CULTIVATING GOODNESS IN A REAL ESTATE OFFICE

When philosopher Tom Morris spoke at last fall’s annual convention of the National Association of REALTORS®(NAR), it was clear that he knew his audience well. This is not just because the former Notre Dame professor is familiar with business people, having addressed hundreds of corporate seminars and retreats around the country. More important, in this case, is the fact that Tom Morris possesses a North Carolina Real Estate Broker’s License. He grew up in a real estate family.

CULTIVATING GOODNESS IN A REAL ESTATE OFFICE

Morris’ message, primarily directed to brokers, owners, and managers, is one from the Ancients. Human beings seek fulfillment, and an activity or relationship can contribute to one’s fulfillment if and only if it respects and nurtures the four fundamental dimensions of human experience. Those dimensions are the Intellectual, the Aesthetic, the Moral, and the Spiritual. A company or organization that ignores those aspects of its members’ experience does so at its peril. Conversely, companies that attend to those factors see payoffs in loyalty, retention, morale, and productivity. It is a lesson for ABC Realty as much as it is a lesson for General Motors.

Previously, we considered how these lessons regarding the Intellectual and the Aesthetic might be practically applied in the context of a real estate brokerage. Today’s topic is how the Moral and Spiritual dimensions might be addressed in such an environment.

How does one cultivate Goodness in a real estate office? Morris, in his talk and in his writings, offers at least two suggestions. First of all, he poses the notion of “moral mentoring”. Hire good people; don’t keep those who aren’t. (It’s pretty simple.) Just as we expect new agents to learn productive work habits from associating with productive people, we can expect that they will learn ethical work habits from associating with ethical coworkers. Moreover, the converse is deadly. “…the great thinkers have always encouraged us to avoid bad company. Bad company corrupts. And absolute scoundrels corrupt absolutely.” It isn’t worth it to keep a bad apple, even if that person brings in a lot of money.

Secondly, the point to which he gives great importance, attend to the little things. Columnist Dave Barry once wrote, “A person who is nice to you, but rude to a waiter, is not a nice person.” Tom Morris would agree wholeheartedly. If a real estate office is a place where “little acts of kindness” are practiced routinely, where friendliness and cheerfulness are the norm — and where rudeness and mean-spiritedness are out of place — then the moral dimension of its agents will be nurtured, and they can be expected to do what is right in the “big” situations.

Attending to the Spiritual dimension of its agents would seem to be one of the hardest, and diciest, of tasks faced by a real estate company seeking to apply these lessons. But it’s not. Morris is not talking about the doctrines or beliefs of any particular religion. Rather, he is referring to the deep-seated human needs for two things that may, at first glance, seem contradictory: uniqueness and union.

People need to be appreciated for their uniqueness — for who they are, not just what they have accomplished. Real estate companies are great at giving awards, too great perhaps. But these are recognitions of achievements, not of who a person is. Doing the latter takes some work — it requires paying attention to people — but it is well worth the effort. If a company can provide an environment where people are known and appreciated for who they are, it will have addressed what psychologist William James believed to be the greatest motivational factor in human experience.

Finally, Morris notes, people need union — they need to feel connected to something larger than themselves, to be contributors to an undertaking that is significant. This means, for real estate companies, that there has to be talk of more than just sales volume and dollars earned. There needs to be a sincere understanding of the value of the enterprise. We have mentioned before the “I sell the American Dream” campaign. It is that kind of thinking that ennobles the activity, and brings self-fulfilling value to the work that REALTORS®do.

Author: Bob Hunt, director of the California Association of Realtors®.

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AMPI consists of separate autonomous sections all throughout the nation, as well as more than 4,000 associates and affiliates.

Each section is independent and has its own board of directors, only surpassed by a national board of directors comprised of twenty associates from all over the republic.

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