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2009-08-25 22:29:50

Develop the Wisdom of Solomon in Crisis Management


There is an old saying, "It is not what happens to us that matters, it's what we do about it."
Have you ever had a crisis in your career? Maybe we should ask how many have you had today? Let's face it, a great real estate agent is first and foremost a problem solver, and because of this, a top producer's desk will often become a crisis management center. This center is where all problems arrive and are expected to be solved within a short period of time.
In this current market, our clients present many crises to us that need our help.  They lose jobs just as the sale is ready to close.  The appraisal on their property comes in too low. The bank turns down their short sale and the buyer is ready to walk.  Sometimes, even if we have the wisdom of Solomon, we cannot turn the situation around in a way that salvages our sale or helps our buyer like we'd like to.
How can we become better at crisis management? Before we can begin to answer this question, we need to start by admitting that most of us deep down are cowards at heart. Yes, we may come across as confident and strong, but at our core, we fear like every one else. We fear that we may fail, or worse yet, that someone won't like us.
 We often don't face each crisis as quickly or as effectively as we could; and occasionally, we don't face the crisis at all. Soon it is too late. By accepting our natural aversion to crisis, we can then begin to unravel the simple techniques all of us can use to be better crisis managers. There is an old saying, "It is not what happens to us that matters, it's what we do about it." This is one piece of sage wisdom that definitely applies to crisis management.
As with many things in life, in a real estate crisis, our natural reaction is to point fingers, maybe at someone, maybe at the system. Often we need to look ourselves and muster our response.
What can we do to become better at crisis management? Let's look at some simple strategies:
1. Step Toward the Crisis: When faced with a problem, many agents take the ostrich approach to problem solving. They bury their heads in the sand and hope the crisis will pass. This is the worst possible way to deal with any problem. Any crisis left to its own devices will no doubt fester and become much worse with each hour that passes. Most attorneys will tell you, "Justice deferred is justice denied." We should face the crisis head on by first listening to the client to identify the problem. From this point, we can begin to understand exactly what the issues are so that we can start to work on a possible resolution.
2. Define and Clarify the Crisis: Occasionally, issues get all jumbled up into one big kettle of discontent. To separate fact from fiction and to give your clients the best chance at moving towards a successful end result, we need to develop our investigative skills.
How can a person learn investigative skills? They simply learn to ask great questions. Many of our clients will feel a great sense of relief when they have been able to vent their feelings and express their concerns.
 Use this simple list below as a guide:
• Encourage - "Please tell me more ..."
• Clarify - "When did that happen?"
• Normalizing - "I've had other clients ..."
• Empathizing - "I can appreciate that ..."
• Soliciting - "I would like your ideas on that ..."
• Validating - "I appreciate your willingness ..."
3. Unemotionally Discuss the Issues: This is easy to say and hard to do. People become emotional during a crisis; so it is easy, as real estate professionals to become swept up into the hurricane of emotion. Is that what we are paid to do? Absolutely not!
Do you hire a doctor to become emotional during surgery? Do you hire an attorney to get rattled during trial? The same is true of real estate professionals. We must remain calm and positive, a port in the storm; even when your own clients are upset.
We must remain calm even when other immature agents are emotional during a transaction. That's just part of being a real estate professional. Occasionally people and problems get mixed up together. To separate the two, you may ask the person who is upset this question, "Listen, it sounds like you're upset. Are you upset at me or the, situation?"
Obviously, diffusing the situation does not solve it. However, this approach puts clients in a better place to deal with the outcome. When our clients have a crisis, we seek a solution.
We want you to notice that we did not use the word answer. An answer often implies that the person with the problem ended up getting exactly what they wanted. We know from experience that this is rarely true. A professional crisis manager looks for ways to create solutions where both parties may have to give some ground to create an agreement they can live with.
How do you find a solution? One way is to simply ask the parties involved. Use this script, "What do you think the solution is? If that's not possible, is there anything else that would make you feel better about the situation?"
Another way to find a solution is to ask for input from others in your office. Often, we are surrounded by a brain trust of agents who may have experienced similar problems and who may be able to offer unique solutions that no one has thought of yet. In addition, we should ask the other side of the transaction for their input. They may be able to offer a different perspective on the challenge at hand.
Remember that old saying, "If you're not part of the solution, you're a part of the problem"?  When various parties in a "situation" are asked for input, they tend to be more accepting of the outcome.  They buy in.  When colleagues are asked for input that makes them feel like valued members of the team. They buy in. Both of these are good outcomes.
Bob Corcoran is a nationally recognized speaker and author who is founder and president of Corcoran Consulting Inc. (, 800-957-8353), an international consulting and coaching company that specializes in performance coaching and the implementation of sound business systems into the residential or commercial broker or agent’s existing practice.
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