Let’s face it, the maxim ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ isn’t always true.
But it certainly has been for trainer and keynote speaker Kathleen Black, a leading performance strategist who’s helped high-flying real estate entrepreneurs, epic industry leaders and national brands boost sales and hoist their star higher.
Black has described her purpose as being to empower people to build the businesses and lives they’re capable of leading. Strategizing with teams is a pivotal part of her work.
She was among the first in the industry to launch a comprehensive team coaching model. “Teams are powerful,” she affirms.
Black herself did not start out leading her best life. She grew up in what she describes as “a chaotic, toxic environment,” a witness to alcoholism and parental domestic abuse.
At age 15, she was homeless. Black landed in a psychiatric ward, where a doctor spelled out her options – keep running or stop.
It was a wake-up call.
Black remembers thinking, “I can be a victim. But that’s not my story.” She came to grips with the realization that “You can tell a story that will deflate you for the rest of your life. Or you can tell a story that heals.”
That mindset saved her. As an adult, she credited real estate with saving her as well. In 2008, newly separated and with two small children, she became a Re/Max agent and quickly shot into the top tier.
“Real estate is a risky, highly competitive business. But I wasn’t willing to be a statistic,” says Black. “I sold 46 homes my first year.”
From realtor to coach
As of 2015, she was coaching exclusively, having founded Kathleen Black Coaching and Consulting, based in the Greater Toronto Area.
She’s now partnered with national brands Century 21 Canada and, most recently, Royal LePage Canada; has received multiple leadership awards; has written two books (‘Relentless to Rise‘ and ‘The Top 1% Life); and is the driving force behind the Ultimate Team Summit, North America’s largest team-specific event.
Black is also the subject of The Relentless One, a documentary film about her life that was directed by Emmy-award winner M. Douglas Silverstein.
Released last year in California, it’s in festivals across the States and Europe but hasn’t yet premiered in Canada. (“We’re trying to find a venue,” Black explains.)
The director has worked with the likes of Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney. He’s been quoted as saying that now he wants to focus on “rock stars in other worlds” with triumph-over-tragedy stories like Black’s.
It’s quite an adjustment. He found making this particular film “brutal,” it’s been reported, due to the pandemic and to the challenges of recreating dialogue from the past so that viewers could get inside the depths of the trauma Black overcame.
The impact of shifting
Black maintains that, “you can’t delete pain,” but you can turn it into something that works for you rather than against you.
“That’s the power of shifting, which is a big part of leadership.”
Shifting is one of her keynote themes.
“I’m committed to the impact of shifting. I can’t imagine who I would have ended up as without it,” muses Black. “You’re not born with the ability to be hugely successful. It’s a set of habits and thought processes that anyone can move closer into if they shift their mindset.”
‘The ego is not a great leader’
She characterizes high-performance individuals as raft builders. “They keep going along, gathering opportunities – wood for the raft – to get them where they want to go. Raft builders know we’re not waiting for the future. We’re creating it.”
But the more success people have, the less successful they may feel, she says. This is tied to the ego – they think they have to be all things to all people. “The ego is not a great leader,” observes Black (who has a BA in psychology).
Support, collaboration, visioning, and concentrating on individual leadership strengths can be part of the alignment process used to help high-achievers regain focus and shift to their optimal mindset.
Finding the optimal mindset
The idea is to shift out of the chaos and fear of ego-based leadership and into the calm consciousness/mindfulness of the raft builder, nurturing positive outcomes. Those who do this the fastest, says Black, “are the ones with the most thriving businesses and lives.”
Growing strategically is important, as is prioritizing. In Black’s observation, “overwhelm is always the enemy of high performance.”
Strong systems and tools are other keys to success, Black notes, citing lead conversion systems as an example. “The bigger your business, the more it tips towards the quality of systems.”
In the current uncertain market, realtors “need to sharpen their tools and educate themselves and their clients, changing from a short-term, product-driven approach to a nurture-based journey.”
Today more than ever, top-level success calls for the mentality of a raft builder and in-the-know guide says Black.
“You’re a sherpa this year.”
Susan Doran is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has been contributing to REM since its very first issue.