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Don’t settle for mediocrity – how to lead well

(BROKERAGE NEWS) There tends to be two camps of leaders, those who lead from strength and those from weakness. But who says you can’t do both?

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A lot of leadership literature has become “strength’s focused” – using inventories like StrengthsFinder (developed by Gallup). The logic in many ways, is sound. Capitalizing on your strengths and those of your team is significantly more effective than attempts to cover perceived flaws or weaknesses.

The business world has been cited for being too focused on weaknesses (and now parents are too). This a natural inclination for people. For leaders however, we should be bringing our strengths (and the strengths of our teams) to work and making “it” happen.

However, an over focus on strengths isn’t without its own challenges. Tony Schwartz writes for Harvard Business Review, a “well-rounded leader” has a greater opportunity to be more effective. As we seek to leverage our “strengths” let us not forget the complexity of our skill set and how those negatives we see about ourselves can become assets – resources – that we use to manage ourselves and our teams.

Metaphors are common in leadership articles, so I won’t break tradition.

Much like in physical exercise, poor form often causes the overuse of a muscle versus a group of muscles. Poor leadership form, while doing the lifting, leads to an overuse or over-reliance on what is good and comfortable for us.

A pragmatic leader may find themselves unable to make dynamic change move forward. Today’s leaders have to deal with a more complex environment in terms of technology, skills, and demographics. One style of leading will simply not be enough.

The big lesson here is to workout things you don’t think are your best strengths. What are ways you can take those weaknesses and utilize them? How do your rebranded weaknesses make you a good leader for a project or a team? Create opportunities to use your “positive opposites” – those weaknesses that you have rebranded.

PRO TIP: Find a mentor, find a coach, or keep reading about leadership.

You may never be able to develop those skills as strong as your primary, but you will have more leadership muscle to work with. You’ll be delivering a better leader to serve, build, and develop yourself or the organization.

Schwartz discusses the role of choices. We make a lot of choices as leaders – resources, people, what risks, what resources, what costs. When we make those choices working with clients or employees we are always using our mental tool kits.

It doesn’t hurt us to have more tools, most of the time, to allow us to handle situations.

SIDEBAR: It is important to recognize that we only have a limited amount of time. You’re still going to benefit more from developing your strengths – but don’t forget to work out those rebranded weaknesses (the triceps of leadership!). I love an 80/20 perspective – spend 80% of your learning time focused on building up those strengths, spend the other 20% on flexing those rebranded weakness.

A well-balanced leader is not a one-trick pony – they are leaders who can take an organization through many life cycles. If you seek to be some kind of leader, take some time to appreciate your own mix of strengths and weaknesses, and the unique qualities that you bring to a complex world of complex organizations.

Leadership is a whole person endeavor, and don’t skip those weaknesses (just like leg day!).

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Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Real Estate Brokerage

Best ways to handle stressed-to-the-max customers

(BROKERAGE NEWS) Moving can make even your calmest clients nightmare wackadoos. Here’s how to manage them.

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Three researchers have published an interesting study on how customer service can be improved by recognizing a customer’s stress level before a connection with your business is made.

For example, a customer can often be anxious over using a particular service, i.e., a funeral home or a lawyer in connection with a divorce. By learning more about how your clients feel when they call your business, you can better manage the customer experience. This offers your business a more effective customer base of referrals and repeat business.

The researchers identified the following steps to manage stressed-out customers:

1. Find out how your customers are feeling when they need your service.

One reason so many breast cancer facilities are free-standing, away from the main hospital complex, is because women voiced their ideas to the healthcare team designing the facilities. Women wanted coordinated care under one roof, but felt like the hospital was not a calming environment. Use your empathy to walk in your customer’s shoes to change the experience.

2. Hire not only for skill, but attitude and personality.

Employees who love their job can’t be trained. The passion and enthusiasm, even for a high-stress career like a cancer nurse or funeral director, cannot be taught. Look to bring on team members who have empathy for your customers and understand that business is all about customer service. It’s far easier to teach someone the skills needed for a job than it is to teach them to be motivated to work.

3. Study your approach to the customer’s journey.

How does your business interact with the client? From the first link online or phone call, to the payment options, what is the customer’s experience? Address the high-stress interactions by providing information about your services. For example, when calling to view a listing, what can your customer expect?

4. Give the customer more control over the service.

Dealing with a mechanic who tells you that your engine is shot is highly stressful. Instead, learn to be more specific and talk to the customer in a language that can be understood by someone without technical knowledge. Make sure your customer has one point-of-contact throughout their experience. Have a plan B in place for when that individual is sick or goes on vacation. Empower your customers through today’s technology, maybe an app that tracks the sale. There’s no excuse today for poor customer service and information.

I would highly recommend that every real estate professional read the research from Harvard Business Review. Leonard L. Berry, Scott W. Davis, and Jody Wilmet packed so much information into their report that there’s no way I could cover it all here.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Inexpensive mental health resources for real estate pros

Mental health issues are often untreated when no insurance or few resources are apparent, but there are many resources available to keep the entire team cared for.

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There’s no shame in needing a doctor when you’re physically sick, but sometimes people think that mental illness should be hidden. No one likes to admit they’re struggling with an addiction, grief, or depression, but trust me, friends, family, and co-workers most likely know you’re struggling – they just may not know how to help.

Mental health assistance can be very expensive, especially without insurance. With the ACA, more people have access to services, but it may not be immediately evident.

Attention Brokers:
We recommend sharing this article with your team accompanied with a note explaining why. We’ve known many agents that suffer through drug addiction, unmedicated bipolar disorder, sex addiction, depression, and so forth. Open the door to a conversation. Everyone on the team deserves to be cared for, with or without insurance.

Free or inexpensive ways to get help:

If you or someone you know is in need of help or someone to listen to you, please do not be embarrassed. If you (or the person you’re concerned with) don’t have insurance or have limited resources, here are some places to get help.

  • If you are in a crisis, dial 911 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a 24-hour crisis center.
  • Check with your insurance company. You may not realize that you have mental health benefits, or understand how to find a provider that fits into your plan.
  • Talk to your primary care doctor. Your doctor may know of local resources that are available to you.
  • Most communities have local mental health centers that provide income-based services. Ask about discounts or reduced rates.
  • Dial 2-1-1 in Texas (and most states) for referrals to agencies that are in your community.
  • Go to your religious organization. Spiritual leaders are often willing to listen and help you get back on track. They may be able to direct you to resources within their community and network.
  • Search for your particular issue. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (adaa.org) has a full list of resources and help for dealing with every day and chronic stress and worry. If you get too many hits, try using the phrase, “national foundation” then the issue, for example, “national foundation OCD.”
  • Go to the library and seek out a book. Self-help books on grief or depression can help you navigate your own feelings and find a way out.
  • Go to the App Store. Type in what you need help with. You might be surprised at what comes up. Happify is a good app that helps you work on being positive. 7 Cups of Tea offers trained listeners to get you through anxiety.
  • Talk to a friend, a trusted mentor, or family member. Reach out for help.
  • Exercise. Get out of your rut.

The bottom line is that whether you’re struggling or trying to help someone else who is, neither of you are alone. It may take more than one try, but we urge everyone to bookmark this page for reference, should it be needed now or int he future.

This story was first featured here on September 2, 2015.

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Real Estate Brokerage

The game doesn’t matter until you keep score

(BROKERAGE) How you collect feedback can determine whether your service actually improves or not. #science

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Every significant endeavor utilizes measurements and scorekeeping to record activities and progress. The most trivial of human pursuits often involves record keeping and statistical analysis.

While the sales and production side of real estate services are measured in-depth, the service side of the business enjoys less measurement, scorekeeping, and analysis than one might find associated with the performance of a neighborhood Little League team.

What does this truly say then about the importance many brokers, owners or managers place on service delivery, customer satisfaction, consistency and service performance?

It’s true that a few organizations do attempt to measure service performance by means of a customer satisfaction survey. Most of these programs are produced and administered internally. The surveys are sent under the company banner and the company tabulates the results.

First, when a customer is asked directly by the professional or the company for performance/satisfaction feedback, that feedback is always more positive than what is obtained by an independent, third-party asking the same questions.

This is known as the halo effect. Consumers are more diplomatic in their response to the person or company that provided the service.

Second, internal service/satisfaction assessment programs typically develop standards and objectives to validate the belief that good service is already being delivered. Thus this positively biased feedback data suits the objectives of the internal program just fine.

It’s just that measurement of those areas of service performance that sellers and buyers feel are important is not taking place.

For those more serious about customer service satisfaction and service performance assessment, there is recognition that the halo effect lessens the value of the data for internal use, and that keeping score of one’s own results has less credibility externally.

Instead, they seek the objectivity and credibility that third party validation of service assessment can provide.

Ironically, even without expert resources and objectivity the attention that measurement brings to the organization will effect positive results and performance improvement. This phenomenon is known as the Hawthorne effect.

The effect was first noticed in the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric. Production increased not as a consequence of actual changes in working conditions introduced by the plant’s management, but because management demonstrated interest in such improvements.

Unfortunately, this phase of initial improvement is not sustainable. Sustaining improvement requires more than measurement and leadership interest. Action steps that result in the actual improvement of the situation must follow collection of data.

Measuring service results and satisfaction in the real estate organization is an important first step. It will certainly gain the attention of the organization and send a serious signal.

Sustaining organizational interest and performance improvement requires more.

It requires systematic and timely feedback, objectivity, systems and service delivery processes, coaching and recognition/awards. But it really all does start by keeping score.

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