April 17th, 2012 14:49 EST
How to Expect a Positive Outcome in a Negative Economy
Experience has taught me that when you are in the presence of a brilliant thinker, always have a pen and something to write on. As you begin to ask questions, you`ll find that a river of wisdom, insight, and real-time examples freely flows from someone with valuable insight into the world. This was the case with J. Lennox Scott, Chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, a third-generation real estate firm with 130 offices and 2,500 agents, based in Seattle, Washington.
While enjoying an exquisite dinner at the Bull and Bear in the Waldorf Astoria, Orlando, I asked Lennox, "What has caused your company to succeed in this economy?" He told me that everything shifted when he challenged his employees to walk in joy, walk in abundance, and live an inspired life.
Now, before you write this off as some hocus-pocus concept, consider the impact this attitude shift had on Lennox`s business: Forty percent of new business (that is, referrals - which are like gold in the real estate business) came from eighty percent of the people the agents already knew and had personal face-to-face contact within ninety days. That is just incredible.
"Our company is not just a real estate company; we are a learning company," Lennox said. He requires all of his executives to read the same book, then come together to discuss how they intend to apply the techniques they have learned. This exercise has inspired the agents to improve themselves and stop settling for the status quo. Lennox`s most successful agents possess a positive mindset, have developed skill-level competency, and are action-oriented.
Lennox said that sometimes agents can have the right mindset - of what Jim Clifton, author of The Coming Job Wars (get this book!) calls "state of mind" - but lack the skill level to compete. When this is the case, it`s up to the leader or manager to help his employees. Or, in some cases, an agent may not have the right mindset or skill-level; this person will most likely fail to take action and will ultimately leave the organization. The real estate business is a tough one and, with a thirty percent turnover rate amongst agents, the ones who survive do so because they possess all three of the components - the right mindset, the skill level needed to compete, and the initiative to take action on his own behalf.
Lennox`s final step toward success was to hire a Vice President of Agent Excellence whose sole responsibility is to help agents maximize their performance. Think of this role as a combination of organizational development, human resources, and learning and development. His mission is to help agents discover possibilities, rather than focusing on why they are not doing something. Then he challenges agents by asking, "Why are we doing this activity?" and "How can we create a positive outcome?"
By now, I was scratching my head, wondering what the heck he meant by "positive outcome." When I asked, Lennox lit up like a Christmas tree.
"To get to the positive outcome," he said, "you have to find out how the agents can make a positive contribution to the potential prospect or past client. This simple act of consistently looking to serve the customer ultimately pays off. It`s not about what you get from them; it`s about what you can give to them."
This method allows an agent to "walk in joy" because he knows that he is positively impacting his customer`s life and doing more than just buying or selling a home. "Walking in abundance" happens when an agent knows that he is making a positive contribution to his customers` lives and is worthy of earning a living from the problems he solves and solutions he finds.
This was one of the most enlightening conversations I`ve had with Lennox, who is not only a friend but someone who is totally congruent with his own beliefs and who gets that the greatest asset of any business beyond brick, mortar, and intellectual capital is people.
You are probably wondering how this story can apply to your business or profession. Well, if you are a leader, you can do the following:
Find out whether your team members possess the right mindset, skill level, and initiative to take action. If they are lacking any of these areas, then you have your work cut out for you.
Tell your employees what they are doing right instead of what they are doing wrong. I like to recall this anecdote: A coach was yelling at a football player, telling him all the things he was doing wrong on the field, when another player observed the coach berating his teammate and said, "Coach, aren`t you going to tell him how to do it right?"
Walk in joy. That`s right. Every day you need to bounce out of bed with pep in your step because you have that day to create a moment for your team members. Say thank you, nudge them to go the extra mile, give them an assignment that stretches their capabilities, and get out of their way.
If you are a business professional working in a company or by yourself, consider the following:
Determine how you intend to create a positive, engaging experience for your internal and external customers. For example, a client has a birthday coming up or has just experienced a loss: Find a way to brighten up his day by sending him a positive message or dropping a card in the mail. Sometimes it`s not about getting what you want; it`s about serving your customers even when they least expect it.
Get rid of the fixed-pie mindset that says there is only so much to go around. Walk in abundance, knowing that if you do your very best every day, opportunities will always present themselves to you.
Seek to learn something new every day. No excuses. Read a book, a newspaper, or a business magazine. Keep up with current issues both in your industry and outside your usual scope of interest. Decide to be the "thought leader" in your area. Advance your thinking, move the needle, push the conversation through insightful questions - then shut up and listen.
As you know by now, I love reading books. I would like to encourage you to download or purchase a copy of The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of The Gallup Organization. I read this book and couldn`t put it down; it`s a wake-up call for all of America and the world.
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