Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Professional...What does it mean?

Prior to getting into real estate I worked for 6 years as the Manager for the Construction Association in Yellowknife calling on contractors and suppliers. Some of the companies were dilapidated outfits working with a small community mind set where they could never hope to grow their business. I recall saying to the Executive Director that we should not be recruiting members from these hopeless situations because they will not participate in the betterment of the membership or likely keep up with their dues. Not because they were bad people – they weren't, but because they will feed their families first and worry about their corporate responsibilities second. We did it anyway and they did go broke and they did leave debt behind them.

The same holds true of so many real estate Brokers.  Hire as many bodies as possible. If the odd one makes it, good! For the others, too bad! As their pangs of hunger set in, scruples fall by the wayside. Ethics fly out the window. The ethical, competent and altruistic REALTOR®s and our entire industry suffer by association.  I remind our REALTOR®s often – you will be painted with the same brush as your colleagues – so let’s help keep each other in-line.

As agents pre-qualify purchasers, so should Brokers pre-qualify potential new hires. There is more than adequate information available on the Internet and elsewhere about sensible hiring and better employee retention. Take some time to actually research who you are going to meet with.  I’m often shocked at the silence on the other end of the phone when I ask a potential recruit for a current resume prior to our meeting. Until our indifferent hiring practices are eliminated we will struggle to raise the measure of professionalism into our industry.

A recent article in The Canadian Medical Association Journal was brought to my attention.  It asks, “Can professionalism be taught?” to which it answers, “Probably not.” The article says many things that provide advantages in life cannot be taught – competitiveness, intelligence, curiosity, creativity, persistence. 

We would pose the same question to real estate educators, brokers and sales agents. Many of the consequential qualities of professionalism go far beyond practical know-how, listing, selling, leasing and all that goes with it. These virtues cannot be gleaned from books or attending lectures. No instructor can teach altruism. The individual must be a good person of high moral character to start with. It is given that the teaching of ethics starts in the cradle and advances with age – on a continuous path paved with experience and consequence.

The intention of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, which is similar in many associations across North America, is intended to ensure that REALTOR®s are treating their clients and their colleagues with respect, fairness and honesty. The codes are enforceable and violation of any of them garners the harshest of consequences...we hope.

The penalties, not only those levied by our own associations but by the courts of the land, don’t have any teeth. The public is seldom advised about the misdeeds of the unethical. REALTOR®s rarely, if ever, squeal on each other, often because nothing happens, it’s just not worth the bother to report a violation or because of the risk of being seen as a squealer. Those caught with their hands in the cookie jar will do it again, but next time will be more careful not to get caught. 

I think we forget that we are members of a self-regulating industry that holds itself out to maintaining high standards and practices of conduct. We set our own standards and define the behavior that defines our professionalism. However, attending an ethics lecture, taking continuing education courses, keeping your license current and paying dues does not make you a professional anything.

What’s the bottom line? Most professional organizations are of the opinion that professionalism can in fact be taught. This is not in a classroom and not by role modeling alone, although both help.  It should be mostly by observation and the example set by Brokers and the industry as a whole following the guideline of  “The Golden Rule” and the example set by their professional and ethical peers.

Ethics will only win out when there is a transition by all REALTOR®s to become active learners and recognize that the actions of any individual REALTOR®, both positive and negative, reflect on the public’s perception of ALL members of the real estate industry.

I think it begins with the hiring practices of so many Brokers, the “fill the desks with breathing bodies” syndrome. As the failures of the new recruits become more evident, professionalism does not play an important role.

Until REALTOR®s choose to trade greed for improved ethics, these problems will never be solved. We must recommit to traditional values.  It will not be by having more classroom exercises or preaching the gospel of ethical behavior, but by upholding the values of a profession and to quote the medical doctors, “Do no harm”.  This will be by not just giving lip service to professionalism but by placing the interests of our clients, and our colleagues’ front and centre. 

This involves having a genuine desire to serve others, an emphasis on values and purpose, a sense of responsibility for long-term consequences and knowledge of both the strengths and weaknesses of being regarded as a professional.  The following characteristics of Professionalism were common to my own opinions and my research from various sources:

The elements of professionalism are:

  • Integrity as illustrated through ethical and professionally responsible practice and conduct, competence and expertise.
  • Pride in your chosen profession and the contribution it makes to society.
  • Spirit and enthusiasm.
  • Civility to clients, prospects, colleagues, associates and competitors.
  • The provision of service for the public good through client relationships and responsibilities.
  • Demonstrated leadership and reliability.
  • Commercialism balanced with a livelihood and service.
  • Substantial training and experience buoyed by continuing education.

Where do we go from here? Where will we be in five years, 10, 20?

What will it mean to be a “professional REALTOR®”? You tell me.

When the going gets "Tough"...just call me.
Susan Tough

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Every journey begins with a single step

There is nothing like the ending of a year and the beginning of a fresh new year to invite the motivation to better yourself: To achieve something greater, to make a positive change in your life or the lives of others. A New Year’s Resolution is a time honored tradition of setting a goal for yourself. To help you achieve your goals and to make those positive changes, the following tips and tricks are available to guide you to success.

Choosing – Every journey begins with a single step

Quit smoking. 

More physical activity. 

Learn something new. 

Take more time for yourself. Choosing what you want to better in yourself or in your life is a tough choice. It’s easy to get carried away, but too much change too fast isn't good and can quickly become overwhelming. 

For best results, pick one or two resolutions that you would really like to accomplish. This will help you manage your goals and track you successes. Don’t sabotage yourself right out of the gate by setting unrealistic goals. 

Plan – A goal without a plan is just a wish

Examine how you wish to achieve your goal. By outlining how you can achieve your resolution you reinforce your commitment and assure that it is realistically achievable. This practice will also help you identify any challenges and pitfalls you may encounter, while giving you an opportunity to plan how you will overcome them beforehand. 

Be clear what you what to achieve and what small steps will get you to your goal. By creating a series of smaller tasks, you take what may be seen like an overwhelming larger objective and create more easily obtainable mini-goals.

Positive support - A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success

Utilize your supports. If you have a friend who has a similar goal, work towards your goal together with mutual support. Potentially a professional service may also be available to facilitate your success. Be it a book, a website, a course or a support group; whatever you are most comfortable with will increase your success dramatically. When we connect with others we strengthen our resolve. 

Be aware of those with whom you share your bad habits or environments that prevent your success. Stay away from these challenging situations by changing your usual routine. One of the best ways to break bad habits is to replace them with good ones. 

Stick with it – Setbacks are temporary as long as you don’t give up

It’s a fast pace world and it’s very easy to get off track. 

Be flexible when pursuing your goal to help you adapt to inevitable changes. Prepare for roadblocks and accept that it’s okay to stumble in pursuit of your objective. Just remember why you decided on your goal. Follow the steps you set out for yourself and rely on your supports. Visualize your goal and your motivation and you will succeed in your resolution in the New Year.
I wish you Many Blessings through the New Year for you – your friends and your family.  Be sure to congratulate yourself for every accomplishment you achieve – big or small – share kind words with others – and yourself

When the going gets "Tough"...just call me.
Susan Tough