Monday, March 12, 2018

Professionalism Begins Online

We have all had bad days, but is that a license to blab to the world about how much you hate your job because we're just not "feeling it" that day? SPOILER ALERT; the crux of this article is that no one cares! Nonetheless, there will be teachers, CPAs, Realtors and even doctors who will spill their guts on the internet through social media. The individual may feel a little better after a purge, but his or her audience is aghast.

A couple of weeks ago, I was with about a dozen veteran real estate agents who were mortified by some of the recent posts of fellow Realtors. Things that apart from just being in bad taste, could actually get the licensee in a lot of hot water. Of course, I immediately pulled out my smartphone to see who was doing what. Oh yes, you will get reactions, but will you get business? I will confess just when I think no one is reading my feed, I may drop a quick comment about an elected official or some new government policy and inadvertently start a firestorm controversy. Right there on MY page... YIKES! Well, if you are alright with that, than that's your business decision to make.

It really is a business decision. Most people with a professional license are independent contractors. That being said, they are small business owners. To which they are THEIR OWN boss and responsible for taking measures to avoid liability. If one agent tweets out their own resentment toward a fellow Realtor, the overall process or heaven forbid, their own client, repercussions are soon to follow because literally everyone on the planet can read it. As in the case of Realtors, the NAR Code of Ethics, Article 15 reads...

"REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices." 

The supporting standards go on to state the professional could be made to remove the post and, essentially, apologize. In the case of clients, they could sue over a careless post as it is a breach of agency. So why would someone want to air their dirty laundry online in the first place?

Rachel Albertson, with InfoRule Social Media, a Murfreesboro based marketing firm states; "You do not have to be friends with clients on social media. In fact, I do not recommend it."  Apparently, Disney thinks that's a good idea as well. Their employees are NOT permitted to mention they work for Disney. To violate this policy could be grounds for termination. So, be mindful of how you intermingle your private life with business.

Legal issues aside, remember what your mom told you about "conversation in mixed or polite company"? Do not discuss sex, politics or religion. Mom was right! Yet, here is where a lot of people miss it. To spare you the details here, MASHABLE has compiled a list of people who were let go over social media posts. I am not suggesting we have no opinions or never share our ideas, that's not my place. Though I will offer a friendly reminder if you post something political, you stand the chance of alienating half of your audience. 

Professionalism begins online. In the 21st century, the majority of consumers start looking for an insurance agent, mortgage broker, Realtor or dentist through the internet. The search is actually a funnel. The buyer asks a question of a search engine, follows the answer to an industry publication, then a geographic company and then YOU! They already have a vague idea of what a professional is suppose to be before they ever click your name. When they ask a serious question, they anticipate a serious, coherent answer. If what they find instead is an agent posing with a sock monkey, they may not take that professional as one who is serious or would be responsible with their money. In short, the agent appears UNprofessional. Don't get me wrong, I love sock monkeys as much as the next guy, but if there is no marketing tie-in or a picture of a give away at a children's hospital, no one would take me serious. They certainly would not trust me with their biggest financial investment. Time to take down the cutesy avatar.

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Prepare for the WORST, but..." Wait, how does the rest of that go?

"Prepare for the worst, but HOPE for the best!" Why is it we tend to forget the last part of that maxim? Is it because we have heard it so few times? Perhaps it's too long? Maybe the concept itself is too complex. It may be the first part, the doom and gloom part, takes all our concentration.  After all, can we really expect our minds to think in two completely different terms? Yet if we are looking under rocks to uncover potential booby traps, we never take the time to enjoy the proverbial flowers.  

First, understand that anxiety is actually there for good reason. It's a survival mechanism. We are constantly looking for an alternate ending, a way out, or at least a really good lie. We want to have options when it comes to saving our relationships, not getting mugged, being fired, or just talking our way out of a traffic ticket. Self preservation itself is not bad so long as it is not at the expense of others. However, we get stuck there. We are always watching out for the next big financial pitfall or social jackpot. Our minds take in billions of bits of information every day. The great majority of that data has no bearing on our lives whatsoever. Nonetheless, there is a lot to sift through. Perhaps there really are more things that could go wrong than right.

Without a doubt, negative self-talk will manifest itself into a bad attitude, limiting beliefs and even a poor outlook on ourselves. Some of that talk is our own creation and some of it (some more than others) is something that has played each and every day since we were small children. So, why is this little inner PA system always playing? With exception to deep-seeded emotional issues, there are just two reasons; we are comfortable with what is familiar, and silence scares us. Yep, that's pretty much it. Trusting in the way things have always been done is far better than looking inward at ourselves.  Have you ever known someone in a co-dependent relationship? Rationale would dictate they leave an abusive entanglement, but they remain due to a fear of the unknown or even possibly being alone.    

Perhaps we should BEGIN hoping for the best! Far more important than dwelling on unrealistic negatives is how to move forward searching for positive outcomes. This takes adjusting our own attitudes toward, well, everything. This is nothing that can be done a psychologist, minister, board-certified magician, your boss, your parents, your spouse or the HR lady. Sorry, not even I can help you with this one. It is something the individual must do for themselves.   

However, here are a few things that help you move in the right direction;

Get a better class of friends. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once stated; "We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with." We tell or children to not hang out with the wrong crowd. Yet do we head our own advice?  You are only obligated to see your extended family on Thanksgiving, the other 364 days of the year are YOURS!  Seriously, do we seek those who can help elevate us or simply those who are comfortable and familiar?  Maybe we gravitate toward those who are most like us, as we are now. Perhaps we are the ones who are co-dependent.

Again, with the diet and exercise? Yes and who knows, there might actually be something to it, too! There have been hundreds of studies on the emotional and psychological benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. That means more fish. Also, we must train ourselves to fill our lungs with more air so we can better get oxygen to our brain. The type of deep breathing we can only get from exercise. Good news here; ANY physical activity will get our heart rate up, so have fun with it. Unless you have a medical condition, there is no wrong exercise.    

"Purple giraffe!" Did you just envision a blue otter in your mind? No, because it was filled with the image of a two-tone lavender equine with a long neck. The human brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time with any great detail. Whatever is there, is there. If we tell ourselves to NOT think of something, it's still there. We can't allow ourselves to become frustrated when we imagine the worst, like getting fired, breaking up, arguing with our children or Bananarama on tour. Acknowledge those negative ideas for what they are; distortions of reality. Then, simply let them creep on through our mind until they find the exit. They will eventually leave, they always do unless we choose to hold onto them.    

Give yourself a time out. Take some quiet time, you deserve it. Go somewhere completely devoid of people, phones, distractions, wi-fi or even background music. Have a conversation with yourself. As stated, we already talk to ourselves, so this should be easy. Have an honest talk with yourself about the type of person you are, what makes you happy, and where you want to be in life.  Believe it or not, this is where I LOSE MOST OF YOU. As simple as it is, it's just too damned awkward.  

Get enough sleep. A Columbia University study showed the rate of those surveyed who had sleep
deprivation and sought out professional help for psychiatric disorders by about 8:1, versus those who were well rested, yet sought help. Eight to one! How many of those eight would never have had an issue had they just got an extra hour or two of sleep each night? Those one-hour sessions lying on the psychologist's couch would have been just as effective had a subject actually fallen asleep on it!   

Live with passion! No doubt, some people aren't seeing the good simply because they just are not happy.  Happiness really is a decision, not a state. Of course, we all have bad days, suffer regret and mourn loss. But that should be the exception to human existence. When I conduct career coaching with clients, I ask them what they are most passionate about. Sadly most simply do not know what would excite them to get out of bed in the morning. They only roll out of bed due to habit or a sense of what the consequences will be. Passion overcomes fear and if we are anticipating all the good that will come from the new day, our attitude will rise to meet the need. 

Sad to say, we will always have those little negative thoughts and anxiety. The trick is to outweigh them with positive expectation and constant reminders of how awesome we truly are. And that, takes purposeful intention.  

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Service at the Speed of the Human Race™

The information superhighway was never intended for people to take a leisurely stroll. The internet was created, and exists for the rapid gathering of data. Service itself is just a byproduct. Truly, when it gets to decision time, people want to SLOW DOWN a bit. But, how do you do that or even hit an "off ramp" if everything is moving so fast?  

The concept of "Service at the Speed of the Human Race™", simply means gathering all pertinent information for our clients as quick as possible, explaining it to them in a way they understand, and then allowing them some time to decide how to proceed.  No teleporters or magic wands, just good client service. In fact, this has always been the model. But unfortunately, it's a point a lot of online platforms completely miss. At some point in the decision making process we must slow down, as bad information, out of sync priorities and miscommunication can upset an otherwise smooth process. If we are the professionals in our field, those who have knowledge and prior experience, and it does fall to US to tap those brakes.  Otherwise, our client stand to make a huge mistake, especially as it applies to real estate.

Click here for FCM page
It is a concept First Community Mortgage refers to as "the human mortgage approach" of doing business.  Though they have access to all the tools of an online-only bank, they realize the greatest advantage is in their people. More important, their people making face-to-face connections with clients. Mortgage seekers don't want to be forced in to the next step of the process because the site says it's prudent to do so.  Nor are they willing to be denied by an algorithm. They want to look a professional in the eye and get some advice. People want options. Yes, at a point there is the need for a little bit of hand holding. That is a service you cannot get from the internet.

I recall several years ago, a large discount department store was playing with the notion of expanding into real estate. They had kiosks set up in a few of its stores as a pilot program to see how many more magazines, cheap toys, shirts, flip-flops, and 2000 square foot homes they could sell. This was at a time when there were not as many real estate information outlets as there are now. The discount chain's concept was to provide fast and convenient data while customers were shopping otherwise. People did in fact look at home listings on the in-store computers, but when it became decision time, elected to seek the advice of a Realtor®. The project was abandoned.  

Recently, I worked with some clients to sell their home. Within the first 24 hours, we received four offers. Each was good. The clients selected potential buyer to work with and we were able to sell the property for about $10,000 MORE than we originally anticipated. All this happened without the use of such online services as Homelight, Zillow or Trulia. For the most part, the offers that came in were by word of mouth. As for the bump in price; I went "old school" and actually MEASURED the property thereby finding additional square footage that was not reflected on the tax record. Something that would not have been caught by a "Zestimate", but rather by little ol' me!   
In the 21st century, we want something and we want it now!  However, instant gratitude is for the most part, a fantasy. Gaining information today is no problem at all, but is it the RIGHT information? More important, is it the right information for that individual? The human mind can race at a sprint, but the heart still needs go the distance of a marathon. That is what is meant by Service at the Speed of the Human Race™.    

Blaine Little is a real estate instructor, business trainer and an agent with Reliant Realty in Murfreesboro, TN

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are you LISTENING to me? Well, probably NOT!

When I say the word; "communication", what comes to mind? Likely you think of someone speaking, either publicly or inter-personally. You might  have even though of MASS communication which brings to mind TV and radio. Either of which involves someone talking. Have you ever stopped to think listening is part of that communication? In fact, it's exactly fifty per cent. It doesn't really matter what someone says if there is no one there to listen. Without the other participant in the communication process, the idea put forth might as well be an individual thought never leaving the senders mind. It's like that old adage, "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it... who cut it down", or something like that.          

As a public speaker, I am all too aware of the importance of constructing thoughts in such a way, it will be understood and hopefully, well received by my audience. Also important are vocal qualities and platform skills. However, I am completely at the mercy of my listeners as to whether they WANT to receive my message. When it comes to small groups or talking one-on-one, the same concept applies. The effectiveness of my idea or concept is only as good as someone who is willing to hear and accept it. Again, I am at their mercy. We have all had those conversations where we were not sure our partner was truly listening, or perhaps we even "zoned out" ourselves. Why in our culture, do we put such an emphasis on the one doing the talking as the one who is active, engaged or putting forth an effort when it comes to sharing ideas? We view the one making the noise as someone DOING something, but what about the receiver? Is that person not also supposed to be actively engaged in the conversation?    

Indeed, "active listening" is a skill, unfortunately, not one appreciated my most people today. Many will be polite and allow someone else to finish his or her thought, but the entire time they are deep in thought as to what they will say next. "Quiet time" is only long enough for someone to shut up. But when the shoe is on the other foot, can we be assured to receive better consideration? That's why I like to quiz my listeners with "what are YOUR thoughts on that"? In truth, we've all been caught off guard at one time or another. Here are a few pointers to help you listen more actively; 

Rest - your mind. Don't jump to a conclusion of what you think the other person is going say next and suspend judgement until they have completely finished their thought.

Resist - the urge to interrupt with your own thought or point of view. Instead, when you have a salient point write a one-word note to prompt yourself to visit that idea later. We must also resist the urge to judge. Allow the talker to finish his or her statement. Scrutinize his or her thought only after that person has completely explained the idea. 

Respond - with short signs of attentiveness such as; "oh", uh-huh" and "I see". Short questions, such as, "What happened next?" will show your communication partner you are listening. Also, send visual cues that you are engaged in what the person is saying by nodding your head and uncrossing your arms. 

Restate - on occasion, in your own words to let the listener know you truly internalized the point they were making. Comments like "So, you're telling me your challenge with this project is..." assures both parties are on the same page. 

Reiterate - what you believe to be key points of what the speaker is saying. This could even be done in the form of a question and followed up with "tell me more about that". 

Reflect - on the entire message when the other is done talking. You may even want to apply what you heard to your own experiences or something that affects you. How could what you just learned HELP you?

By following these simple concepts, you can eliminate much confusion which might otherwise accompany a dialogue. Not only does this apply to interpersonal speech but to sales calls as well. By simply listening, you may uncover a new need or unstated objection that will eventually lead to the sale. When someone is talking, just be patient, hear them out and when it's your turn to speak, insist they do the same.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

There is no leadership without a sense of vision.

As a corporate trainer, I often open my seminars stating; "The single most important skill of a good leader is that of communication". A manger or executive with an industrial expertise may point to another attribute such as accounting or engineering. However, when it comes to the task of actually LEADING others on the team, one would be hard pressed to disagree with me. Otherwise, just ask anyone who had a great idea and could not bring it to fruition because others did not share in the vision. 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of professionals who perhaps due to their technical skills, gained a position of influence and yet do not truly appreciate the need for them to be "visionary". He or she has the degree, certifications, experience and skill sets to accomplish the tasks at hand. Yet, business professionals many times fail to understand the moment they take on the responsibility of a staff, team, department or even a single intern, they automatically become a LEADER... like it or not. I say that because there are a lot of business people who detest the responsibility of dealing with others and seeing to it staff members contribute their individual portion to the team. The attractiveness of title, prestige and more money clouds the reality that there will be a huge shift in their personal responsibilities. It is no longer the emphasis on individually doing, but instead relating what needs to be done by the team and WHY. 

Recently, I was presenting to the executive staff of a large energy company. The organization had recently undergone several growth spurts and weren't done. They understood the importance of creating a strategic plan relating the direction they were moving to their more than 1000 employees. Out of this, came the need to develop core values, as well as mission and vision statements. The company was undergoing such change they wanted to ensure all the workers were aware of the new direction they were going. Otherwise, employees would not see the need to be flexible in their understanding of what the individual job was. Where thee is confusion in the ranks, you have a loss in productivity, effectiveness and profitability. There could even be safety concerns for any entity that changes course and does not bring its members along.  

Followers WANT to be led! The good ones show up to work and fully expect to receive that day's marching orders or to be informed if the daily routine has been altered. Without a sense of direction, employees lose confidence in the organization, their leaders, even themselves and their abilities. To fill the void, they will many times create their own set of priorities, process policies and deadlines. However, these will all be different from one worker to the next and more than likely not be up to company standards. In time, the company will be swallowed up by inefficiency, lose their customer base, and eventually fold. The frustration an executive may feel is often one of the signs something is wrong and it may present itself too late.  

As a business leader, it's not enough to be proficient in your position, you must also bring the team along for the ride. That means telling members of the team where the ride is going... and why. In short, creating a vision. Key concepts, such as a vision statement is not the only way to do that, but it's a really good start. It may also require additional training and frequent updates. By opening good lines of communication to allow for questions, ideas and feedback, a leader can be assured that the team understands his or her direction. But if that leader simply assumes everyone knows priorities and what to do without follow through, that professional stands a good chance of not being in the position for long.   

Blaine Little