Decision Making – An Essential Skill for Organization and Delegation

Real Estate Articles Being a real estate agent is challenging especially considering the industry’s technological intensity and the current climate of economic uncertainty. It’s especially taxing for successful agents and Realtors® who are considering redefining their business. If you plan to hone only one skill this year, select the one that will make a huge positive difference in your business, your success, and your quality of life. Become an expert decision maker.

Let me explain…Like you, most successful agents already work hard. Redefining or niching a flourishing business can seem like starting over. Trying to define, delineate and differentiate your business from the masses can create an unwelcome ‘drama’ to your daily routine.

There are decisions to make, websites to design, research to do, marketing materials to create… and even if you delegate, it can still be quite an undertaking. Business changes are necessary for growth, but can become overwhelming when added to the dozens of daily business activities required to serve your existing clients.

Of all your daily activities, making decisions is the most important (and often the most difficult) one you face.

#1 Agent: A Client Case Study

I spoke with a client this morning who is too busy to effectively organize. She also considers herself less than “cutting edge” when it comes to technology (I disagree) and says she is tired of stomping fires (I understand). She’s ready to preplan. She’s ready to make changes and she’s asked for my help.

Now this self-proclaimed “low-tech” client uses online outsourcing, she’s a Treo-toting agent, a Michael Russer devotee, she uses a top-rated contact management system… she even has a part-time onsite staffer. (So we know she’s not really as “low tech” or disorganized as she fears).

Professionally, she stays on top of her game. She’s well-versed in the current market trends. She’s currently reading The E-Myth (a book I highly recommend for those who haven’t read it yet). She attends (and devours) continuing education seminars and classes on real estate online marketing, software packages, and other relevant professional topics.

She’s also in the midst of developing a seriously niched specialization.

A Common Conundrum

So what does this top-performing, educated and personable Realtor® feel she’s missing?

  • Enough hours in each day
  • Adequate organization
  • Success in task delegation
  • And, by her own admission… sanity on the “really bad days.”

For those who are constantly brimming with great ideas (a career hazard for most excellent real estate agents), there is never enough time to get it all done.

These folks often have a number of ongoing (but never quite completed) projects underway – which causes an organizational nightmare on their computers, the surface of their desks, and often spills into the rest of their existence.

What Can a Successful Agent in the Throes of Massive Change Do?

Take a deep breath and view your business as a whole

For just a moment, see your business as a single, collective entity and refuse to view it as an overwhelming mass of tiny details to juggle. Step back and really look at your business. Admire it. Recognize that you have built a business based on YOU. YOU did this. Pretty cool, huh? Congratulations!

Now take a peek at your daily activities

Determine what five things make you the craziest on a regular or daily basis.

Write down the list of five things

Attack and FIX those five things, ignore the rest of the ‘crazy makers’ in your life until next week (when you can work on five more)

Set aside an hour a day – YES a full, uninterrupted hour – to work on fixing one of those things each day for the next five business days.

If it’s something that requires more time, schedule additional time to get it done and physically block out time on your calendar to complete it in a timely fashion (that means within a week, not “sometime soon”).

Don’t over-think the problem

Quite often the solution is fairly easy if you look at it objectively. The biggest hurdle to making positive changes is making the decision to do so.

“But, what if I make the wrong decision,” you ask? Well, that happens sometimes. That’s life. That’s business. If you have to re-evaluate the decision later and make another one, you will. But make today’s decisions with confidence that they are both permanent and correct. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

That Sounds Easy, But It’s NOT!

What if you aren’t sure about the decision? For instance, my #1 Agent is considering a change in her contact management system. She’s considering replacing the online system with one local to her office. She was stuck when trying to make the decision, so we walked through it together.

How to Attack a Decision

Make a list of pros and cons for each viable option – You shouldn’t have more than two or three contenders by the time you are ready to prepare your list.

Make sure you are seeing the big picture – For instance, if my client elects to keep her offsite system, she can’t always access it when she’s on the road because some ISP’s (especially those overseas) block it. This is important because she travels often and will continue to do so. On the other hand, if she elects to change to a local, onsite system, she will be responsible for doing her own backups to protect her mission-critical data.)

Once you complete the list, make the decision – Do it immediately. You have “thought about it” enough.

Have a Conversation About a Decision

This morning, I told my client, “I need you to make a decision on your contact management system and I need to know that decision before I advise you on any additional software or systems to meet your needs.”

My client said, “Well, I know I should… Ok, I’m 90% certain that I will switch my system.”

I pressed her again for a full, committed, confident decision, “You really need to make this decision and get it off your plate. I need a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from you.”

She recognized the “wiggle room” she’d left herself , “I didn’t really give you either one, did I?” she laughed, “Yes, I’m just going to do it!”

She was then ready to proceed with a new topic, so my next question exasperated her.

“When?” I asked.

After a bit of uncomfortable squirming, (during which time she reminded me how “tough” I was), she settled on a date. With this information, she can now work backward and put the tasks on her calendar required to meet the deadline. Now, she’s in charge of the issue that, only a moment before, was a source of stress. She’s made the decision that she admitted had been haunting her for several months.

I hear her physically exhale. (Now, perhaps that exhale was a substitute for telling me how she really feels about my pushy nature today, but I prefer to think it was a sigh of relief.)

Small Decisions Can Be Critical

I know this seemingly “trivial” decision is a huge one for a real estate agent. Your contact management system and ease of access to that information is the lifeblood of your business. It matters.

But making all decisions – whether big or small – should be approached the same way. It is imperative for agents who are re-evaluating and further defining their business to disengage from the daily grind long enough to make decisions on business systems, direction and long-term goals. Effective decision making is crucial to continued business growth.

Decision Making is Essential for Successful Delegation

Delegating requires expressing your needs in precise, measurable terms. Those with relentlessly mobile careers, like real estate, often find it difficult to take time to determine exactly what they need before attempting to delegate the task. And, determining when you need it is equally important. Delegation is essentially another decision which requires deadlines.

When you work with others, you and they need to understand the difference between this delegation approach:

“It would be nice to have an easy way to regularly email my Chamber peers.”

And this one:

“I need you to create an HTML email template that I can use to send emails to my contact circle from the Chamber of Commerce events each month. I want the template to match my current marketing materials and have a drag and drop functionality so I can add photos from the event. I also need an easy-to-change text box for the body of the email. I’ll send you the standard list of the recipients for the template tomorrow before noon. Do you need any other information from me on this project? My next event is in two weeks. Will you be able to get this to me by next Wednesday?”

With the second version, there is no doubt that you are asking the listener to take action. The first one seems to be close cousin to “Boy, a chocolate bar sure sounds nice, wish I had one.” In the second version, you have explained what should be accomplished, how you want it to look and when you need the finished product. You have also extended an invitation for any needed clarification, which will reduce or eliminate delays.

The ABC’s of Delegating Success

When delegating, you can often use the same basic outline used by writers covering a topic: Who, What, Where, When, How and Why. If you answer those questions about a task you assign or request, you will dramatically reduce the time spent clarifying, re-explaining and waiting for overdue tasks to be complete.

Follow up the conversation with a written version of the “who, what, where, when, how and why” by email, so both you and the responsible party have a copy of what’s expected, to reduce the likelihood of a miscommunication and eliminate missed project deadlines.

Revisiting My Client’s Initial Concerns About Her Business:

  • Not Enough Hours in Each Day – It takes more energy and time to perform in “crisis management” mode than to make decisions, plan in advance and implement those plans on a coordinated, pre-determined schedule. Making decisions now will lighten your future load exponentially and will give you that glorious feeling of accomplishment.
  • Inadequate Organization – It’s hard to organize when you don’t make decisions. Something as easy as “Do I want to attend this event next Tuesday?” Becomes another “I’ll decide later” item that increases the height of the towering “to do” papers on your desk. Or, it may languish in your email inbox , plumping up the girth of the items already clamoring for your attention there. (If you ignore enough of these, you may notice that you begin to avoid your computer altogether.)
  • Less than Stellar Success in Task Delegation – How can you effectively delegate if your ideas never get fleshed out into concrete actions that can be requested of others? Decision making, especially when you feel overwhelmed, is the only way to lighten your load. It’s ok if the main decision you make is to give it to someone else to do. This is often the best choice and can provide a great sense of relief.
  • Sanity on the Really Bad Days – Until the decision making process becomes second nature to you again (or for the first time) the answer to any new projects, any invitations, any “golden opportunities” should be “I’d love to, but I’m booked until the 15th of next month.” If the opportunity is still viable at that time, add it to your task list for the 15th. If not, you have made the decision to not take on anything more and you can continue with your organization and delegation to further lighten your load. Take heart, it won’t be like this forever, but learning to say “no” is often required to maintain your sanity when you are undergoing change and/or growing pains.

If you want to organize your business and stop feeling that you are being dragged along behind the wild stallion that your business has become, you have to grab the reins and plant your back side firmly in the saddle.

Next, select and commit to a direction. THEN, and only then, can you dig in the spurs and gallop to success. Galloping toward specific goals is an exhilarating feeling. (And, it’s a much less bumpy ride than the exhausting experience of trotting about aimlessly or being dragged along.)

All you need to do is make your decisions, then pick your path and ride!