Learn to Decide and Decide to Learn: Learning, Coaching, and Experience

In his 1990 book Managing at the Speed of Change, change author Darryl Connor wrote “Change provides us the opportunity to be architects of victims of our own future.” The 21st century global business landscape is characterized by complex, rapid, and discontinuous change. Unlike prior periods in commercial history where change was perceived as more gradual, even predictable; today, the speed and unpredictability of change has ushered in a business environment in which innovative, nimble, and prepared organizations survive and sustain.  Global change is turbulent and relentless influenced by tumultuous flows of political, social, and financial events. From President Obama’s financial reform measures in the United States financial markets to the European rescue of Greece from bankruptcy, everyday entrepreneurs and business leaders worldwide must determine the impact of global change on their business plans, make decisions, and act. While seemingly a formulaic activity, hundreds of business fail every year resulting from flawed decision making resulting in purposeless action.

Consider the following questions concerning decision making processes relative to change in your business. Are decisions made autocratically, democratically, or by not making decisions? Are decisions data-driven or based on intuition? Are decision makers using proven decision making models to guide decision-making? Central to these questions is decision making. One aspect of decision making is how adults learn. Rationally, if adult entrepreneurs can gain insight into how they learn, it may result in increased effectiveness, in turn productivity and profitability.  Learning how adults learn can be enabled by a coach. Being coached in adult learning provides decision makers with a practical understanding of how its principals and processes can be used to make higher quality, more effective decisions translating into competitive advantage.

Today, businesses worldwide operate in a knowledge economy. The knowledge economy places value on knowing and knowing how to learn. The 16th century English philosopher and author Sir Francis Bacon informed us that Knowledge is Power. This holds true in the 21st century. Knowing about how adults learn is a critical component in making informed business decisions. Through this knowing, entrepreneurs and business leaders can use this knowledge in managing change in daily business activities in order to achieve business goals. Being coached in using the models and methods associated with adult learning can enable decision makers to make more informed decisions. Without coaching, Connor’s pronouncement that “change provides us the opportunity to become architects or victims of our own future” may promote victimization; not the innovation and vision associated with architects.

Let’s learn about one approach to adult learning and its influence on decision making.

Decision Making and Experiential Learning

American educational theorist David Kolb offers a four-part experiential adult learning model enabling informed decision making. The model includes experiencing, reflecting, generalizing, and applying learning.  Making business decisions can be a complex experience. Frequently, entrepreneurs and business leaders must reconcile a host of competing and diverse variables in order to enable effective action toward achieving business goals. The complexity inherent in most business environments requires well crafted business decisions. Using Kolb’s adult learning model can simplify and enable decision making using an experiential learning perspective.

Experiential Learning and Coaching

From our coaching entrepreneurs and business leaders in decision making, many inform us that they frequently rely on their business and life experience and close industry colleagues when making decisions especially when there is a paucity of viable data.  They express that if they had a decision making model drawing from experience, their decisions could be more informed and effective.  After introducing Kolb’s 4-part model to decision makers, they reported increased confidence that their decisions were better informed enabling increased goal achievement.

Prior to making your next key business decision, employ Kolb’s model to inform your decision making.

  1. Experiencing:  identify concrete experiences related to the decision
  2. Reflecting: analyze, synthesize, and evaluate key components of the experience drawing from objective and subjective  perspectives
  3. Generalizing: formulate new conceptualizations and ideas associated with the decision based on the experience; and
  4. Applying: test new, emergent ideas generated from reflection and collegial feedback.

Coaching to Learn From Experience

The 1st century roman senator and historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus wrote Experientia docet or Experience teaches.  Kolb’s four-part experiential learning model enables entrepreneurs and business leaders to identity key learnings linked to their experience and use their learnings to make more informed and effective decisions. Adult learning and personal and professional experience are deeply embedded in the fabric of decision making.  Trained coaches can guide professional exploration and development enabling informed decision making.

Experience teaches; wisdom decides, and coaching enables.

Learn, get coached, and succeed.

Achieving High Performance: Get SMART; Get COACHED; Get RESULTS!

What gets measured gets done! This is a well-worn axiom.  It’s an orientation focused on setting goals and measuring outcomes. It drives performance accountability. Entrepreneurs embrace measurement and accountability. No excuses; only performance. The quality of their output is the measure of the value they create. Central to measuring performance are the goals used to determine if a good or service achieves established standards such as quality or longevity. For professionals in all industries, there are several generally accepted activities that clients, managers, and leaders measure to determine the quality and longevity of their performance. Activities such as the quality of the client engagement experience, new business generated, and quarter-over-quarter revenue increases. Common to these activities are goal associated with them. If activities do not have associated goals, stakeholder performance cannot be measured? Without performance goals it is impossible to diagnose and improve ineffective performance relative to quality, productivity, and longevity.

So, let’s get SMART about Goals, Coaching, and Results!

Get SMART

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cat responds “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice offers “I don’t much care where.” The Cat muses “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” “…so long as I get somewhere” Alice adds.

The 21st century global business environment is a complex, change-based landscape requiring professionals to think critically, plan strategically, and act effectively. They must be nimble and adaptable in order to meet the shifting sales and service needs of their demanding international clientele. Selling and delivering goods and services in this demanding global marketplace requires commitment, focus, and endurance. Moreover, being successful and sustainable requires clear direction anchored in goals.

The SMART goal formula has existed for years. The acronym is presented below.

  • Specific: Goals should be specific, clear, and easy to understand. They must articulate the intended outcomes.  A specific question is “What do you want to achieve?”
  • Measurable: Goals must be meaningful, manageable, and measurable. These could be short or long term goals.  Creating goals that are measureable while being achieved allows for adjusting resources as needed in real time. Be specific! A measurable goal statement is “I want to increase revenue production selling a minimum of 25% more product in the next 12 months to existing clients.”
  • Attainable: Goals need to be actionable and agreeable. Actionable through using strategies and tactics developed to attain the goals. Agreeable in partnering with others through using a goal or performance contract to evidence your commitment to goal achievement. An attainable question is “What resources do I need to achieve these goals.”
  • Relevant: Goals should be realistic and rewarding. Goals are realistic when resources and planning are in place enabling a specific, measurable, and attainable focus on the relevance of a goal. Rewarding in that the goal should stretch your ability enabling personal and professional growth. However, it should not be unrealistic or unattainable rendering it meaningless instead of meaningful. A relevance question is “Will achieving a goal improve my understanding of a specific sales strategy or procedure?
  • Time-Bounded: Goals must be time-specific and time managed. Time enables schedules to be constructed and managed for goal achievement. Time allows you to manage multiple goals over time. Time acts as a crucible in which the other elements of the SMART formula reside and interact.

Get COACHED

Coaching and goals represent a causal relationship.  Professionals establish goals and are coached toward achieving them. However, without commitment, focus, and endurance goal setting, their coaching is an empty exercise. Today’s complex and rapidly changing business environment can easily undermine goal achievement. Coaching helps professionals stay focused on realizing goals and reinforcing their commitment to stay-the-course toward achieving them. Moreover, coaches help professionals not to self-sabotage; get in their own way of achievement. As famed Antarctic explore Sir Edmund Hillary stated “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

Get RESULTS

Goals and coaching are realized in results. The point of getting SMART is getting RESULTS! Master coach Lars Erlend Bye shares “Coaching is a process enabling individuals to achieve goals.  Often it entails changing how we think about achievement and our capabilities, then developing new, enabling behaviors. The results are can be miraculous.”

Get GOING

The ancient Chinese Philosopher Lao-tzu is attributed with writing “The longest journey begins with a first step.” Taking steps to achieve high performance means Get SMART; Get COACHED; Get RESULTS! Take the first step today! Get SMART to BE SMART!

Coaching: Coach or Coached

In the last decade, coaching has emerged as a professional discipline.  Professionals across industries are employing coaches to improve their performance. As the nation emerges from the worst economic recession in modern times, residential real estate professionals, not unlike other professionals, have been forced to reevaluate their professional viability. As a result, they too are using coaches.

Two key indicators of professional success in most industries, in turn professional viability are performance and productivity. Over the past few years, the criterion for effective performance and measurable productivity in the residential real estate industry has radically changed. Today, real estate professionals are acutely aware that the agent-client relationship has transformed into a partnership in knowledge evidenced through more sophisticated levels of collaborative planning and execution.  Client-centered performance and productivity are being recreated, forged in a marketplace crucible infused with educated clients empowered through technology and increased government regulations for professional education. This recreation is fueled by the acknowledgement of real estate professionals that pre-recession client engagement strategies are no longer relevant or effective.

The confluence of marketplace and professional variables has created a unique opportunity for coaching to emerge as critical professional development practice. For real estate professionals, coaching can assist agents eliminate ineffective and valueless client engagement practices, replacing them with high performance, value-rich strategies reflecting contemporary client and industry performance and productivity trends.

Therefore, coaching may be a key professional enabler for 21st century residential real estate professionals.

Not so fast!

Increasingly, advertisements for coaching services are appearing throughout the real estate media. The themes in these advertisements herald coaching as an antidote for industry trends and recessions ills. In addition, real estate industry members are branding themselves as coaches, accentuating their industry experience as the primary qualifier to be a coach, while providing limited to no evidence of earned coaching credentials, experience, or research activity.

Let’s examine coaching credentials, experience, and research.

Coaching Credentials

Famed basketball coach Phil Jackson shares “Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.” Philosophically, wisdom is the optimal use of known knowledge. Knowledge is a product of education, therefore a component of wisdom.  In all industries, professional development and higher education provide knowledge that professionals can translate into strategies for and methods of client engagement. Possessing relevant and applicable professional knowledge, used effectively can “overmatch” or overcome strength.

The new partnership in knowledge between agent and client values formal training. Increasingly, coaching is becoming recognized professional discipline. As a result, institutions of higher education and accrediting organizations have developed coaching curriculum standards and performance guidelines to ensure educational quality. Over the past decade, several major colleges and universities have created exemplary coaching certificate programs including Touro College’s Graduate School of Business, Georgetown University, and University of Texas – Dallas. An important aspect of these programs is their being certified or coaching curriculum adhere to the 11 core coaching competencies articulated by the International Coach Federation (www.coachfederation.org).

When employing a coach inquire concerning their professional coaching credentials.

Coaching Experience

We all have experience coaching. From little league to a first dance, we’ve offered guidance and encouragement to improve performance. As physicist Albert Einstein observed “The only source of knowledge is experience.” A litmus test of a coach’s credibility is their successful coaching experience. Coaching experience is acquired in many ways. For example, real estate company branch managers are responsible for a myriad of professional development activities. One key activity is coaching agents toward expanding their client-base, in turn increasing revenues and referrals. Enabling high performance with agents at varied levels of competency requires seasoned and nuanced coaching skills. Howard Margolis, executive vice president and managing director at Prudential Douglas-Elliman’s premier office on Madison Avenue in New York City is an exemplar manager-coach.  Howard states “coaching is art and science. Coaching agents is episodic…it occurs in phases.             I introduce client and business development ideas when agents are ready to accept and make them actionable.”

The quantity and quality of coaching experience is a significant professional factor when employing a coach.  Coaching requires professional education steeped in experience; experience evidencing successful coaching results in coachee performance and productivity.

Coaching Research

Research exploring the influence of coaching on performance and productivity is increasing more available. The coaching literature offers an arc of research ranging from formal research studies through anecdotal accounts. Examining current research on coaching as a coachee is an important pre-requisite before engaging in coaching activities. Moreover, ask potential coaches concerning their knowledge of the coaching literature, as well as their own research interests and publication history.

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) website provides a rich research and education archive. From research articles and industry links to case studies, the ICF website offers a strong foundation for self education on coaching.

Coaching Corner

As education thought and practice leaders reshaping the future of the residential real estate industry worldwide, we’ve consistently asserted that coaching is a key enabler of performance and productivity. Through our articles, we will continue to explore coaching, providing insight and information enabling you to decide if your performance can improve through being coached.

Practice and Professionalism: A Causal Relationship

The 4th century philosopher Socrates wrote “We are what we repeatedly do.” In short, to “do” is to be or become.” Ours thoughts, emotions, and behaviors enable our selfness. With repetition, these characteristics of self become habits; hence, our becoming we’ve repeated done. Over time, many people become desensitized; even ignore environmental stimuli suggesting that their engagements in the world could be more pleasing and productive if they changed not only “what” they repeatedly do, but also “why” and “how” they do it.

Pleasure and productivity are desired yields from practice.  Practice manifests the “what,” “why,” and “how,” of our joy through achievement. However, practice requires significant personal investment over time in order to achieve desired goals. Practice transforms vision and purpose into new realities filled with promise and meaning. Generally, people seem to agree that practice is a prerequisite to achievement. Professional exemplars in art, medicine, and business demonstrate their commitment to achieving excellence as evidenced through continuous, disciplined, and intelligent practice. When asked about their processes-of-practice, these professionals routinely provide similar and simple responses. They share that their desire to achieve fuels their learning of new knowledge. Through practice in real life environments, they transform acquired knowledge into mastering the competencies and skills necessary to achieve desired goals.  Finally, through continual, reflection, recalibration, and reapplication, guided by performance feedback from master coaches or teachers, they realize their goals.

Becoming an exemplar residential real estate advisor requires an equal measure of commitment and practice.  The 18th century English writer William Hazlitt penned “Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts.” Let’s consider three domains of practice that can enable advisors to realize their professional aspirations through practice resulting in great achievements!

Practice to Understand

Cognitive psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis developed strategies for understanding and harnessing the power of practice. To enable client understanding toward eliminating phobias, Dr. Ellis designed practice exercises emphasizing a cognitive approach to eliminating fears; in turn encouraging success-related behaviors. Dr. Ellis believed that if “something was irrational, it offered little chance of success, therefore was an unrealistic endeavor.” For example, his fear of public speaking was quickly eliminated by executing exercises designed to induce his fear by constantly speaking in public places. Ellis’s reflective repetition of public speaking, aimed at slaying his irrational thoughts, enabled him to eliminate his fear and create space for healthy, success-oriented thoughts and behaviors.

Practice is a mechanism for understanding. Focused practice and success in real situations reduces the negative influence of fear on learning new knowledge and acquiring unfamiliar skills. Continual practice shifts our attention away from fear or other unproductive states such as the lack of motivation or questions of self confidence, and provides us with opportunities to more clearly understand our visions of the future and necessary professional capabilities. In turn, it guides us on a path to professional mastery through reflective practice. Practice with purpose.

Practice to Master

In his groundbreaking book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, author Peter Senge offered five disciplines for continuous learning and practice for individuals and team in organizations. One of the disciplines, Personal Mastery, is especially relevant to understanding and mastering practice. Senge wrote that Personal Mastery requires individuals to position their desired, personal vision of success alongside an unbiased view of current reality. Through comparison, individuals, in the case real estate advisors, can recognize the presence of oppositional forces between desired and current reality. These forces constitute “creative tension” and naturally seek resolution. Resolving this tension becomes a “choice point” for advisors; moving toward realizing their vision of the future (desired reality) or relaxing the tension and returning to current reality (state to be changed). The discipline of Personal Mastery suggests that advisors committed to their vision will recognize the creative tension separating desired and current realities; in turn make the changes necessary to resolve the tension and move toward realizing desired reality.

Mastering new knowledge and skills requires patience, energy, and focus. Advisors acquiring personal mastery understand that time-to-achievement may be reduced by reflective and coached practice. They accept the situational ambiguity and personal endurance necessary to practice closing transactions and studying mortgaging options.  They welcome “creative tension” as  a partner in realizing professional excellence. Practice toward mastery.

Practice to Transcend

The 2nd century stoic philosopher Epictetus counseled “Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake, in little things; and thence proceed to greater.” Epictetus’s “little things” could equate to residential real estate advisors’ understanding, mastering, and practicing industry fundamentals. From learning the importance of an internal rate-of-return calculation to organizing a co-op board package advisors can choose to acknowledge that “moving to the next level” is an experience of transcendence. It is a quantum transition in all professional categories resulting in a new professional environment where achievement is commonplace and success expected.

Practice with purpose.

Practice to master.

Practice to transcend.

Create your professional future today; practice.

Social Networking: Partner or Pariah

Technology has become an architect of change. It enables business growth and organizes our lives.  Recalling a day or decade devoid of technology is difficult. The rise of social networking as a mechanism for human and enterprise engagement is perhaps the most significant example of technology as architect of change; as well as change agent. Social networking has captured the attention, imagination, and investment of the real estate industry. It has become the great equalizer establishing a more egalitarian and competitive marketplace. In order to leverage social networking as a competitive advantage, all parties have been driven to reevaluate their business adaptability, identifying strategies and tactics for implementing these emergent technologies.

Mastering social networking technologies and incorporating them into sales agents’ business operations is essential to professional and marketplace survival. Increasingly, agents and company leaders are realizing that fluency with social working technologies such as Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter is mandatory for success. In addition, as use of social networking becomes an industry core competency, industry policies and procedures will emerge for managing and monitoring their use.

Rapidly, social networking is becoming a medium for business engagement. For agents not engaging, their prognosis for industry survival is grim. However, this prognosis can be improved!  Sales agents can choose a self-enabling course of action. They can learn these social networking technologies. Alas, one obstacle may thwart agents’ motivation to realize the promise of prosperity embedded in mastering social networking technologies; themselves.

“We Have Met The Enemy and They Is Us”

As the American animator and cartoonist Walt Kelly’s character Pogo informed us on a 1971 Earth Day poster, we can be the obstacles to achieving our goals. Pogo stated “We have met the enemy and they is us.” Learning and implementing social networking technologies can seem daunting, if not overwhelming. When discussing social networking many agents state “I know using social networking is important to my business, I’ll hire someone to do it for me.” Or, “my company does social networking for me.”  Respectfully, this is wishful thinking at best! In fact, only sales agents occupying the rarified realms of top production in company may qualify to receive the fiscal and human resources necessary to implement a successful social networking strategy.

As top producers represent a minority of the total sales agent population, the majority of agents must rely on themselves to use social networking. If the thought of learning and implementing social networking technologies has a paralytic effect on agents’ action, technology, as an architect of change, offers an innovative solution generated from an old idea; teaming. Teaming or partnering with other agents can be challenging. However, significant benefits can be culled from organized collective resources focused on mastering and implementing social networking technologies.

“We Are What We Continually Do”

The Greek philosopher Socrates reminds us that “we are what we repeatedly do.” To leverage the long-term benefits of social networking, sales agents must adopt a lifelong learning orientation toward technology.  Astute agents anticipating the near limitless business building benefits associated social networking have returned to classroom to learn and incorporate social networking into their sales practices. Dawn Doherty, Vice President of Strategic Development at StreetEasy.com and an instructor in the Touro College Graduate School of Business Certificate in Residential Real Estate Entrepreneurship program states “Social networking is a capability the sales agents need to learn and continually manage in order to succeed in today’s competitive real estate markets. Those not leveraging social networking technologies may place themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Social Networking and Learning

In an October 29, 2001 Newsweek article, Apple, Inc. Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs shared “I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.” If a meeting took place between Socrates and Mr. Jobs (Mr. Jobs keeping his technology!) to discuss the role of social networking in today’s residential real estate market, I wonder what they’d say? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. However, we a can surmise that central to their discussions would be the topic of learning. Though separated by centuries, their shared commitment to lifelong learning provides us with models of Arete or excellence for our own critical thought and purposeful action. Socrates stated “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” Perhaps these giants of learning and innovation discovered that their states of ignorance were platforms for enlightenment and growth. If so, sales agents can apply this learning to leverage their ignorance of social networking technologies as a positive, enabling opportunity for professional development.

Technology has become an architect of change and social networking a key business building competency for 21st century sales agents. Commit to life-long learning and master social networking. By doing so we can recast Pogo’s statement from “We have met the enemy and they is us” to “we have met the enemy and we are lifelong partners in learning, instead of pariahs not mustering the courage to commit, learn, and thrive.

Entrepreneurialism Through Education: A Path to Professionalism

Entrepreneurialism is the engine of the American economy.  For centuries, enterprising citizens have translated their visions of the future into the fabric society. For millions of New Yorkers, Manhattan is the crucible for melding new visions into reality.  Industry competitors flush with passion, fueled by their conviction to make real their visions, labor here to give it life.

For entrepreneurs, their passion and conviction are the stuff of legends. Entrepreneurial icons such as Howard Lorber, Chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman and Richard Dickson, President and CEO of Jones Apparel Group, Inc. learned their entrepreneurial craft through integrating formal and field-based education.

Fortunately, the rarified ranks of these iconic entrepreneurs are welcoming the next generation of exemplar entrepreneurs. Many of these emerging legends enable their vision of the future through a deep and lifelong commitment to professional education. Their commitment to professional education serves as a powerful model for our own consideration when establishing our strategic business plans and prioritizing achievement goals to be accomplished each year.

Occasionally, an industry leader emerges that so significantly differentiates themselves through innovative thinking and determined action they provide profound lessons in entrepreneurism…a path to professionalism. Consider, David Schlamm, founder and CEO of City Connections.

Innovation Through Education

In a recent conversation with us, David Schlamm stated “Change is good! It provides opportunities and drives us forward.”  Schlamm’s statement generated discussions exploring a variety of change-related professional education topics. Two topics which captured our imaginations were Schlamm’s orientation toward transforming the nature of real estate transactions and the causal relationships among entrepreneurism, education, and professionalism. Schlamm offered a crisp and cogent context concerning his orientation toward real estate transactions “I will deliver “A Better Real Estate Experience™,” as evidenced in City Connections brand statement. Schlamm ascribes the “goodness” of change to enhancing the ways in which real estate is transacted.     At essence is his personal and professional conviction to deliver       a cohesive and compassionate interaction between participants   and property.

Today, professional education for real estate agents seems adrift on a sea of indifference, taking its navigational bearings from the minimal state requirements for content knowledge, regulatory compliance, and ethics education required for sales agent licensure. However sales agent education may have found a guiding force in Schlamm. Schlamm states “I believe life-long professional education is a critical component in developing personal and organizational productivity.” In these tough economic times when real estate companies of sizes have either completely discontinued or significantly reduced the emphasis and scope of agent education.

In our discussions, Schlamm evidenced superior levels of thought and practice leadership through his contrarian stance to trends in the industry towards reducing agent education. “Encouraging professional education beyond state required minimum requirements for licensure is insufficient to effectively execute the value proposition inherent in City Connections brand statement of providing “A Better Real Estate Experience ™.” Giving action to conviction, Schlamm implemented a leading edge professional education and performance coaching program for his sales agent; co-sponsoring participating agents for tuition costs. Schlamm states “Professional education raises individual agent, as well as industry professionalism. At City Connections, I proactively promote a culture of unquestionable ethical behavior, business sustainability through client care, and consummate professionalism.  As my values, I have embedded them in the organization and professional education enables agents to understand, appreciate, and align their actions relative to these values.” Emerging from a reflect moment, Schlamm muses “it’s innovation…innovation through education.”

Archimedes and the Power of Leverage

The second century B.C. Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes declared “give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the world.” Archimedes provides us with a powerful model for conceptualizing the power and potential inherent in the relationship between entrepreneurism and education aiding us in realizing our visions of business success. Consider this translation of Archimedes’s statement, if a “place to stand” were a sales agent’s 2010 sales plan articulated through daily, weekly, and monthly behaviors and goals and the “lever” professional education, how could the relationship between the “place to stand” and “lever” be used to “move” your professional world toward increased business?

A Journey and a Single Step

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu wrote “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Professional education enables and enhances entrepreneurialism. The 21st century real estate markets evidence increased buyer and seller sophistication in all dimensions of real estate transactions. From increased industry knowledge to self management property sourcing through technology, these conditions diminish the need for and viability of sales agentry. Become your own Archimedes and incorporate professional education into your 2010 business plan.  Learn from legendary entrepreneurs and seek out those emerging.  Pave your path to entrepreneurism with professional education.     It will lead you to professionalism.

Strategic Planning: Creating the Future Today

Strategic planning is a process and a competency. It has evolves over years. From Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company to Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, entrepreneurs of every ilk have engaged in strategic planning to realize their vision of the future. For 21st century residential real estate entrepreneurs, strategic planning remains a core process for building a successful business. Strategic planning has been adapted to countless business applications. Today, strategic planning is a rich and integrated discipline of diverse and powerful techniques.

As a process, strategic planning requires specific knowledge, competencies, and skills in order to conceive and execute. As a competency, it requires education and practice in order to become a seasoned strategic planning practitioner.

Herein lays the challenge. Are real estate professionals seasoned strategic planners? Do they possess the competencies and skills necessary execute strategic plans?

Let’s explore these questions by examining strategy as process and competency.

Strategic Planning as Process

Strategic planning is an essential component in launching and building businesses. A strategic plan enables informed thinking and improves decision making in preparation for taking action.

We suggest a five-part strategic planning model. The five-part strategic planning model includes:

1.      Mission and Objectives
2.      Environmental Scanning
3.      Strategy Formulation
4.      Strategy Implementation; and
5.      Evaluation and Control

1. Mission and Objectives: The mission describes your vision of the future. It frames the values, purpose, and direction of the business. It concretizes vision, focuses attention, and galvanizes action. The objectives define and refine the mission. They provide stakeholders with guidance for implementation.

2. Environmental Scanning: Sales agents must understand their internal and external business environments. Internally, agents must identify key strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats associated with their business strategy. Externally, knowing the political, environmental, social, and technological environmental dynamics can enable or disable business planning and building.

3. Strategy Formulation: Formulating strategy is an integrative process. It includes analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating data culled from the prior steps. Ideally, it is a collaborative effort engaging key stakeholders in a focused activity of writing a strategic plan.

4. Strategy Implementation: Implementing strategy is a multi-phase process. It requires resources and management to ensure strategies are operationalized and executed. All stakeholders must understand the purpose of and expected outcomes from strategy implementation.

5. Evaluation and Control: Evaluating the outcomes enables revision and control. The goal is to measure progress toward goal achievement.

Strategic planning as process is the cornerstone of building a successful and sustainable residential real estate practice. Tresa Hall, Executive Vice President and Director of Sales of The Corcoran Group and recipient of the Henry Forster Award, states “Strategic planning is an essential business building practice. Without strategic planning, business direction, process and measurement are undefined, in turn difficult to attain.”

Strategic Planning As Competency

Strategic planning as competency is both art and science.  As a process it provides models for planning and implementing business activities. As competency, it requires education and practice.  Strategic planning is a learned skill. Therefore, continued professional development is essential.  Learn strategic planning as a discipline. With practice, it can become a competency.

Fortunately, many agents are seasoned strategic planners.  However, becoming a planning expert requires disciplined application and review. So, learn and practice strategic planning in order to build your business.

Strategic Planning As Future

The 6th century B.C. Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu is credited with writing “Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?” Are you doing “all you can” to build your knowledge of and skills with strategic planning? If, not, get started creating your business future today.

Professional Development As Revolution

Revolution is the result of a desire for change. At its core, revolution is transformational.  From social to popular movements, revolution reshapes societies and their citizenry. Revolutions are fueled by transformational visions of the future. History is witness to revolutionary ideas championed by leaders determined to realize their vision of the future for cause or country.

Over the past 2 years, the residential real estate industry has experienced a revolution; a revolution characterized by its marketplace unpredictability and career devastation. Unpredictable in its random displays of crushing market movements, devastating measured by the legions of sales agents who’ve left the industry, confused clients, and crippled financial systems.

Emergent from this revolution is the remaking sales agent professional development. While not a revolutionary idea, this revolution has caused it to be considered a cornerstone in recreating the industry. So, let’s begin by creating the future today.

Creating the Future Today

Today’s unprecedented market conditions are revolutionary mandating a new order of sales agent professional development.  These revolutionary conditions have caused company owners and sales professionals to reevaluate the viability of the real estate industry. Evaluating and redesigning professional development with new strategies for business building and client engagement is a core consideration. In previous articles we’ve asserted that 20th century transactional selling practices are waning. No longer will superficial client contact, disparate market knowledge, or ignorance of technology be tolerated by the industry or clients. Instead, contemporary agents are adopting new and transformative 21st century advisory-based strategies for business building and client engagement.  These sales agents are building partnerships with clients empowering transaction decisions by providing succinct market analyzes, demystifying financing data, and harnessing the power inherent in computer and internet technologies.   Richard Ferrari, Senior VP at Brown Harris Stevens states “The future is today! Change and its management are key considerations in every decision I make. Therefore, I’ve chosen to be a lifelong learner. I invest in myself to enhance my performance and achieve competitive advantage.

Professional Development As Revolution

In his 1996 seminal article “Strategy as Revolution,” strategic futurist Gary Hamel wrote “Never has the world been more hospitable to industry revolutionaries and more hostile to industry incumbents.” Today’s market conditions have obliterated accepted modes client engagement. Coupled with increased client self education, resulting in clients becoming their own agents, sales agents are forced to radically alter their approach to business building and client engagement. They must become real estate revolutionaries; activists leading the new movement of professional competency. Patriots loyal to the cause of establishing a new order of professionalism committed to abandoning archaic sales and business practices and picking up the standard of the emergent professional development manifesto. As author Hamel shares “activists are not anarchists;” they are leaders.

Revolution is a challenging proposition. Revolutions, like other social movements, assert guiding principles to guide activist’s action. Strategist Hamel presents us with principals for guiding an industry revolution. Consider the following principles when creating your revolutionary professional development strategy.

1.      Questing: Become a “free thinker of insurrection.” Explore and experiment with innovative strategies for branding, marketing, and selling. Break the bonds of established thinking and practice. Dream the impossible; then make it probable. Be daring and determined.
2.      Modeling: Model your professional development agenda after others’ who’ve mastered the “joy of use.” Joy in using innovative business building and client engagement strategies incorporating the “whimsical, tactile, and informative” into a meaningful and purposeful sales experience.
3.      Jettisoning: Discard useless professional behaviors. Exit unproductive modes of thinking and excuses for underperformance. “Examine and abandon fundamental conventions” preventing you from becoming a top producer.
4.      Clustering: Find others who think like you passionate in pursing professional development through lifelong learning. “Make no mistake; there are revolutionaries in your company.” Leverage the collective intelligence and momentum generated by like thinkers to realize your professional development plan.
5.      Reflecting: Informed action results from reflective thinking and self dialogue. “Without enlightenment there can be not revolution. To discover opportunities for revolution, look at the world in a new way; through a new lens.” Learn and use the tools of reflective practice and self inquiry. Reflect to succeed and achieve.

The New Order

Typically, revolutions are viewed as movements; caused, conducted, and completed.  However, this is not the formula for the residential real estate revolution. Today’s revolutionary market conditions have instigated a perpetual stream of causality; action and reaction between agents, clients, and markets. In order for sales agents to succeed and thrive in the 21st market, their professional development; in turn performance must be reconceived. A new doctrine of professional standards recognized for its rigor and scope is at hand.

The residential real estate revolution beckons sales agents industry-wide to join the cause of shaping and embracing a new professionalism. The beckoning is the drumbeat of the revolution heralding new industry, regulatory, and client mandates for business building and client engagement. March towards its future being created today. Listen…do you hear it?

From Inertia to Engagement: A Matter of Momentum

Today’s economic conditions have ravaged investor confidence. From the toxic mortgage debacle to Wall Street’s collapse, investors have been pummeled with devastating news and events leaving them confused, distrustful, and angry. As a result, buyers are manifesting paralytic investment behaviors. Furthermore, sales agents’ ranks have been decimated by these same conditions precipitating a mass exodus of agents from the industry. The result, industry momentum has slowed to a near standstill; buyers aren’t buying, and agents are ill-prepared to assuage buyer concerns.

Unless America’s citizenry has neither future need for housing nor believes residential real estate a viable investment vehicle, the current market conditions, while problematic, are impermanent. Fortunately, impermanence enables change resulting in recovery and engagement. Unfortunately, unless investors and agents anticipate, understand, and prepare for future market changes, the current unengaged conditions may be prolonged     and worsen.

So, what’s needed to restore momentum moving buyers and agents from inertia to engagement? Let’s consider 3 perspectives offered by Peter Senge, Kurt Lewin, and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Metanoia

In his 1990 seminal book The Fifth Discipline,” Peter Senge reintroduced the concept of metanoia or “shift of mind” to a rapidly changing global environment. Senge offered metanoia in the context of deep learning; learning that is both adaptive and generative. Learning that expands and enhances our personal and professional capacities. Learning that recreates us; in turn enables new and revised thinking and behavior.

Residential real estate agents must immerse themselves in learning. They cannot be baffled by the causality and dynamics of the global recession, cessation of credit, and turmoil in the financial sectors. They must learn and understand current market conditions in order to influence buyer inertia. Actionable knowledge can be reduced inertia and increase receptivity. Translating complex data for buyers in clear and concise terms demonstrates agents’ mastery of the facts, trends, and issues associated with today’s markets.  Evidence defeats disbelief. Translating market data can enable buyers to make informed investment decisions.  Using a data driven approach enables agents to segregate fact from fiction in the buying process; in turn establish a foundation of fact. This foundation of fact can reduce or eliminate speculative discussions about market movements which frequently disrupt and derail closing conversations. This context provides agents with opportunities to manage factless and emotional objections to buying today.

Barak Dunayer, president of BARAK Realty comments: “At least 50% of the sales process is nothing more than a head case.  Meaning, one’s mind set, geared towards learning, growth and limitless possibilities is an essential component of success. However, positive thinking alone does not guarantee success and action must be taken today in order to guarantee the outcomes of tomorrow.” So confronting today’s realities head on rather than retreating into inertia is the key to working through these challenging times.”

Learning enables increased professional capacity. Adopting a lifelong learning orientation to professional development may require residential real estate professionals to reflect and retool in order to succeed in the 21st century real estate environment.  Learning stimulates movement from inertia to engagement.

Kurt Lewin

The ground breaking social psychologist Kurt Lewin conducted foundational research in change management. Emergent from Lewin’s work was a 3 stage transformational change process that included unfreezing, cognitive redefinition, and refreezing. These concepts are critical to generating movement from inertia to momentum. They are applicable to both buyers and agents. Let’s focus on how these variables can operate in transforming sales agents’ orientation to one of lifelong learning resulting in professional movement from inertia to momentum.

Unfreezing or disconfirmation occurs when the dependable and relevant constants in life are threatened. These threats could be economic, technological, or personal. As a result personal and professional equilibrium is disrupted causing anxiety. Typically, with anxiety comes reflection; in turn the motivation to change in order to reestablish equilibrium.

Cognitive redefinition occurs when new learning has been explored and practiced. New learning occurs, old concepts may be enhanced by new meaning, and irrelevant ideas and practices discarded. Sales agents adopting a lifelong learning orientation towards professional development are constantly analyzing current market and trend data, experimenting with innovative marketing and sales processes, and evaluating feedback from qualified performance coaches. They create the future today through redefining their orientation toward the work of sales agentry; a metanoia, a shift of mind.

Refreezing, the third stage evidences the internalization of new learnings may lead to new meanings and behaviors. These new meanings and behaviors bring reinvigorated and new professional capacities. They enable fresh thinking and action. This transformational change process stimulates movement from inertia to engagement.

Stan Ponte, Senior Vice President of Sotheby’s International Realty comments “To succeed in today’s challenging markets; brokers must approach deal making from an entirely new standpoint. An educated, informed approach is needed to bridge the gap from interest to closing.”

Shoeless Joe Jackson

In the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” spectral baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson informs farmer Ray Kinsella “If you build it; he will come.” In the movie Jackson’s reference to “he” was Kinsella’s father. In today’s professional reality, if the statement were rephrased “If you build it, be prepared for what comes.” The power and potential inherent in metanoia and transformational change to enable sales agents to abandon inertia and initiate engagement are limitless.

We assert residential real estate professionals are the architects or victims of their professional future. Shoeless Joe Jackson encouraged Ray Kinsella, to “build.” We too can build;   build commitment to professional development through life-long learning.

The 21st century residential real estate market has irrevocability changed.

Will you?

Let’s practice, play, and win.

From Assessment to Achievement: Agent Know Thy Self

Achievement is a product of assessment. Typically, to achieve a desired outcome, we assess our capabilities relative to the probability of achieving it. If we decided that the odds are favorable we move forward.  We assess achievement is a variety of ways using an array of personal and professional metrics. For residential real estate agents, professional achievement may be measured by gross commissions, numbers of new listings, or a flow of referrals. These are transactional metrics are easy to measure and manage.  However, what metrics do agents use to assess their personal preferences and capacities, in turn professional potential? Increasingly, professionals at every level of the residential real estate industry are using the tools of reflective practices and select assessment inventories to assess their preference and potentials relative work performance, achievement, and satisfaction.

These approaches to achievement can enable discovery and innovation applicable to professional practice. Residential real estate professionals employing the tools of reflective practice coupled with select assessment inventories can tap reservoirs of dormant potential. While a eureka find; harnessing the power and potential inherent in these discoveries can be challenging. Therefore, working with a coach skilled in performance coaching and assessment inventory interpretation is critical in maximizing beneficial results.

Reflective Practice

Chilean Biologist Herberto Manurata shares “the knowledge of knowledge compels.” Knowledge, more importantly integrated knowledge, enables residential real estate professionals to reflect, plan, execute their business with maximum efficiency. Integrated knowledge is a product of reflection, assimilation, and experimentation. Tools of reflective practice enable real estate agents to attend to actions and events presented in each client engagement. For example, employing a reflective stance with clients enables agents to more fully manage two critical aspects in the sales process. First, manage common client objections. Second, identify and anticipate associated trends and issues that may inhibit closing a transaction.

Reflective practice generates meaningful and formative learnings that influence agents’ ability to execute. Through continual practice and coaching, agents can increase their professional effectiveness by catching themselves being reflective at critical moments in the sales process. As a result, activity evaluating nuances and patterns presented by clients while operating with full awareness of the emotional, cognitive, and environmental variables influencing each sale.

How can you increase your knowledge of and skill with reflective practice? Begin by experimenting with self-inquiry.

Self-Inquiry

When we ask ourselves the question “who am I becoming” self-inquiry begins. We all self inquire. However, the methods we employ to inquire may differ, in turn yielding varied benefits. One approach to self-inquiry are the “5W-1H” questions.  We use them every day. Try this. Ask yourself the following example “5W-1H” questions and then stop and reflect; creating and undisturbed environment for reflective processing.

  • What specific knowledge do clients need in order to make an informed decision to buy now?
  • Who can coach me to maximize my selling potential?
  • When is the optimal time to become a member of a sales team?
  • Where can I find other residential real estate professionals who engage in life-long professional develop?
  • Why does my office manager have reservations concerning me becoming an office manager?
  • How do I incorporate reflective practices into my professional practice?

The “5W-1H” questions will yield data relative to your core orientations, belief systems, and professional habits. These data must be capture in order to inform your thinking and professional practice.

Agent as Researcher

Capturing data is a key skill for agent-researchers. Here are several activities for capturing data and developing reflective responses:

  • Journaling: Engage in self dialogue for self-inquiry. Record questions, intentions, and solutions. Be expansive, deliberate, and non-judgmental.
  • Discussion: Engage in discussion with key advisors. Explore aspects of your journaling with them to determine if new orientations and actions are necessary to move your business forward.
  • Learning: Engage in action learning. Use reflective skills while selling; then, use the activities of self-inquiry to capture key data to discuss with yourself and others.
  • Coaching: Work with a coach performance coach.  Integrate your learnings from the “5W-1H” questions and self-inquiry and apply them in client engagement. These learnings will assist a coach to refine your performance profile and productivity plan.

Call to Action

The tools of reflective practice and self-inquiry provide residential real estate professionals with powerful skill sets for enabling personal and professional development. Become an architect-builder. Use these skills and tools to construct a more productive professional practice. Remember the choice is yours… architect of victim.

Which will you choose?