Category Archives: Leverage Your Expertise

Disruption: Get Out of Your Own Way!

Disruption is out in the open.

No longer a shock or surprise, disruption is sought-after, copied, and cultivated.

Huge financial returns, wide-grasp power, and lucrative celebrity are key attractive outcomes that make disruption the hot leading edge of business. Since the value of disruption has been proven over and over again, it’s no longer a question of “if” but a clear vision of “when” that has the full attention of forward-thinking leaders.

At the same time, disrupted businesses face an end to their hard-won market share, financial gain, future profit, and perhaps the entire organization.

You know it’s coming whether you admit it or not. How are you preparing to get out of your own way, so you come out of industry or profession disruption and stay way out in front?

⇒ What have you discovered about your vulnerability to disruption?

  • Understanding the ways in which your industry or profession could be disrupted is vital for ventures from start-ups and wanna-be market invaders to those intent protecting their first-in or long-established market lead, or just holding on until owner retirement.
    Where are your vulnerable points?
  • Disruption can truncate or terminate careers, personal holdings, overall worth, and companies. Disruption anticipation must be required analysis for business owners, partners, professionals, and stakeholders on all levels.
    What could disruption cost you and your business?
  • When you see your principal role as maintaining status quo, you may be playing into the hands of disruptors. To fight off change, are you allocating funds and resources into areas which may weaken your market position or are you increasing vulnerability by leveraging assets?
    How can you realize the value built into your business when disruption looms?

>⇒ Example: Identify Disruption Potential

In the webcast “Technology in Homebuilding,” Hanley Wood & Meyers Research CEO, Jeff Meyers shared observations on the potential for disruption in the US homebuilding industry.

Listening to Meyers’ perspective on home building, I was struck by similarities with my observations of other industries and professions. How do the following key points apply to your world?

Home building and construction remain long on tradition and short on digital transformation, making these real estate sectors vulnerable to disruption:

♦ Vulnerability #1. The intention to disrupt is not proclaimed on social media, it just happens.

Anticipation is key.
Disruptors have already moved into real estate: from office disruptor WeWork and hotel/apartment disruptor Airbnb to mega-disruptor Amazon’s attack on retail and other sectors. Meyers related an example of how the disrupted may be the last to know. Greystar, a global leader in rental housing, was seemingly unaware of disruption by Airbnb until that company offered to partner with Greystar by explaining “we have over 5000 of your units in our system.”
What “back door” have you left wide open in your organization or client relationships?

♦ Vulnerability #2. Disruption of an industry requires “deep pockets” for experimentation and exploration to establish the most practical, lucrative disruptive pathway.

The attraction of historically solid returns is a key vulnerability.
Major disruptors like Amazon and Google have billions to experiment with in the home building and construction industries. By example, Meyers mentioned Amazon-backed Plant Prefab as a stepping stone which may lead the way to sustainable modular-prefab projects that challenge traditional development. This practical wedge into home building may be one way in, but there are many potential entry points.
What could “deep pockets” accomplish that you have not?

♦ Vulnerability #3. Combined digital advances and trend-setting technology can transform practices and systems.

Social-media- and technology-driven shifts in consumer behavior and expectations can leave first-in and leading companies far behind.
Disruption takes many forms, but technology enables increased speed and efficiency to open major avenues for change: faster production, faster delivery, faster customization, faster research and development…. Advances in the speed of construction through steel-framing companies like Prescient cut costs, improve affordability, and heighten investment returns, said Meyers.
What changes to “the way it’s always been done” would keep you out in front with your target markets?

Meyers explained his intent in talking disruption was to rally home builders to adopt digital transformation of their sales and marketing processes and particularly their buyer experience.

⇒ Clients and customers can become catalysts for disruption.
Read PJ Wade’s from-the-inside-out examination of how communication and the lack of it may reveal the potential for disruption to home buyers before home builders see the future: Home Builders: Do They “Get” Buyers? on PJ’s Decisions & Communities blog.

⇒ What are your weak spots, exposed flanks, or out-dated hack points?

Believing you’re invincible is one way to get through tough or uncertain times, but it may not be the practical or powerful strategy that current times demand.

Every single aspect of your business and career can not be equally strong and resilient. One weak spot or two or more combined flaws may exist and be underestimated as disruption points.

⇒ Do you understand where your greatest vulnerability lies?

How are you and status quo getting out of the way? How will you react constructively to disruption before it’s too late?

  • Keep your opinions to yourself. Listen more than you talk. You want to learn what you don’t understand about technology and how it is changing people’s lives and the way we do almost everything. Listen to academics, professionals, and experts, who have knowledge and inspiring experience to share.
  • Stop thinking you have time. You’re too late for this to be easy, but not too late to be successful. Technology is snowballing through industry after industry. Nothing is going back to the way it was. Even when online changes do not prove fruitful, there’s no going back. They’ll just be replaced with new online and digital solutions. One significant change is how many are turning to their target prospects, customers, and clients and to their data for ideas on how to make the transformation make sense and make money.
  • Digital transformation is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity.  What you don’t know or understand, many competitors and disruptors do. Concentrate on building your expertise in identifying exceptional experts and hiring them for the good of your company and clients. This is not about what you can do, but what you can put in place. Then, move out of the way of those you hired because they know more than you do.
  • Stop expecting accolades and pats on the back. Concentrate on earning trust by being the one who really knows how to lead by stepping aside and letting the experts you hand-picked self-lead. Retain leadership status by creating a powerfully-cohesive, forward-knowing team and organization and getting out of your own way to take your venture forward.

© 2019 PJ Wade, TheCatalyst.com. Includes excepts from “What’s Your Point?: Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” (print book publication: 2020)

Supercharge Communication: 3. Facilitate Decisively

Supercharge Communication by continually perfecting and investing in EVERYTHING that you need to be effective at and are already good at…facilitate decision making to supercharge effective communication.

The following excerpts from Chapter 6 in “What’s Your Point?” explain why continually perfecting the art of decision making is a valuable, even essential, investment in effective communication for professional advisors and persuaders.

#1. Confident Decision Making

Effective communication is vital to sharing ideas, building knowledge, and making decisions. At its best, effective communication results in fruitful collaboration and confident decision making.

Experience has proven to you that facilitating confidently-made decisions benefits prospects and clients. And you! You’ll also establish value in your offerings to both groups.

Professional expertise should facilitate effective communication and negotiation to ensure that desired results are achieved or exceeded for clients. This should be true for every consumer transaction, business deal, meeting, interpersonal workplace interaction, professional consultation, and offering of products and services, whatever the medium, content, or context.

The prospect and client procedures you’ve employed to build your business and client base can be improved on by analysis of how decision making is facilitated. It’s that simple when there are no hidden, under-handed, compromised, dishonest, or criminal intentions involved.

#2. The core evaluation question is, “How can what the professional sees as relatively-simple decisions appear complex to clients?”

Your success is linked to how well and how consistently your communication, in all media, addresses this question when prospects and clients are selecting, choosing, evaluating, buying, selling, investing….

Professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, and advisors must have above-average skill and knowledge in decision making relevant to delivery of their advice, services, and products. This will include the perfected capacity to interview, facilitate, negotiate, and analyze.

Success for clients often rests with how effectively and credibly the professional communicates to create comprehension in each client’s mind.

“Why?”-questions are inherent to and embedded invisibly and otherwise in most procedures and decisions that require professional advice or intervention.

From financial and medical advice to purchasing and education details, consumers and business-to-business decision makers seek out knowledge, skills, and guidance to enable them to confidently make decisions that matter. The more quickly and completely they understand the whys associated with a specific set of choices, the more quickly and completely they can confidently make a final decision that is their best choice.

Professional communication expertise identifies and explains these issues to simplify and clarify what exactly must be chosen or avoided, and why. This reveals precisely what acceptance involves.

Professionals who do not understand what their clients do not understand, often say: “It’s a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision. You want it or you don’t. You do it or you don’t.” But it is not that simple to the client or would they hesitate?

Clients who are overwhelmed or distracted by details correctly and incorrectly related to a decision—even one described as simple by a professional—believe it is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision, and hesitate to act. They may feel they have more questions than answers and resent being made to feel inadequate. Pressure cancels out trust.

How do you assist prospects and clients in becoming confident about their decision making? What has proven to be your most useful tool in this process? How good are you at personally making decisions with confidence, especially under pressure?

#3. Mastering the Complexity of Simple Decisions

The significant professional purpose in communicating is to make good decisions easy and comfortable to make, and to help others—prospects and clients—confidently commit.

Professionals, advisors, executives, and entrepreneurs are decisive by nature, training, and goal-setting. It’s not surprising that many often think they are great decision-makers. Some even believe that making decisions quickly is a sign of decisiveness, which it isn’t necessarily.

Commonly, after a few years on the job, most professionals feel they have learned all there is about the decision making process. They believe it’s just content, in the form of product specifications, office procedures, and client “hot topics,” that change, not the decision-making process. Professionals who truly understand how ill-prepared most prospects and clients are to make decisions, understand how the professional can help. These professionals realize their value is linked to clients’ confidently-made decisions.

The more professionals understand about the process of deciding, the more useful they are to those that rely on guidance to make up their minds and end second guessing. This is true whether you sell goods, services, or both to individual clients, businesses, or organizations.

The first time you went through one of your profession’s or organization’s decision-making procedures with a prospect or client, it required a lot of concentration, thinking, remembering, and analysis on your part to genuinely engage and serve. Prospects are going through your process for the first time, so remember what that felt like.

Each subsequent training session and actual sale seemed to require less conscious thought from you, even though details varied with each prospect and client. If the professional is selling services or products, particularly when standard, frequently-repeated procedures are used, the prospect or client may be at an even greater disadvantage.

After years of experience, many prospect and client service procedures are second nature to you. They can be carried out almost effortless, and you may feel they do not even require your full attention. Some professionals have gone through the process so often without giving the prospect or client individual attention, that the professional feels they could fill out the form alone. That is not necessarily a valuable progression for prospects and clients, or for the professional.

Conscious effort is required to observe opportunity for improvement, and to identify weaknesses or redundancies in procedures and processes. Have you reached the stage where you can work on auto-pilot? How is that constructive progress? What are you missing that clients, who are not jaded by repetition as you are, and competitors, anxious for opportunity, would value or could contribute?

#4. The following discussion relates to guided persuasion, presented as friendly helping and caring concern. This is not a discussion of high-pressure tactics or heavy-handed selling, which have no place in professional communication.

  • Do answers to the following questions represent information that is readily available to you, or that is largely unknown to you?
  • How many decisions are there for prospects to make from the first prospecting contact until the transaction is finalized and follow-up is complete?
  • Do you have a flow chart or similar outline of this process to share with prospects and clients? If not, how does that foster continuous improvement to the clients’ benefit?
  • How many decisions do you make in managing this process?
  • How is each procedure documented, analyzed, and checked for compliance with legal and ethical standards to protect the interests of the prospect and client?
  • How frequently and thoroughly is each decision-making procedure reviewed and revised?

Your goal in this evaluation should be to identify aspects of decision making—clients’ and yours—that make deciding seem simple with experience and complex without, or without trustworthy professional advice.

© 2019 PJ Wade, TheCatalyst.com. Except from “What’s Your Point?: Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” (print book publication: 2020)

⇒ Example of how real estate professionals could supercharge communication.

Supercharge Communication: 2. Interview Inventively

Professional advisors and persuaders are surrounded by overlooked or ignored communication opportunity. One common missed opportunity involves not interviewing inventively.

Among the under-utilitzed communication techniques at professionals’ disposal are INTERVIEWING & KEY QUESTIONING. These powerful information-gathering tools involve interview questioning with the selective use of closed and open strategic questions.

That’s were the “inventively” comes in.

Supercharge Communication by continually perfecting and investing in EVERYTHING that you need to be effective at and are already good at…interview inventively and key question creatively to supercharge effective communication.

The following excerpts from Chapter 13 in “What’s Your Point” explain why continually perfecting the art of interviewing inventively is a valuable, essential investment in effective communication for professional advisors and persuaders.

#1. Questions to Open Minds and Hearts

Do you know how to ask questions to generate answers you may not have expected or realized you need?

Often, when we are sure we know all the answers, we ask questions based on our assumptions, not what individual prospects and clients want to know.

Whether you’re discussing a referral, convincing a potential client to work with you, deciding how best to help a client, or investigating a client’s negative response to advice, are you skilled enough to ask mind-opening questions?

How do you trigger client responses that provide information essential to helping the client, even if they don’t understand exactly what you need to know?

Sometimes, when interviewing clients, you are probing for opinions, observations, and concerns that prospects or clients may be unaware of themselves. What is your reaction when you encounter issues and perspectives you have not come across before? What about topics you would not normally think of inquiring about? Use your experiences to help prospects and clients understand how to help themselves.

QUIZ: Quickly identify which of the eight questions—four in the introductory paragraphs above and four in the bullet list below—are open and which are closed questions.

To unearth choices and potential pitfalls for others, professional-grade interviewing and questioning skills are essential:

  • Do your professional interviewing or information-gathering techniques need upgrading?
  • For instance, how do you deliberately use open-ended questions when gathering information?
  • Do you use closed questions when short factual answers like yes or no will move the interview along to the next significant section?
  • How do you create an effective series of open and closed questions?

Quiz Answer: The eight questions are, in order: closed, closed, open, open, closed, open, closed, open.

#2. Improving your communication powers is easier than you expect.

However, this transformation does require moving to conscious, deliberate expression in every medium.

As suggested throughout “What’s Your Point?,” this involves shifting to focused, strategic communication where results matter every time. In all cases, the more you know about your target and about your goals in talking to or emailing them, the more effective the interview and the more useful the results.

Professional advisors and persuaders have many communication tools at their disposal. They just may not realize this without training. One of the most powerful information-gathering techniques—interviewing—involves the selective use of closed and open strategic questions. Combined with listening loudly—active, respectful, engaging attentiveness—communication gets supercharged.

Do you find that there can be a lot of talking or emailing when you communicate, but not many decisions that people stick to? Your failing as an interviewer may be the weak link.

Can you automatically and seamlessly switch from open to closed questions as required? If not, you may benefit from training and practice to be a fully-professional interviewer and an effective facilitator.

#3. Strategic Question Review

(1) Closed questions elicit yes, no, or one-word “just the facts” responses.

  • Professionals who are in a hurry, or disinterested, often fall naturally into asking closed questions to gather only the facts they need for their decision making.
  • They may also intend to avoid listening to more information that they want. This just falls short of actually cutting prospects or clients off.
  • Some professionals ask a series of yes-or-no closed questions to qualify prospects. This almost one-way communication can seem abrupt and unfriendly.
  • Closed questions can change the subject, politely or otherwise, quicken the pace, or relay a sense of urgency.
  • The exact wording of closed questions is important to learn precisely what is essential. It is also necessary to avoid responses that dodge an issue.
  • In emails, these questions illicit short responses. These may reveal little about how the responder feels or what they understand.

(2) Open questions trigger information downloading, generate opinions, and unleash knowledge.

  • Thereby shifting the interviewer’s role to one of listener.
  • Open questions, which begin with what, how or why, require detailed responses or descriptions from the prospect or client.
  • To clarify a crucial issue, ask similar, but slightly different, open questions at a few stages of the interview. You may uncover differing answers that surprise even the client.
  • As with all skills, practice pays off. Have a set of open questions ready to ask when you meet with prospects and clients.
  • In emails, when you need detail, make sure you ask an open question, perhaps even two.
  • By mixing closed and open questions, the interview can become an engaging conversation or a lively collaboration.

#4. Learn as much as you can about prospects and clients before the interview.

This preparation makes your queries more natural, more logical, and more fruitful. Those being interviewed will relax and be more receptive when they understand your client-centric purpose.

Your intent must not be to take advantage, but to create the best services and achieve the best returns for prospects and clients:

  • Before you ask anything, disclose all conflicts of interest and fiduciary responsibilities to prospects or clients.
  • Explain how you’ll protect their rights, privacy, and interests during the interview. Also during the entire extreme-excellence service delivery process. This will make them feel at ease and well-served.
  • In advance, ask their permission to ask questions, so they genuinely are in control of the discussion.
  • Remind them that, just because you ask a question, they do not have to answer unless they want to—no explanation necessary.

Are you always ready for anything and never at a loss for the right question?
If not, why not?

© 2019 PJ Wade, TheCatalyst.com. Except from “What’s Your Point?: Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” (print book publication: 2020)

⇒ Example of how real estate professionals could supercharge communication.

 

Supercharge Communication : 1. Listen Loudly

Supercharge Communication by continually perfecting and investing in EVERYTHING that you need to be effective at and are already good at…listen loudly to supercharge effective communication.

The following excerpts from Chapter 13 in “What’s Your Point” explain why continually perfecting the art of listening is a valuable, essential investment in effective communication for professional advisors and persuaders.

#1. How do you add value?

When your marketing, advertising, or branding message resonates with prospects and clients, they’ll accept it as true because you seem to understand them and their challenges. Once they meet you face-to-face or one-on-one online, will they remain sure you “get them?” Will they see you actively and respectfully paying attention to earn trust? Will it be evident to prospects and clients that you will adapt to their needs and all the other demands on their time, effort, money, and intelligence?

#2. Listening is not silent talking.

  • Listening is not silently criticizing what’s being said, making mental jokes, or thinking about how you’d say it better than the speaker who is sharing with you.
  • Listening is not waiting until it is your turn to talk and, in the meantime, concentrating on perfecting catchy phrasing or showing off in other ways.
  • Active listening is also not guessing what will be said and interrupting to finish sentences or provide a solution before the prospect or client explains what really concerns them and why.
  • Listening is not about you.

#3. How do differences matter?

Effective active listening always concentrates on how someone or their problem is different. This individualization is crucial to personal or customized service. Avoid lumping individuals into a general category. When you do, you’re giving them standard service which can not completely suit their needs. In fact, this is really substandard service since it is probably less than your pitch says you deliver.

Too often we listen for similarities. We search for ways to label an individual or group, or pigeon hole a need. In the multigeneration workplace, ageism in both directions (“too young” or “too old”) is rampant. Beware of your biases. Generational biases—yours and/or your clients’—compounded by stereotypes and ageism, can distort what is heard, that is, transforming it into what somebody who “looks that age” would mean.

For example, boomer is a general term for a very diverse group identified merely by their dates of birth. Boomer parents can have boomer children—it’s that diverse. However, references to boomers usually make them (almost 85 million in North America) seem like clones. Each boomer is unique. The group is a rich mosaic of diversity on many levels. The same diversity is true for millennials. If your target includes boomers or millennials, do you communicate with them, and about them, in ways that reflect this diversity?

#4. Why does what you do matter?

What is essential to earn the right to hear what prospects and clients want to share and more? They must quickly and relevantly see value in having you listen to them. When you meet a prospective client for the first time, you should be prepared to succinctly explain what you do.

In plain, jargon-free language, a Professional Benefits Strategy (PBS) sincerely expresses how you and your services solve relevant problems for target clients, from their perspective.

A PBS, memorably and relevantly, reveals where your value lies. The same care and clarity of communication and intent—achievable focus—should be evident at every meeting, every contact, not just the first. The thoughtful analysis that produces an effective introduction can also be applied to content for marketing, client retention, product/service development, business expansion….

#5. What does Active Listening—Listen Loudly—involve?

Active or effective listening combines respectful listening with accurate collection of data and impressions for future reference, placing privacy first.

(1) Active listening, coupled with attentive silence, reflect genuine interest and respect, and always represent powerful elements of your value to clients. While you listen to (or read) what prospects and clients want to communicate, your receptive attentionundistracted silence and no interruptions—is a vital ingredient in successful sharing. By listening intently, you learn exactly how they define the problem and its impact. Never underestimate the value of your attentive silence. Remember, no salesperson ever listened their way out of a deal.

(2) Combine active listening with professional interviewing techniques.  For example, strategic questioningthe deliberate use of questions to build rapport, gather information, and guide conversation—helps discover how to exceed expectations for each client. These details, including any client misconceptions, reveal which solutions may be most effective. The information and insight gathered reveal how to adapt products and services to client needs. This effort combines to create value-enriched extreme service excellence.

(3) Keep track of what you’ve heard or learned. Your procedures for recording client information and related data should emphasize:

  • Accurate comprehensive needs assessment
  • Reduced ambiguity for clients
  • Limited jargon and technical terminology
  • Appropriate documentation of decisions
  • Compliance with privacy regulations and legislation Above-industry standards for record-keeping and client education.

Summary:

Listen loudly! Client contact may involve phone conversations, meetings, texting, and online contact, but it must always highlight listening. Be engaged, enthusiastic, interested, and committed to remembering what you learn. Ask relevant questions, then listen attentively.

© 2019 PJ Wade, TheCatalyst.com. Except from “What’s Your Point?: Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” (print book publication: 2020)

⇒ Example of how real estate professionals could supercharge communication.

Achievable Focus Essential to Success

Achievable focus takes the “almost” out of your push for success in any context.

Have you gotten so close to achieving an important goal—you can almost taste success—only to find success slips through your fingers?

Therefore, your targeted opportunity suddenly vanishes or a focused competitor swoops in and you’re out. The prospect stays a prospect; the deal does not become a deal; your projected income is zero.

You can want something—a new client account, a new job, a new business, or a second shot at anything—very badly or urgently, but your need alone may not be enough to achieve what you want.

Desire may get you close, but if your focus is even slightly off center or your concentration lapses, success may slip through your fingers.

The truly discouraging truth is that lose your focus and “your success” can slip right into a observant competitor’s hands.

To “focus” means to strategically direct and intensively concentrate your attention, activity, resources, and what is necessary for a goal—“your point.”

As an achievement strategist, key skills lie in achieving and applying what I call Achievable Focus for clients. To me, the distinction between “focus” and “achievable focus” is the difference between “almost successful” and “completely successful,” or almost making your point and making it with a memorable bang for target clients.

No magic or secrets here.

This is well within the skills of an experienced professional, like you.

Focus is not an achievement asset if you lack clarity.

Achievable focus will elude you…

#1. …if you are not completely clear what your point is to achieve your goal.

#2. …if you do not “cut the crap” that has been holding you back and will continue to do so until you let go of the past and commit to moving Onward & Upward, the only directions that really matter!

#3. …if you do not know “Who your WHO is?” so that you can concentrate your focus on the ideal target client for your business efforts.

#4. …if you do not commit to a success that includes having your WHO stick with you, not just open an email offer, download a click magnet, attend an event, or click on your marketing ploy.

Add the preceding four focus elements together and you have created powerful achievable focus. You know what you want to achieve, why, and for whom, so success is crystal clear and your achievement strategies and focus are equally clear.

Weakness or lack of focus with any one element makes success elusive. For instance, #2 Cut The Crap above includes:

  • Stop making excuses
  • Stop blaming others
  • Stop obsessing on why you haven’t been successful so far
  • Drop that and all unproductive baggage that is holding you back.

I’m not expecting you to do all the above immediately, collectively, consistently, and permanently. The first step is becoming aware of your ingrained bad habits and counter-productive patterns of behavior in the context of one goal. We all have room for improvement whether we realize if or not.

As an experienced professional, you can make a serious commitment to suspend your crap as part of shifting to achievable focus. This will focus everything on the main point that you’ve chosen as your top priority.

For instance, the path to achievable focus lies in answering these questions honestly—to yourself, no one else:

  • What are my favorite excuses for not making my best effort?
  • Who is holding me back from success?
  • What “failure reruns” do I dredge up to explain why it’s not my fault things did not work out?
  • What are the top three roadblocks to my success? For example, screen obsession, multitasking, or mental clutter

May I share an example that was directed to real estate and financial professionals? The intent was to help their clients achieve a common and compelling goal—one you may have, too. In helping their prospects make decisions about their goals, the professionals may achieve successful client relationships: Five “Grass Greener?” Challenges in Paradise [article to be posted soon]

Tip #1: Achievable Focus: If the above effort seems too much based on what you want to achieve, you’ve picked the wrong goal or point to start with. Fix that lack of focus first.

Achievable focus achieves success.

Source: “What’s Your Point?: Cut The Carp, Hit The Mark & Stick!” by PJ Wade. Print book coming soon.

© Copyright 2019  PJ Wade The Catalyst   All rights reserved.

Fiduciary Minefields: The Agency Mess

Relationships and terminology may define what you do for clients, but do your clients fully understand your legal, moral, and ethical context for delivering extreme service excellence and protecting their interests and goals?

How clear are you and your communication, in all formats and platforms, about related fiduciary responsibilities?

A recent report addresses these issues for the real estate industry, so it offers an excellent example of misconceptions and missed opportunities which may exist in your industry and your communication as well. The bonus is we’re all real estate buyers, sellers, and investors, or wanna-bes, so this is a valuable read on many levels.

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA — www.consumerfed.org) started the year off by releasing the report authored by former-executive-director and Senior Fellow Steve Brobeck and entitled “The Agency Mess:Home Buyer and Seller Confusion and Costs Related To Diverse and Poorly Enforced State Laws about the Role and Responsibility of Real Estate Agents. The title tells the miscommunication story. The report incorporates CFA’s research of the literature on real estate agency, CFA’s mystery shopper survey of agents, and a national consumer survey.

I asked Brobeck my questions during a media conference to clarify the communication confusion which can lead to compromised fiduciary relationships, financial loss to buyers and sellers and, therefore, potential loss for real estate brokerages and professionals.

PJ Wade: Could you give us a very exact definition of agency law and what the fiduciary duties are to the client (…the client’s interests above all else but the law) and to the customer who is the third party. Also, in that answer, give us a clear definition of what the word “agent” means and to whom it can be applied. Is it the brokerage, is it the salesperson…?

CFA Steve Brobeck: “[CFA] is considering, in this report, every real estate professional that works directly with the home buyer or seller to be an agent. Some of those agents are just agents and some of them are brokers. But we do not really view a material difference, from the view of the consumer, between having an agent-agent or a broker-agent. So again, when you look at this report, you will not see the term “broker” used very often.

Define fiduciaryThe fiduciary is obligated to procure (and I’m quoting from another source here) the greatest advantage for his client. The occasion of that being if you are the seller agent and you are working with a seller, you have an obligation to get the highest price, sale price for the house. If you are a buyer broker, you are obligated to get the lowest price for that house.”

PJ Wade: Do the real estate practitioners, brokers, salespeople, the agents really understand these [agency and fiduciary] distinctions as clearly as they must?

CFA Steve Brobeck: “I think that’s part of the problem. There are several issues related here: the complexity of the law, the variation of the laws, and even the definition of the terms from state to state are not just very, very difficult for consumers to understand. They’re difficult for many agents to understand. Keep in mind, too, that there are 1.2 million, 1.3 million, 1.4 million practicing agents. Some of them have only been practicing for a year or two. In some states, the training is not very rigorous; in other states, it is. They may not fully understand all of these terms and the law in their particular state. The problem is there just hasn’t been any effective monitoring, so even if they are ignorant of the law and they don’t make required disclosures, no on ever calls them on it.”

PJ Wade: So would it be a fair summary to say that fiduciary duties of the agent to the client are to keep the client’s interests above all else but the law? And for the customer—the third party—would responsibilities be fairness and not to misrepresent and care of answering?

CFA Steve Brobeck: “Yes, I think that is a good summary.”

PJ Wade: What should a consumer do if they feel something going wrong? Should they complain to CFA or…?

CFA Steve Brobeck: “I think the first thing—we’re trying to keep this as simple as possible. We’re hoping that the nonprofit groups with whom we work—as you probably know CFA is an association of 240 members [ https://consumerfed.org/history/ ]—and we’re going to be putting this information out for them to communicate to the people with whom they work. We hope the media will communicate this.
We are also going to be communicating with the State Real Estate Commissions and, I hope, [encouraging them] to take a more active role in informing the consumers in their state about agency relationships.
But the key thing is ‘Don’t make it too complicated!’ As I indicated in my prepared statement, people just need to know whether the agent they are working with is a fiduciary. If they are not a fiduciary, what is their role? Their role, if [working with] a buyer, could be a subagent, could be a transactional broker, but [buyers] need to know that.
I don’t think the industry is going to oppose us. They certainly took leadership in the 1990s in terms of passing state laws that actually did some good, but now we need to review those laws. We need to review them, simplify them, and, just as importantly, ensure they are enforced. Ensure that there’s not just heavy-handed enforcement, but that each Realtor, each real estate agent feels that they are obligated, morally and ethically obligated to disclose their relationship to their customers.”

PJ Wade: So, ethically, morally, and legally…

CFA Steve Brobeck: “Well, they are, in most states, legally obligated to provide disclosure. But you know, given the situation, we are not really going to solve the problem unless all real estate agents feel that they not only must comply with the law, but that they have an ethical obligation too, at the earliest substantial contact, to clarify their role as an agent to their customer.”

Did parallel examples of miscommunication and misunderstood services and client relationships come to mind as you read this interview?

The 14-page report, The Agency Mess, provides more detail on the range of fiduciary relationships that exist, most of them beyond what consumers may expect. Without understanding each type of relationship and related fiduciary duties, consumers don’t understand when to confide financial information and when not to reveal their true feelings about a property.

  • Are your clients right about what they are getting for their money when they work with you?
  • Do you survey and interview clients to be sure you understand exactly what they don’t?
  • How do your efforts stand up against relationship definition efforts by competitors?

As a real estate consumer or owner, what is your reaction to The Agency Mess?

Navigating a World in Disruption

“Disruption” remains the current “hot” word—replacing “sustainable” and “innovative”—to underscore the latest “new thinking.”

Rarely is disruption defined to reveal long-term social benefits and pervasive problems attached to the 21st Century applications that the “new” concept involves.

The context for disruption varies, but unforeseen complexities and unexpected outcomes remain among the greatest challenges in each sector, industry, organization, or walk of life facing disruptive, long-term effects of the hot new approach to anything.

Where do you see yourself with respect to disruption in your profession, industry, or clients’?

You’ve noticed the obvious pattern:

  • Disruptor: Those who benefit, see disruption as a positive, modern force. Those involved in creating it, pat themselves on the back.
  • Disrupted: Those who are in the direct path of disruption lose—their earning power, way of life, standard of living, status, sense of self-worth…—so they do not celebrate disruption. They are busy attempting to replace what they’ve lost and rebuild lives.
  • Distracted by disruption: Those who do not feel they participated in creation of the disruption or were not in the path of its direct negative effects may be unaware of or have overlook challenges or benefits for them or their clients because they consider all of this to be happening to someone else.

Do you investigate disruptions that, at first glance, do not seem connected to your business or clients, but that at very least may create distractions relevant to your world?

Recently, I was invited to attend “Navigating a World in Disruption,” the 12th edition of the International Economic Forum of the Americas’ (IEFA) Toronto Global Forum. This lively, open exchange of ideas and experience brought together more than 3500 delegates and 170 speakers representing more than 65 countries—a mix of disruptors, disrupted, and those distracted by disruption.

FYI: Terrific Places to Think: The four annual IEFA Forums are by design and reputation, places that connect attendees with world leaders and with each other. IEFA declares its mission: “to facilitate agreements, offer business opportunities and provide access to unique insights from leading specialists.”

Navigating a World in Disruption

The three-day Global Forum provided opportunities for business leaders, decisions makers, government representatives, and heads of state to discuss how organizations and economies can thrive amidst intense, seemingly-escalating economic, social, and environmental transformation. Speakers across the broad topic range acknowledged that political upheaval, reactive populism, and protectionism provide charged, distracting climates for businesses. This is a challenge as they are already coping, locally and internationally, with the growing list of disruptive technology: digital transformation, cyber risk, artificial intelligence, fintech, blockchain…and the list continues.

Listening to speakers and attendees revealed practical insights for professional practices, independent business, and entrepreneurial ventures intent on successfully “Navigating a World in Disruption.” My research on disruption definitions confirmed the importance of context.

Reducing external and internal distraction is crucial for individuals and organizations intent on building momentum to take advantage of disruption or avoiding negative effects. Here’s three practical examples:

  1. Cyber-Security:
    Instead of becoming easier, maintaining cyber-security has become more challenging. Often it is the seemingly-simple issues that are most distracting. For instance, weak-password-creation habits persist. Using the same password for multiple accounts is a reality that hackers have trained their efforts on. Do your passwords and those of your employees hold up to scrutiny? These same welcomed users may inadvertently compromise security by clicking on a hacked link or visiting a malware-infested website. When employees leave, how much of your organization’s cyber knowledge leaves with or because of them?
  2. Talent Searches:
    The hiring search for specific IT skills and experience has proven less valuable than unearthing genuine desire and innate ability to learn and share. IT can be learned, but emotional intelligence (EQ) is the socially-valued talent that should be a crucial target during hiring. EQ is an important contributor on many levels from cyber-security to anti- and pro-disruption innovation, among other productivity issues.
  3. Collaboration:
    This word has become a conveniently-evasive catchall that is often used to demonstrate inclusive thinking when little may have taken place. Rarely explained or defined, collaboration frequently remains underestimated and undervalued. Collaboration does not involve only the willingness to cooperate or share, or at least talk about it. Collaboration must include communication skills like active listening, negotiation, and persuasive engagement. For individuals and groups who did not receive communication training in the 20th Century or who concentrated on 21st-Century social media, the conscious use of communication skills like these may not be automatic. The other meaning of the word—collaborating with the enemy—may also detract from its potential. The wish or intent to collaborate may not be enough to create practical, functional exchanges and commitment. Those with the knowledge and experience to facilitate collaboration may have the advantage in navigating the world of disruption.

What are your definitions of “disruption” and “collaboration”?
How prepared are you and your clients for disruption in your industry or their worlds?

Are You An Ageist?

When was the last time you wondered if you are an ageist, that is prejudice against age?

Even if you are approximately the same chronological age as your ideal clients and your peers, you may not be immune from ageism. This insidious prejudice could still be a strong negative influence.

Ageism or prejudice related to age which labels others as either “too young” or “too old” for certain things, is usually automatic and unconscious.

Most people, consciously and unconsciously, adopt different sets of stereotypes as their personal norm. For instance, individuals often apply their own standards to others whom they consider their equal in age. Since individuals usually see themselves as younger by a decade or more than others perceive them, effective communication can become complicated.

Even prospects or clients who are the same age as you, can believe themselves “too young” for some things and “too old” for others. This means they’ll decide this for you, too, whether you share their ageist standards or not.

Do not use age-related comments unless you know exactly why age is relevant to the discussion. It usually is not.</strong

For instance, to build rapport, professional advisors, who perceive new prospects to be older than they are, may use foot-in-mouth comments like “that’s just like my grandparents” or still bad “that’s just like my parents” to break the ice with these “older” people.

  • If prospects see the professionals as being of a similar age, the prospects may feel they have just been insulted.
  • If the prospects are older, the professionals may have lost credibility by pointing out the probably-irrelevant age difference.

How’s that rapport building coming along?

If you want to bring your thinking and communicating into the 21st Century, tackle ageist anchors which may hold you back, personally and professionally. When there is a difference in chronological age between you and your clients—in one direction or the other—you have opportunities to end ageist stereotypes and help clients appreciate themselves as individuals. Which ageist barriers stand in the way of your delivery of extreme service excellence?

Stereotypes represent bias and weakness in our knowledge and understanding. These mental shortcomings emerge as ageism, racism, sexism, and on the -isms go.

This disconnect is compounded by the fact that many of these perceived limitations and restrictions can be traced back to the 19th and 20th Centuries, if not before. Particularly shocking news if the 21st Century is the only one you’re worked or even lived in.

Consider ageism in yourself, your peers, your staff, and those who you answer to, including prospects and clients. Who believes the “too old” and “too young” labels? Remember, ageism is automatic and unconscious. Ramp up your powers of observation before you shrug this analysis off as unnecessary or start calling other people out before taking a long look at yourself.

Which effective communication strategies will achieve the greatest results with the maximum enrichment of relationships and workplace productivity? The key to improvement lies in appreciating individual uniqueness instead of repeating clichés and perpetuating prejudice in its most insidious form—humor. For instance, stop memory-lapse “jokes” like “I’m having a senior’s moment.” Become part of the solution.

How have you deliberately shed out-dated reactions and aligned your communication with 21st-Century realities about chronological age?

Inspiration Is Your Choice

How do you become inspired?

Do you associate inspiration with classic external influences like heroic deeds and nature with its spectacular sunsets and much more?

In reality, whatever your setting, environment, or context, inspiration starts within each of us.

Inspiration is a conscious awakening of creativity, problem-solving, or your special interest or thinking style to reveal otherwise overlooked or untapped potential.

Inspiration involves stimulation of mind and emotions in response to something or someone when we pay attention. Observe something, someone, or some event and react to it by opening your mind to wonder: “How can this experience be interpreted or applied in a different context or to solve a different problem?” Now you’re inspired!

Inspiration is always all around us and within us. An endless and often surprising array of things, activities, problems, or creativity abounds to act as stimulus for a wide range of inspiration.

Summits and conventions are a significant source of fast-forward inspiration for me and my clients. An invitation to attend the recent 109th Rotary International Convention held the added attraction of its theme: “Inspiration around every corner.” I joined 24,000 Rotary members from 175 countries—a mini-United Nations.

  • International big-name speakers and special projects like peacebuilding and end polio inspired many. The showcase of projects presented tradeshow-style as the House of Friendship was inspiration central for me and thousands more.
  • Large-scale events charged up many attendees, but there was inspiration all around us. A chance happening really touched me. A few hundred Nigerian Rotarians, most in native dress, spontaneously burst into their national anthem as the picture-only broadcast of a World Cup Soccer match featuring Nigeria began. Their obvious joy at singing together was only second to my amazement that they all knew all the words and sang them with gusto. Maybe helping people learn to sing their national anthem with obvious enthusiasm is a worthwhile project?
  • I learned a lot from the many Rotary members from around the world that I met. When I asked, “What inspires you about this Convention?,” they all exuberantly told me. The most common response revolved around meeting and re-meeting friends and colleagues they had worked with and stayed with around the world. The many other inspirations gave me food for thought and helped me see fresh opportunity around me and for my clients.

 

What I am reminded of time and again is that self-inspiration or training yourself to remain curious and to wonder about everything is a powerful and under-utilized skill.

Instead, of keeping your eyes on a screen where things—largely marketing—are fed to you, maintain curiosity and wonder as you move through the real world. Consciously, take this constructive stance at least part of each day and you may get hooked.

About Rotary: Rotary ( rotary.org ) brings together a global network of community leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. We connect 1.2 million members from more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in almost every country in the world. Their service improves lives both locally and internationally, from helping those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.

Social Purpose: Falotico & Inner Balance

Social Purpose Drives Startups

Part 1. What’s Your Point? PODCAST

Launch Day Perspectives PODCAST

Entrepreneurs Lino Falotico and Alicia Zadravec of InnerBalanceWear.com candidly share thoughts on inner balance and on integrating social purpose into their business venture. Are you searching for social purpose to enrich your work, contribute to obvious local need, and reach out to new target groups? Listen in…

PODCAST Highlights: 18:53 minutes
00:48 Lino Falotico’s social purpose & inner balance
04:16 Epiphany…from caterer to designer
05:56 Lino: “I believe my product will…” invisible awareness
08:20 Lino: “20 seconds” next step after epiphany
09:49 Evolution of the business concept of Inner Balance
11:26 Alicia: “Why underwear…”
13:34 The practical side…manufacturing
16:39 7% of net proceeds to Mental Health Awareness…

Part 2. Article: “5 Tips for Successfully Pursuing Social Purpose

Before you plunge into a new social venture, consider our social-purpose example and these 5 Tips for Successful Pursuit which reveal the driving force of social purpose. This article adopts the perspective of real estate and related financial professionals to explore integration of social purpose into a practice. Simple extrapolation into other professions and business ventures requires only a pinch of imagination. Plus more on Startup InnerBalanceWear.com

Part 3. Where Does Humor Fit into Social Purpose?

Increasing numbers of professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners want to integrate social purpose into their business venture. Their reasons for doing so, range from personal involvement to client-based concern. In all cases, if social purpose is poorly or sloppily handled, it can setback the cause and undermine business relationships.

When social purpose is your intent, you’ll probably have to address sensitive topics and discuss subjects that can cause offense or upset. Language has evolved over this century to include more and more topics previously rarely spoken of. Have we improved our communication skills or vocabulary to be sure the point can be made clearly and sensitively?

Before you plunge into marketing and sales content and campaigns to spread the word about your social purpose, make sure you won’t get tripped by ignorance or blind-sided by overlooked perspectives. For instance, when considering your social purpose, invest time analyzing where humor comes in and where it definitely doesn’t fit:

  • Don’t assume your taste, experience, or education dictates what others think or react to. Consider the long list of social media “foot in mouth” incidents from the well-meaning.
  • Research the history of your social subject to clarify persistent misconceptions. Talk to those who really know about a subject and you’ll discover an amazing list of things the public misunderstand. Communicating your perspective will involve clarifying this confusion and make you a recognized expert.
  • Expand your understanding of related issues rather than investigating your social issue as if it exists in isolation. If you are already involved in the social issue, you may be too close to see the big picture. If you’ve only recently come across this issue, there may be a lot to learn.
  • Do you know enough about those who are directly and indirectly affected by this social issue? Assumptions are dangerous and often counter-productive.
  • Avoid impromptu responses, discussions, or interviews until professional communicators have helped you. They will clarify your social message, the match between this message and your business issues, and what you want to change about the current social situation. Start with clear simple messages and that will attract experts as well as those directly involved. These people will help build momentum for the cause that they also believe in.

Humor can add another element of complexity

If the social purpose involves changing views that included laughing at people or their behavior, then misunderstandings can complicate the situation. Remember that humor is an attitude. You’ll understand that changing the perspectives on your chosen subject will involve permanently shifting attitudes. How does that align with the client education that helps clients achieve the best results when they use your products or services?

Humor is not always about the punchline or a belly laugh. Often it revolves around every-day occurrences and involvements. When humor is properly applied, attention spans increase and learning increases:

  • Humor can bring people together quickly or widen the divide between them. What are the tensions associated with the social purpose you’re considering? Will humor reduce those tensions or could it inadvertently increase stress?
  • Humor can reveal common ground, common misconceptions, and the silly side of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Jokes and stories that make fun of others can build barriers and entrench resentment. What language, stereotypes, or misconception could build barriers?
  • If you want to use humor to raise morale, build teams, and enhance rapport to build awareness of the issues associated with your selected social purpose, you must understand the issues from all perspectives.
  • Humor may provide strong ways to offer coping mechanisms for those involved during the transition or in the new solutions you propose. People like working and volunteering in positive, optimistic workplaces, so humor will become an asset when intelligently and appropriately applied.

Just because you can get a laugh or tell jokes well, does not mean you understand how to professionally communicate with humor.

The unpracticed speaker often repeats catchphrases and cliché which perpetuate ageism, sexism, and other prejudices. Some people will tell you directly that you have made a serious misstatement, but social media is driven by those who’ll tell others, with much embellishment, about your misstep.

How helpful can you be to your social cause if you cannot communicate the point of your social purpose clearly in every medium, on all platforms your targets frequent?

For more on Forward Thinking, visit these posts:

For more on PJ’s work as The Catalyst, visit www.TheCatalyst.com