Leading in Tough Times: Kris Mikkelsen, Walker & Dunlop

Throughout the month of August, Connect CRE is running a series titled “Leading in Tough Times.” We’ve asked leaders around the U.S. and across the commercial real estate spectrum to share their wisdom and discuss lessons learned. In this installment, you’ll hear from Kris Mikkelsen, EVP, investment sales at Walker & Dunlop.

Q: What’s the most valuable leadership advice you’ve ever been given? 

A: The most valuable advice comes from W&D’s President Howard Smith. When I was building up the company’s investment platform, we talked about culture, the new team and leadership styles. Howard said, “You have to relish in the success of your people.” I took that advice to heart and have made sure to celebrate the success of my team members every step of the way. Their success is valued and that their contribution is vital to the overall accomplishment of the team.

Q: What’s the most common mistake leaders make in an inhospitable market? 

A: A common mistake that CRE leaders make is overpromising about when and what they’ll be able to deliver. Many brokers tell clients that things are better than they actually are. I believe that having candid conversations with your clients, although difficult and not always easy to do, is the better strategy and builds a long-term trust that is much more valuable. Being honest about where the market is and transparent about how things stand will enable brokers to advise their clients better, setting a strategy that actually works and overdelivering in the end.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about leading in a challenging environment?

A: The most important thing I have learned is that when the transaction environment changes, you need to allow yourself to think differently. As the market became more challenging, we realized we had something that we never had before – time and resources. We identified the amplified need for datapoints and reallocated our top associates into a national market intelligence group that mined and organized datapoints that were hard to come by. Rethinking our talent allowed us to develop a new way of working and sharpen our team’s overall edge. This market intelligence team would never have existed, had we not been forced by the environment to think differently.  

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