A Flux in Time; Dealing with Change

It has been said the only true constant is change, but what exactly is it? Most important, how do we deal with it? According to Google Dictionary, it is “The act or instance of making or becoming different”. My personal definition is that of “a flux in time.” I like my own description because it reminds me that all change, good or bad, it temporary. It’s a bend in our existence, a hiccup in history. The effects of the Coronavirus has given most of us more change than we have had to confront in recent years.

No matter how you define it, all major change is going to be an upheaval to someone’s life. Even what we consider to be good change will more than likely have a negative effect to someone, somewhere. What it boils down to, is a loss of certainty.

A few years ago, I taught an adult Sunday School class and I noticed a recurring theme with many of the lessons. Whether it was about attitudes, a particular sin, or our relationships with one another, the moral was that to truly see God’s Grace, we would need to let go of our own sense of control. That’s when it struck me that we as humans are actually OUT of control more times in our lives than we are in it. Clock and hammer

As a self-confessed “control freak”, that is not an easy thing for me to do. But the universe is much larger than I. Look at how many times a day, decisions have already been made for us. The alarm clock tells us when to wake up. Society or our spouse tell us we should practice personal hygiene each morning. Traffic lights tell us when we may or may not proceed through an intersection. Our boss tells us what we will do that day and when to leave work. Our children tell us how we will spend our evening. Then, we do it all over again, because we have to. More decisions are made for us than we make ourselves and it has always been that way.

Control is an illusion. But we hold onto that illusion because it gives us a sense of security. We like to know what to expect. The world is a much scarier place if we do not know where our next paycheck was coming from, how we would put food on the table, or whether our children will receive an education. Yet, this is exactly what millions of Americans are dealing with now. Once the pandemic subsides, much of what we once knew in the country will have changed. But to what degree? We will have to wait and see.

Business futurist Alvin Toffler stated in the 70’s; “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Many may have to find a new job or learn a new skill if the old employer is no longer there. Some having little in-pocket cash have turned to a barter system or trading with neighbors for necessities. Online or “distance” learning is now the new normal. Change has come at us fast. The one thing we still have is how we decide to deal with that change.

Broken_clockMuch has been mentioned about the psychological and emotional health of those who are “sheltered in place” right now. Over the years, I have noticed those who are happiest and most successful in business are those who are able to adapt to the changing times. Fortunately, this rarely involves changing our core principle, but it does mean making a shift in our perspective. Perhaps we all know someone who still believes the internet is just a fad. In fact, it’s the only way in which most schools, institutions and many businesses are functioning at all right now.

There are a few things we can do to help us deal with change and protect the six inches between our ears. I have compiled a list of half a dozen things that will help us transition during and after this current health care crisis.

1) Flexibility; When I was a young pup in the Army, I had a difficult time of dealing with change, especially when the work for one plan had already been done. Sergeant Finnel, my squad leader once told me “Above all, remain flexible”. I’m not sure why he said it that way, but it is something that I always remember him saying. I’m not perfect, but I do strive to be flexible in the face of adversity.

2) Manage Your Expectations; A lot of discussion had been had as to how long we must hunker down in our homes or exercise precaution when we venture out. Physicians and politicians are not always of the same mind as to how long this will last. It’s probably best to set any hard dates in our minds in order to avoid upset later.

3) Show Appreciation; This may be something we do almost begrudgingly, but it is necessary none the less. At the risk of sounding cavalier, keep things in perspective. There are other countries who are having a much more difficult time with the Coronavirus than us.

4) Limit Your News Intake; How much news did you watch a month or two ago? Was it just half an hour a day? Try to return to that level now. I remember after 9/11 it was reported people not anywhere near the attacks suffered from depression simply because they watched the hour-by-hour reports on TV.

5) Establish Daily Routines; Sleeping in until almost Noon when we normally wake at 6 a.m. is not a good practice. We all know how it feels to return to work just after just a week of vacation. If you are not able to work from home, clean. Organize, paint or take up a hobby for a certain amount of hours a day. Gain back a certain amount of that sense of security by keeping a schedule for yourself.

6) Draw on the Support of Others; If you or a family member begins to feel despondent, be certain to have a conversation with loved ones and express yourself or ask for what you feel you need. Also, be there for others, even online. Someone may be having a tougher time of it than you, though they don’t show it. Check on your neighbors, even if you don’t know them that well. A pleasant conversation with you across the fence could be the best part of someone’s day.

Change is inevitable, but we can help one another through it. This is a time of challenge and we decide how will face that challenge. Our attitude, at least, is still in our control.  No doubt, we will discover things about ourselves we never imagined. What do we want those discoveries to be when we look back at the flux in time?

Blaine Little is the founder and CEO of Momentum Seminars Training & Coaching, helping companies remain profitable by investing in their people. He is also a certified life and business coach. Learn more at http://MomentumSeminars.com 

 

Analysis Paralysis

I have taught Realtors and sales forces for almost a decade now. From brand-new rookies to career agents, I know one thing that will never change… change itself! Change will constantly come at us, and no matter how much we think we know, we don’t. There is always the need for additional knowledge and training. Information and experience are vital to the decisions we make on a daily basis. With the knowledge we have, and the benefit of past lessons learned, we can better assess the risk involved with any endeavor that may require an investment of our time, money, or emotions. That being said, we will seldom have an unqualified answer to the question: “Should I stay, or should I go”?

Several years ago, I was training a new twenty-something agent on my sales force when I was with a local RE/Max franchise. One of the first skills I taught this group of “newbies” was how to find prospective clients. This particular agent was attentive, thoughtful, and took copious notes in my Tuesday morning sales meetings. Jeff was what most sales trainers dream of; a clean slate devoid of bad sales habits, someone who was “coachable”. Indeed, he asked a lot of questions every Tuesday morning, and most every other day as well. He asked a lot of good questions, but mostly just A LOT of questions. Initially I didn’t mind. After all, that was part of my job. Although, after a month or more of this, and no clients to show for it, it finally dawned on me where his head was. His lack of confidence in being able to overcome every possible objection, stopped him in his tracks.

One Tuesday morning, after the rest of the team of new agents cleared out of the training room, I said to him; “Jeff, you do realize you will never have all the answers to every challenge that may arise beforehand, don’t you? In other words, you cannot possibly absorb everything from a textbook, or class in an attempt to eliminate a problem before it reveals itself to you”. Jeff looked to the side, back at me, then widened his eyes. This was his moment of Zen. Though I do not consider myself his “guru”, a light had clicked on for him. A switch that for many of us never gets flipped. It’s the realization that in order to pursue success, we must first be willing to fail.

So many people want to keep a perfect track record. As though THAT was more important than actually doing the job itself. I have stated several times; “perfection is overrated“. More on that in a later post. But, this concept of never being willing to make a mistake is sadly permeating our society. It’s not just with the young people, either. Those changing career fields, also seem to have a certain aversion to failure. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do a job well. That’s admirable, though it shouldn’t stifle our ability to perform at all. In the words of Marcus Lemonis, “Have no fear and be willing to fail.” Most challenges have more than one solution, but none of them will be completely perfect anyway.

Fortunately, it is NOT the job of a Realtor to know everything. It is the job of the Realtor, or sales professional to understand our client’s goals, then find the information that will be pertinent to our clients making an informed decision. Yes, we are compensated for helping others to avoid (or at least properly assess) the risks involved. That’s why we exist! We are the professionals. But, we didn’t become that by never making mistakes or by just asking a bunch of questions. So stop worrying about not knowing everything, and get to work. Your clients need you!

www.MomentumSeminars.com 

Holiday Listings

Each year, about this time, Realtors across the country hear those same three little words “…after the Holidays”. The real estate market tends to go into an economic hibernation for a couple of months as activity slows down. Our focus shifts from seeking listings and promoting sales activities to turkey and hanging out with the family.  We plan our cross-country trips, hang the lights, buy gifts for our loved ones, and make sure we are stocked up on eggnog. Mmmm, eggnog!

For our clients, it is just as stressful a time of the year as for us! Not to mention the kids. Oh yeah, they’re around! Many times, the last thing our sellers want is the added stress of selling a home. So, each year, about this time, we resign ourselves to having a slow month or two. These are all valid points, but certainly not the only points to ponder. This December could be a productive work month if you know how to position yourself.

Occasionally, I will send out a postcard to my farm area entitled “8 Reasons to List during the Holidays”.  The intent was not only to promote myself and the services I could provide, but also to create a shift in the mind of the seller who had already decided to put off listing until the New Year. I would also send the little card to my current listings who I knew might expire during this period. I will share a few of those ideas with you.

First, the listed home is already looking pretty! No need to “tidy up” before a showing or make the place look festive, or bake wonderful smelling cookies in the oven to make it all seem like home. It already does. The owners did your staging for you!  There’s also no need to cut the grass just before a showing appointment.

For sale in snowAnother good consideration is the Holiday schedule itself. Many times, manufacturing plants and other businesses will completely shut down for a couple of weeks.  This means those “by confirmed appointment” sellers are now much more flexible, and easier to reach by phone. The brokers appointment system can simply block out important family days and sub-Holidays like New Years Eve. Buyers are in the same boat with extended vacation and many want to take advantage of the free time.

Another key factor, and perhaps the most important, is a smaller market! Remember, a lot of sellers are thinking “…after the Holidays”, and the inventory actually shrinks. Real estate is already competitive, so why not take advantage while the competition is on hiatus. Not to mention, come January, all those new and “new again” listings will twinkle in our MLS system like lights on a tree.

Plenty of people, people just don’t want to get out in the cold. However, if someone is willing to bundle up, schedule an appointment, and take a meeting with a Realtor in the dead of Winter, they’re serious! It’s a good opportunity to eliminate the “Looky Loos” who are less than serious and think of house hunting as a hobby. Buyers are also stressed out and otherwise involved, yet if they take the time to see a home with your sign in the yard, they may just be willing to put ink on paper. You couldn’t give your sellers a better gift!

These are all great considerations when it comes to working for your clients, but there are distinct advantages for the professional as well. Not only is the overall market better for our clients, but it’s better for YOU! For years, I have made myself available to anyone and everyone who want to buy or sell. Without fail, I always pick up new clients at this time because everyone else had their phones turned off. Consistently, I heard stories of how people must have called a dozen agents, but no one picked up or returned their call. Well, I do, and I get new clients out of it, too. Some of them will be people relocating to the area in a few weeks or months, and had this time to look for properties. I don’t mind the delayed gratitude if I know the buyers are serious.

Yes, there are a lot of points to consider during the Holiday season, but your mental default should not be that of “Nobody wants to buy or sell during the Holidays”.  By working smart and being available, you just might be able to put a nice little bow on the end of your business year.

 

Mandatory Meetings!

Meetings in the business world are like cellphones and opioids. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. But is every formal get-together really necessary? Most people NOT presiding over one would say “no”. Maybe they have a point. When was the last time you heard a group of people leaving a conference room and collectively say; “Now, that was productive”. If anything, they rush back to their workstations to return missed calls and make up for the LOST time.

Don’t get me wrong, meetings have their usefulness. It is an opportunity for the boss to show his face and thereby get an instant read on where everyone on the team is with the latest project. It also shows the boss’ support of his subordinates. By maintaining the flow of information, management may prevent certain members from secluding themselves… and doing God knows what.  The team may discover mistakes being made and get the project back on track. Too, there is something to be said for synergy and collaboration.  It also provides much needed face time for building team camaraderie (psst… Millennials, that’s REALLY important). But these are perhaps the most grand ideals for having a meeting in the first place.

Here are some quick pointers on how to have a more effective meeting time:

Is it necessity or habit? If there is a “standing meeting”, perhaps Wednesdays mornings for the sales force, consider whether you really have to meet THIS week. If sales are good this quarter, keep your people in the field and OUT of the office. Actually, that applies to poor sales as well.

Select a time frame (like an appointment?) and stick to it. Keep a “huddle” to just that., short, sweet and to the point. If you call a meeting at 11:30 and lunch begins at Noon, you have exactly 30 minutes. Going over time and ordering everybody food is NOT OK. The occasional overage due to an unforeseen emergency will be forgiven. Make it a habit and your team will grow to resent you. After all you are not respecting their time or tSurvivedAnotherMeetinghe productivity they bring to the company during it.

It’s alright to have empty seats. Should everyone in the department be present for a meeting just because they are in the department? People not assigned to the latest projects and other specialist would much rather be doing their own work.  Veterans who have been “down that road before” should only be asked to attend due to the expertise they can provide or to understand how the work will be distributed.

I have a love/hate relationship with agendas. Granted, the boss is paying the employees so he or she gets to ramble on as long as they want. However, irritated and underutilized employees tend to find work elsewhere. It may seem too formal to have a list of topics but being too casual can pull the discussion down a rabbit trail. Before you know it, people are looking at their watches. Select the points you think most imperative to discuss and stick with it. Don’t keep it a surprise! Email copies of the agenda to all participants BEFORE the meeting so people will know what to expect… oh and to be prepared too.

Perhaps the most productive meetings I have attended are where the participants are independent contractors or volunteers rather than employees. And therein lies the rub. They WANT to be there. If you are calling a meeting, you need to ask yourself what the attendees will get out of it. If your people do not grow in some way or become more efficient, the meeting may not be necessary at all.

Over 2500 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War. Millions of business people have  read it and liken business to war itself. Personally, I do not like that analogy because at the end of the day, no one has died and hopefully, no property was destroyed. However, Sun Tzu did have a wonderful grasp of how groups are effected by leadership, be it good or bad. He stated an army (company or other group) did NOT exist for waging war (or simply to come to work each day). Rather, an army exists for VICTORY (productivity or increasing market share).  Holding meetings may seem like a very managerial thing to do, but is it a good use of everyone’s time when an email would have done just as well.

Blaine Little