakdown opens the door to a breakthrough.
At the beginning of 2021, what did your team look like?
LS: I was in a listing capacity along with my listing partner. She was great at the role, however, she struggled to generate or acquire new business on her own. We did everything together. Initially, I wanted to develop her and grow her into the lead listing agent.
MS: I was the lead buyers agent. We also had made a new administrative hire that would serve in the lead operations role.
LS: The assistant we brought on was through someone we knew. We quickly learned the role was not a fit for her, and our fast-paced environment was too far outside of her comfort zone. We brought her into our organization knowing some of her limitations, specifically around her availability to work. We knew what we were getting into. Or, at least we thought we did. Like so many, we were optimistic we could make it work. In the long run, we were sacrificing our growth and negotiating our own standards. It was a mistake and one we learned from and will continue to learn from.
When did this all start to fall apart?
LS: Mid-March. Our kids needed us, we were planning a Bat Mitzvah, and after the craziness of 2020 and pushing one Bat Mitzvah back, we were now planning two. It’s a huge undertaking. I realized I just needed to be a mom.
MS: Then I came in and tried to fix it. It didn’t go well, to say the very least.
How did you try to fix it?
MS: This is the tricky part when you work with your spouse. You are going to protect your spouse at all costs and work to support them.
LS: I was falling apart.
MS: It wasn’t a one-day fall apart. It was a gradual, then sudden decline. I tried to get buy-in from the team. I came up with a plan and came in to talk with them about it. I rallied everyone to just keep focusing on what we are doing. I wanted to get everyone on board with their roles and responsibilities. I thought, “We can take the pressure off Leigh for right now, it’s a 6-week period of time. Let’s just come together and get through this so Leigh can focus on the kids.” When I pitched this to the team, they looked at me like, “Well, as wonderful as that all sounds, what about me? Where do my needs fit in?”
It sounds like in a lot of ways you realized you didn’t have the team you thought you did.
LS: We’ve talked the game with our team. We talked about family, partnership, and coming together as an interdependent unit. We talked about pitching in and picking up the slack when someone is down. We thought we were a solid unit, a team that was “for each other”. When the time came, however, the support wasn’t there. Everything I thought we had built, was simply an illusion. It was shocking. I felt abandoned.
MS: A lot of people on the team started to question the work, the hours, the roles. They had to ask themselves, “Do I really want this?”
What did you realize in this challenge?
LS: I realized that what I have accepted as being okay really wasn’t. I had been negotiating my own standards for a long time. I realized I wanted to be a strong leader, but I didn’t have the people that wanted to grow to the degree that we did. I had to ask myself, “What do I really want to do?” Michael and I realized that a lot of our team had been hiding behind our production.
MS: When we stepped away, we realized we had been carrying the team for years. If you are the only one that can make something happen, you don’t have a business, you have a job.
What was going through this like for you?
LS: It was a lesson in leadership. You learn so much about yourself and how you lead. The minute you need someone to step in, you learn about how you have been leading. If I was only 50% in the business, the team was not prepared to pick everything up. It all fell apart.
What do you think was the lesson here?
LS: With my coach, we looked at it from the outside. I realized we were very close with the people we worked with. We knew everything that was going on with our people. It was helpful, but also a challenge. There were times when we needed people to stand on their own two feet and I realized I’d been coddling people and not giving them the opportunity to rise. I had been enabling vs. empowering. I had one big “aha.” When you know it’s time to move on, move on. Don’t put it off. We had ideas of helping people transition, and we would replace them over time. We felt this was the “fair” way. As we became clearer in our vision, our standards became firmer. When you raise the bar, sometimes people will opt out simply because they don’t want to jump that high. Organizations outgrow staffing all the time. This is what happened to us. Instead of taking action, however, one team member came to us and wanted to negotiate their role and responsibilities. We parted ways. I often wonder what would have happened if we kept delaying inevitable. Delaying the inevitable is the downfall of an organization. There is never a good time to let someone go. If you wait for the perfect time, you are sacrificing everyone else that resides within your organization.
MS: The way I went about presenting a potential solution in Leigh’s absence, failed; that was my lesson. I thought it was so well thought out, and I came from the right place. Looking back, I would ask some questions instead of just telling our people what we were going to do. I never enrolled them in the solution. I never gave them an opportunity to own our path forward. Lesson learned.
LS: At the time I was proud of Michael for stepping in and trying to work with a bunch of women, but it was a good opportunity to ask questions. For both of us, our style has changed. We often think, “What would Kate, Ron, or Cortney ask right now?”
How has your leadership changed?
LS: I am more proactive. I ask questions, seek to understand, and ask for help from people who are far more equipped than I am. I am leaning more on others. In the past I’ve fired, and then aimed. It hasn’t worked in my favor.
MS: What we do now is we focus on the process. We’ve never really followed through on the process. Now, we are doing 4-1-1’s and holding people accountable to their own success. If they leave something blank or come unprepared, we ask about it. In the past, we didn’t really challenge people. We either swept it under the rug or took it on ourselves. Now, we have the opportunity to challenge them, see something from their perspective, and influence their thinking. We address things head-on and come from questions as opposed to just telling people what to do.
LS: We are creating the vision, and we talk about the timeliness of Align & Thrive. Michael and I have been so “divide and conquer”. We realized it is confusing for our team to know who to go to and what the vision is. Our biggest challenge is identifying who we are, what we are working towards, and what our roles are. Our breakdown was caused by being “divide and conquer.” We weren’t modeling leadership and performing as a true team. Our vision has to be created together. It’s a reflection of what we want our brand to do out in the world. Our biggest “aha” is how the way we show up affects everyone on the team. People model how we think and what we do.
How did you come together and manage this personal and business relationship?
LS: At the beginning of the year, we had a real talk with our coach. We recognized we can’t both lead and divide and conquer. We had many conversations. I finally gave myself permission to see that being a leader doesn’t mean someone is better than the other. There needs to be clarity. I was stepping back in a lot of ways because I didn’t think I could be the leader.
MS: I think Leigh is the leader when it comes to operations. She knows what she wants and what the team needs to do in order to produce results for our clients. It’s a blessing and a curse. Leigh is talented and can do most things within our organization. Her brain holds on to the details and minutiae that comes with our systems unless she knows they are taken care of. She can struggle giving things away. But she also realizes without leverage, she will never make the impact she could.
What do you mean when you say leader?
LS: In a business, there needs to be someone who is focused on moving things forward. Someone who decides what the next step will be. In our business there are two things I don’t worry about; I don’t worry about bringing in the business, and I don’t worry about the numbers. Michael takes care of that. I oversee everything else.
MS: Leading by example. A leader is able to address people on the team and understand all 3 sides of the story, each individual’s side, our side, and the in-between. You have to be able to have the conversations necessary instead of hoping they just pick it up on their own or know what you mean. You have to be able to recognize when things are going well. It is tricky when you are leading a lot of people. You have to be a chameleon. You ask yourself, “What leader do I have to be?” Not everyone responds to the same thing.
How do you stay aligned with your vision?
MS: We are supposed to have weekly meetings, but we miss them a lot. Again, clarity really helps you prioritize what’s important. The clearer we become, the more meaningful these progress meetings become.
LS: It’s the coaching that causes us to stop, think, and work. Coaching forces us to look at the things we overlook, to understand that success is a process, and to get intentional about creating time to design our business and think in more strategic ways. We are learning that everything has to be on a calendar because if it’s not on the calendar, there will always be something that feels urgent and important. We have to stick to our calendars and calendars only make sense if they represent your vision.
How do you balance the business and personal?
MS: We used to do a lot of date nights. We have a rule, we don’t talk about business on dates. Our kids don’t want to hear about it.
LS: I think the biggest thing is I wanted to bring our family into our business goals. We brought our kids into our Meaning and Money exercise. Your family needs to understand. When you are a business owner, it is all-encompassing. When everyone understands why we are working hard, what the vision is, what it means for our family, it starts to make more sense. Sometimes our kids are frustrated because we spend time working. We bring them into our vision and it all becomes easier. They understand we are working so that we can have experiences together. It is up to Michael and me to create the vision.
What is a book you think everyone should read?
MS: The Go Giver.
If you could put anything on a billboard what would it be?
LS: “We Get Schiff Done!” or “Schiff Happens”.
MS: “Schiff Real Estate Team: The Uber of Real Estate. We drive you from contract to close!”