Informational Interview - Barbara Corcoran

Have you ever wanted to interview a super-successful person and ask them how they got to where they are? Me too. In fact, I have a wish list. One of the people I’d love to speak with is Barbara Corcoran from television’s Shark Tank (the American version of Dragon’s Den for all my fellow Canadians out there). What? Barbara over Mark Cuban? Yes! Barbara just seems human and approachable. The kind of person you would want as your mentor if you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing or how to get ahead. Thanks to technology, I got the chance to hear Barbara tell her story and share her best advice, and so can you. Here are some of the major lessons I learned:

Be Observant
At several key points in her career, Barbara moved her real estate venture ahead by paying attention to the market. She noticed changes in her customers’ behavior, like the shift from renting apartments to buying condos. She watched her competitors, including Donald Trump, and observed what they were doing and how people responded to it. Being aware of what was going on around her allowed Barbara to avoid stagnating.

What this means for you: regardless of what industry or profession you’re in, be aware of what’s going on in your world. What are the big issues for your field? How are you impacted by technology? What’s happening at other organizations that you should know about? You can keep yourself ahead of the curve by reading industry publications and blogs, joining professional associations and online groups, and networking with others in your field. If you stay informed, you won’t be caught unawares when change happens.

Barbara’s “Secret Sauce”
Learn to accommodate change. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t, but change is not generally something you can stop no matter how much you want to. It’s much better to be adaptable and embrace change as an opportunity to improve what you’re already doing well and fix the things that aren’t so great. In her talk, Barbara tells the story of how she decided to do videotapes of all her properties to distribute to customers and increase sales. As she describes it, the idea was dead on arrival. She didn’t mourn the loss or go into a tailspin, though. Instead, she had heard about the introduction of new technology (the internet) and told her staff that they were going to put those videos online. It was an instant success.

What this means for you: Sometimes you’re going to fail. When you’re in a period of change, things don’t always work out, and what looks good on paper doesn’t always translate to fame and fortune. That doesn’t mean that you have to scrap the whole thing, or that you can’t learn from the experience. Barbara’s instinct to let people see her properties from their own locations was a good one, it was just the delivery vehicle that was wrong (video vs online). Evaluate your failures objectively. See if you can preserve the good aspects and change the bad. Or try using the pre-mortem technique I described in an earlier blog post to evaluate your idea before implementing it.

Barbara’s Strength?
By her own admission, she knows how to build a team. She’s not being modest here and deflecting credit. Quite the opposite. As she tells it, when she was expanding her real estate business, she hired a culturally diverse staff in order to tie in with the global market. It worked. With her Shark Tank ventures, Barbara ensures that teams are cohesive, engaged, and having fun. Yes, fun. Perhaps the greatest part of teambuilding is creating the right environment, where everyone wants to strive for the good of the organization because they like each other and enjoy what they do. If you can accomplish that, you’re well on your way to success.

What this means for you: If you are a manager, it means that you need to ensure that every member of your team feels valued and enjoys what they do. If they’re not happy, your team isn’t working to its fullest potential. Hire for diversity – skills, backgrounds, ideas or ways of thinking… if you are repeatedly hiring the same person it’s easy to replace them, but it isn’t going to be easy to move beyond where you currently are and you better hope that things don’t change or your team will have a tough time adapting if they all think the same way.

This is all great advice, but don’t take it from me, take it from Barbara Corcoran.


Who are we?

Catherine Maybrey Coaching Services provides comprehensive career coaching packages to help clients move forward in their transition through action. As the principal and owner, Cate believes in “telling it like it is” and helping her clients to reach their goals through a combination of education, information, and collaboration. She also works with employers to provide custom training and organizational effectiveness solutions, believing that people should work smarter, not harder.

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For individuals seeking assistance with their careers, we offer support for everything from resumes and cover letters through growth and advancement, specializing in clients with graduate degrees and mid-level careers across all fields. We also offer client group coaching programs and custom designed solutions for organizations.

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