November 7, 2016 • De Pree Journal
Tucked behind a small beer garden in Pasadena’s Old Town district, the Norris Realty Advisors office does not boast any large, glaring signs or glorifying portraits. Steve Norris, the owner and principal realty advisor, is not bothered by the discreet nature of his office building. “My name is on the door, but that’s just because we had to call it something.” This reflects Steve’s posture towards his work: “I’m not into logos or clichés; I’m into people. I’m a human, and you’ll know that Steve is at least here during the day because his name is on the wall.”
For sixteen years Steve has been managing his own team of realty advisors. With his job comes power and influence over the work environment, which Steve uses to nurture his employees and to help them grow. “This place is not about me,” Steve explains, “It’s about everyone flourishing.” This, however, has not always been the tune that’s been played at Steve’s workplaces. Steve spent 25 years working for other people before managing his own team. “In those experiences, I learned deeply what it means to ‘work for the man,’” Steve says. “I have worked for fantastically domineering people. My job is not to domineer. My job here is to serve and to care for people.” During those years surrounded by narcissistic work cultures, there was a reaction-formation for Steve that shaped the way he now manages his team. “For me, at the end of the day, what really matters are the relationships. I also get misunderstood for that.”
Along with managing his team, Steve exercises significant influence in the life of his clients. The nature of his work is sensitive—even confidential—because he works with family trusts and estates, litigation matters, and even some taxation issues. In the midst of this heightened concern around money, property and legal issues, Steve continues to put the needs of his clients first. Steve explains that even when he has a different answer than a client would wish or desire, “a lot of times, I am protecting them from themselves.”
In all of his interactions with clients, lawyers, and the IRS, Steve lives by this Abram Kuyper quote: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” For Steve, all of the relationships he navigates in his work are evidence of Christ’s sovereignty. “I think that all of the secular world in one way or another mysteriously belongs to Christ. I’m intrigued by it all. I don’t think there’s anything I do in my work that Christ does not inhabit.”
When Steve is not working with clients or managing his team, he is teaching classes on real estate at the UCLA extension campus. Here Steve preaches what he practices—how to make ethical decisions in high-stress situations. Steve says that a lot of the formation that happens in his classrooms is about character development. As former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden says, “Character is what happens when no one is looking.” That quote, Steve says, “Is the essence of who Jesus taught us to be. A person of integrity.”
Steve’s warmth is undeniable. And while Steve is humbly hesitant to speak on his own behalf, it is evident that Steve uses his power as realty advisor, college professor, and boss to build meaningful relationships in a way that reflects God’s formational and relational presence in our lives.
Meggie Anderson-Sandoval is a Fuller Seminary graduate (MDiv, ’16) with a passion for Christian ethics. In any given context, Meggie feels called to put into practice Kingdom-oriented ethics in both word and deed. Meggie finds fulfillment from working alongside others to bring about justice, redemption, and holistic transformation. Most recently, Meggie has been involved in community organizing efforts across Los Angeles County. She also helped develop a new project at Fuller that emphasizes the sacred acts of hospitality and storytelling (see more about the Story Table here). Though she hails from Colorado, Meggie currently resides in Altadena, California and considers Los Angeles home.