Inspiration really can come from anywhere.
I find that to be especially true when I’m in a “writing place” — in other words, when I am writing content regularly, brainstorming, scheduling time to write and think, reading more, pondering goals and leadership and marketing and life in general… I’ve had more time to do that lately — you know, while we’re all “Sheltering in Place,” self-quarantining, adjusting to a new (or new-for-now) normal. I find that, during these times — whether related to a pandemic or not — I pay closer attention to everything. To the podcasts I’m listening to, the television shows I’m watching, the books and articles I’m reading, the conversations I’m having. So it should come as no surprise that the inspiration for this post comes from Blue Bloods, which I am currently watching in its entirety on Netflix (because, you know: TIME).
Never bitch about a problem without pitching a solution.
— Blue Bloods
If you’re a purist, you’ll know that PC Francis Xavier Reagan (Tom Selleck’s character, the Police Commissioner, for those of you who aren’t ardent viewers) doesn’t actually say this line. (If we’re being completely accurate, it’s Sgt. Delgado, who is quoting Lt. Sid Gormley, the Special Assistant to the Commissioner, referencing a previous [offscreen] conversation; however, Tom Selleck, er, Commissioner Reagan is such a powerhouse of leadership skills and morality that we can probably attribute it back to him at some point…and maybe I am being too technical here, since it’s all…um…fiction?). Regardless, lessons in life and leadership abound in this show (not to mention the warmth and comfort of the almost-every-episode four generations around the Sunday supper table — more about that in another post, coming soon, I’m sure), which is one reason I love it. Another reason is Donnie Wahlberg, but I digress…
So back to the point of this post:
Never bitch about a problem without pitching a solution.
To be frank (pun very much intended), this quote resonated with me for a couple of reasons: (a) it rhymes(-ish), (b) it proves a good point, making the (minor) cussing totally acceptable (fight me on that), and (c) it’s a lesson we could all benefit to remember, every day, in our professional lives, as leaders, and in our personal day-to-day.
As REALTORS®, our number one job is negotiation, and this is a skill that we should be working daily to hone and perfect. It requires forethought and strategy, and all too often, we as REALTORS® enter into negotiation without either of those two things in place.
For example, if your buyer is interested in a property on which there are already multiple offers, a good REALTOR® will tell their client, “Let’s put together your strongest offer and see what they say. Who knows? We may come out the winner.” However, a great REALTOR® will call the listing agent, have a conversation about what is important to the seller (i.e., price, closing date, closing costs, any hot-button issues that might affect the way the seller views the offers received), and take this information back to their buyer. Armed with this knowledge, the great REALTOR® and their client can discuss possible scenarios, how the buyer can make their needs fit those of the seller, and draft an offer that is attractive based on what the seller wants and needs. The great REALTOR® will give the illusion of giving the seller the upper-hand in the offer, by catering to their wants and needs, but ultimately, getting the buyer what is most important to them, as well, thus truly creating a WIN-WIN scenario.
Negotiation goes much further than making on offer on a property, though. Every conversation with a consumer, a client, or another REALTOR® should be thought of as a potential negotiation and should have you thinking of possible outcomes and strategies to deal with the other person’s responses. Think further on this: negotiation doesn’t just happen at the initial offer stage or later, when dealing with inspections and repairs. We negotiate with our sellers for commission and price reductions; we negotiate with our buyers when signing a Buyer Brokerage Agreement; we negotiate showing times with an agent who wants to see an occupied property for which the seller has a restrictive schedule; and we negotiate at every step of the contract, from the minutiae of appliances and the exact time of closing on settlement day.
The nature of negotiation is looking at a problem and coming up with myriad possible solutions. Going into any negotiation without a plan is like bringing a knife to a gunfight — you’re sure to lose. The best negotiators, however — from REALTORS® to contract attorneys to hostage negotiators — map out the possible scenarios, the best- (and worst-) possible outcomes, the speedbumps they may encounter along the way — and come up with possible solutions to have in their back pockets, small “wins” to offer to the other side in order to effectively gain for their client or themselves the ideal solution. They don’t bitch about being in a tough spot, about feeling backed up against a wall, about a difficult scenario they’re facing; they take a step back, analyze, come up with solutions, and forge ahead. The best negotiators also consider when it may be time to make an exit from the conversation, the Kenny Rogers “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em” awareness that can protect the client and the ongoing relationship with the other REALTOR®, since a time may come in the future when they find themselves across the negotiation table from each other once again.
As leaders, we face the possibility of difficult scenarios every day. At any level of Association leadership — local, state, national — it’s safe to say that every leader has encountered or observed the member who is always at-the-ready to identify what’s wrong but never following up that complaint with an idea for a solution. The most glaring example being the keyboard warriors — first to strike on social media with a diatribe on all the things that are wrong with the Association from the safety of their home, behind the keyboard, but not willing to step up and get involved at the Association, pitch in, get their hands dirty, put in the time, volunteer, their time, work to find a solution.
Leaders know that problems exist and more will arise. Leaders know that issues of all shapes and sizes are always a possibility. Effective leaders are those who are comfortable tackling a problem, those who know how to gather the right people around them, collect and inventory their resources, budget and knowledge from past experiences, and face the issue head-on brainstorming a variety of possible outcomes and choosing the path that works best for the organization.
I’ve grappled more with personal day-to-day negotiation lately; I’ve included it here because it’s become a big part of my life. Had I written this post a year, or even a few months, ago I likely would not have included this part. Some of you may know that I set some pretty rigid dietary and exercise goals for myself for last July. In the past, fitting in a run or a workout here or there was just that — fitting it in. On days when life got busy (as it often does for us REALTORS® — I know, I’m preaching to the choir), my run would be the first thing to get slashed from the calendar. Other excuses: it’s raining? Okay, I’ll run tomorrow. I’m tired? No problem; I can do it tomorrow! Happy hour? Woo-hoo! Call it networking — I’m in! The July Rules simply didn’t allow for that.
It became a negotiation.
A late-evening meeting or a dinner that fell during my normal run meant getting up for a morning workout (not my fave). Rain in the forecast meant rearranging my schedule or descending to the basement to the dreaded treadmill (i.e., dreadmill). You may be thinking, that’s not negotiation; that’s just planning. Fair point. However, negotiation implies finding a win-win to a problem. When I don’t want to run (almost always), I may tell myself it’s a win to come up with an excuse — a dinner or happy hour, scheduling a client appointment, or oops! it’s raining! However, is that really a win? I’d argue no — it’s not a win for my fitness level or my waistline, and ultimately, I get a few of those days of excuses under my belt and I inevitably feel guilty. Most definitely not a win. Instead, I’m negotiating with myself to create the ultimate personal win…and it even takes away that weird feeling of guilt. All because of negotiation…and refusing to identify a problem without also coming up with solutions.
Because I had carved out the time, put it on the calendar, negotiated with myself, I was able to keep up with what would have otherwise been an intimidating and grueling schedule for four-and-a-half months. Now that we are Sheltering in Place and dealing with the coronavirus, I have more time and I am getting back to scheduling those things that are important to me — getting back on my own dietary and exercise bandwagon, setting new goals, writing them down, and putting them in the calendar. There’s no time like now!
I’d be willing to bet that you negotiate in your day-to-day, even if you don’t realize it. Maybe you negotiate to get your toddler to allow you to apply sunscreen or your teenager to eat their vegetables (or with your kids now to do their schoolwork at home!). Maybe you mediate a sibling squabble. Perhaps you negotiate a girls’ or guys’ night out into your very busy schedule because you know it’s good to get out and connect (when we can get back out again, that is!). Could be it’s negotiating having dessert tonight to satisfy your sweet tooth by agreeing (with yourself) to do an extra mile on the elliptical. Personal negotiations are everywhere in our lives, if we know where to look. Here’s what I’ve learned, though: when I think of it as a negotiation, I’m more likely to create success for myself. I have trained myself to look at both sides, possible problems, and best-outcome/worst-outcome scenarios. Your girls’ (or guys’) night out, for example: you’re buried in work, your to-do list is a mile long, you feel overwhelmed but have to get it done. Your calendar shows an evening out with friends — dinner or drinks, whatever — and you contemplate not going, even though you really want to. Some will drop everything and go — screw it! I deserve a night out! Some will call and beg off — I am just too busy. Sorry I can’t make it. The best negotiators will create the WIN-WIN: what are the outcomes if you do go (finding yourself further behind, the work continuing to pile up) and if you don’t go (the feeling of burn-out, regretting the decision, feeling overwhelmed and alone with no one to hash it out with) and the possible solutions (taking 30 minutes to scrutinize and prioritize your to-do list, doing only the things most urgent to earn the night out, moving lower-priority items to tomorrow, creating a reward system for yourself for not only working fastidiously to get to the night out but then also putting in the time the next day to pick up some of the slack). You get the drift.
We negotiate every day, whether we know it or not. Those of us who make it an intentional and cognizant part of our personal and professional life are the ones who find the most success.