Getting It Done: Management & People Skills

5 things REALTOR® AEs need to know to effectively manage

How to manage the association and its business operations, including the ability to prioritize and allocate time, finances, materials, space, and human resources, and the ability to coordinate processes and functions that will produce desired results in a professional environment of trust and respect.
How to recognize real estate industry issues and trends, including the ability to thoroughly understand the diverse elements and issues that contribute to a successful real estate operation; to understand and manage the changing forces that shape the industry; and to foster an environment in which the REALTOR® is at the center of every real estate transaction.

How to acquire and communicate valuable information, including the ability to analyze and interpret information that is valued and relevant; to market the value of programs and services that meet member needs; and to integrate information, knowledge, communication skills, and technology to achieve desired results.

How to nurture effective relationships, including the ability to accomplish objectives through successful relationships and partnerships with a variety of internal and external constituencies and coalitions, and to integrate social, organizational, and technological considerations in the implementation of the most efficient structures and processes.

How to work within the structure of the REALTOR® organization, including the ability to analyze, interpret, and apply REALTOR® association governance, policies, and procedures.

— Adapted from NAR’s AE Competencies and Body of Knowledge, which details the desired skills and knowledge base of successful REALTOR® AEs.

4 easy policy updates to save your association time and money

Conduct a “streamlined” bylaw change process for those changes that NAR’s Board of Directors has passed as mandatory.

Remove committee lists from your bylaws. Instead list only key committees, such as grievance, professional standards, executive, and budget.

Eliminate time-consuming steps to approving new members. Adopt the “provisional membership” option that bestows immediate REALTOR® membership to an applicant upon verification of license and payment of dues.

Remove administrative duties from your bylaws. Instead, administrative decisions are left to either the local board of directors or authorized staff.

— Cindy Butts, RCE, CAE, EVP, Maine Association of REALTORS®

Why Plan? Associations’ 21 most common strategic plan goals

Establish a healthy and flexible organizational structure and financial stability.
Evaluate, develop, or revise position descriptions and procedures for staff and board leadership to align with the goals and objectives of the board.

Update the association’s structure (board of directors, committees, etc.) to align with the association’s goals and objectives.

Clearly communicate committee assignments from the strategic plan.

Develop an accountable annual budget that aligns with the strategic plan.
Build reserves up to 50% of the association’s annual operating expense.
Simplify financial statements to create transparent reporting purposes.
Develop an investment strategy designed for long-term stability.
Develop sources of sustainable non-dues revenue.
Explore offering or selling services to other associations.
Develop volunteer recruitment plans or leadership training.
Study the possibility of moving to a new membership management system.
Consider a merger or consolidation.
Learn how to identify the most-valued programs and services and communicate them with compelling messages to members.
Evaluate Web site and explore future enhancements.
Regularly Inform members of board of directors and committee actions.
Update communication methods to include a variety of formats and vehicles.
Evaluate current MLS rules enforcement process, including whether and how to offer MLS waivers.
Offer education and training in a variety of ways, including in-person presentations, roundtables, and webinars that feature current, relevant, and cutting-edge topics.
Evaluate designation classes, free education, subsidized education classes.
Assess the association’s store in order to boost product sales.

—Alice Martin, RCE, CAE, consultant to the

3 things to avoid as an AE

1. Labeling the association: ”My Association.” It’s not yours, never has been, never will be. It belongs to the members.

2. Taking credit for all the work. Rather, you should Publicly praise staff for their hard work and congratulate volunteers for being trusting and bold leaders who provide the support for those hard and controversial projects.

3. Resting on past successes. Daily challenges and opportunities are the drivers of change.

—Gary L. Clayton, CEO, Illinois Association of REALTORS®

12 best practices for stellar customer service

Answer the phone. Get call forwarding or an answering service, or hire more staff if you need to. Just make sure that someone—not a machine—is picking up the phone.

Don’t make false promises. Reliability is the key to any good relationship. If you say, “The class will start at 9 a.m. on Tuesday,” make sure it does. Otherwise, don’t say it. Think before you make any promise—nothing annoys more than broken promises.

Deal with complaints. Sure, you can’t please all the people all the time, but if you give one complaint your full attention, you may be able to please that one person that one time. You’ll make your customer happy and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service.

Follow up. A few days or weeks after the initial contact, call or write a member who had a complaint or problem to make sure the issue was resolved.

Train your staff. Talk to your staff regularly about what is and isn’t good customer service. Give your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions.

Throw in something extra. Whether it’s a discount coupon for an oil change, additional information on how to use the product, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they would.

Be honest and transparent. The more you reveal about your association procedures, policies, and finances, the more the members will feel a part of the organization and the less likely they’ll be to complain.

Strive to improve. Don’t be satisfied if no one complains. You can always find a way to reduce paperwork or waiting time or to provide more information for members.

Solicit service feedback. Conduct regular customer service surveys. This not only provides great ideas for improving service but also shows members you care about service.

Be professional. Treat all customers with respect, and use appropriate titles (Sir, Ma’am). Be personable, but not overly familiar.

Apologize. Even if you aren’t directly responsible for a member’s problem, accept responsibility for it on behalf of the association and do whatever is necessary to resolve it. You can’t let your ego get in the way or try to blame someone else.

Show a positive attitude. Your attitude not only affects how you approach your job, your members, and your coworkers, but it also determines how they respond to you.

— Adapted from articles by John Tschohl, founder of Service Quality Institute and author of six books on customer service, and Susan Ward’s e-zine;

6 reasons your association’s directors micromanage

They have no clear sense of their role in the organization.
There are no policies to delineate appropriate board roles.
Management of day-to-day work is what they know from their day jobs.
They often have been invited onto the board to perform a task, not to lead.
Remnants of a crisis still haunt the organization.
They sometimes fear that if they don’t take charge of operations, no one else will.

— Adapted from Board Recruitment and Orientation: A Step-By-Step, Common-Sense Guide

3 steps to implement your strategic plan

Delegation: Assign each objective for the coming year to a committee, work group, task force, or individual. Ideally, a target date for completion should accompany that assignment. Making the assignment is the job of the board of directors or president and president-elect, usually with input from staff or the planning group.

Accountability. The assigned group or individual develops an action or business plan that includes tactics (how-tos) and target dates. The action plan should identify necessary resources—financial and human—to carry out the plan. These plans should be approved through the annual budgeting and planning process for the coming year. The assigned group should be expected to report to the board of directors on its progress throughout the year.

Follow-up. At the end of the year and before the next year’s plans and budgets are developed, each group should evaluate its progress toward meeting objectives and make recommendations for any changes to the program, service or objective.

5 things I’ve learned in my career as an AE

1. There is more than one right answer to every question, and my “right” answer does not mean your answer has to be “wrong.”
2. The right leader (president) always appears at the right time.
3. Change is a process, and if you skip any of the steps in the process, the members will struggle to adapt.
4. Members get more benefit when we deliver the RIGHT services than they do when we deliver MORE services.
5. It is the members’ money, and although I am responsible for spending it wisely, members sometimes want to spend foolishly. You can’t take this personally.

—Dave Phillips, CAE, RCE, CEO, Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®

6 types of difficult people and how to deal with them

Mr. Nothing’s-ever-enough. If you encounter people who keep asking for more—more time, more money, more recognition, more attention—set firm limits in writing. Say no, if appropriate. Make them follow the usual procedures but treat them with respect and kindness—just as you’d treat anyone else.

Ms. I-don’t-have-time-for-this. Impatient people are often afraid that time might run out before they get to explain what they want. They can pressure staff to make mistakes. Ask them to slow down and repeat themselves. Remind them that there’s plenty of time to do whatever is needed.

Mr. I’m-the-victim-here. Staff may want to sympathize with customers who portray themselves as victims. Those customers complain a lot and manipulate others into feeling sorry for them or taking on their responsibilities. Don’t fall for their endless crises and apparent bad luck; hold them accountable. Help them see their role in a problem they’re having.

Mrs. You’ll-fix-this-or-else. Hostile customers tend to bully staff by being abusive and intimidating. They value high levels of self-confidence and aggressiveness and demean those who don’t possess these qualities. Stand up to them without fighting by assertively expressing your opinion (“In my opinion, you’re wrong”), but don’t allow a fight to escalate.

Ms. Do-you-know-who-I-am? Arrogant people can be very defensive and critical of others. Often this is to mask deeper feelings of insecurity. To service them, never criticize without first offering praise. Don’t surprise them. Be warm and friendly even when they seem aloof. Help them feel connected to others, the group, the team, etc.

Mr. I-won’t-change-my-mind. Stubborn people resist changes that threaten their sense of security. They become roadblocks to progress and grow even more difficult when pressured. Give stubborn people extra time to adjust to change. Give them options and choices, and be casual in your approach.

10 reasons you need a lawyer

Reviewing association documents, programs, and activities to ensure antitrust compliance.

Drafting or reviewing amendments to association bylaws and MLS rules and regulations.

Guiding or attending, when necessary, professional standards and arbitration hearings that present novel issues or have potential to be particularly contentious.

Copyrighting MLS compilations and other creative works.

Drafting and reviewing contracts and license agreements.

Overseeing your compliance with state and federal tax and corporate filing requirements.

Advising on the lawfulness of campaign fundraising.

Reviewing the association’s denial, suspension, or termination of membership rights.

Protecting the association against liability risks.

Representing the association in litigation and inquiries that could lead to litigation.

— Katherine Raynolds, association counsel, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

6 things I’ve learned in my 23 years as an AE

1. The position cannot be explained to your family, friends, or strangers. Unless someone has personally managed an association, they aren’t going to have any idea what you do.

2. When you get on a roller coaster, expect it to drop and turn suddenly. There’s no avoiding the terror and impact of a drop in membership and dues income. Fortunately, the other side is the climb, the anticipation, the joy, and the thrill of having taken or survived the ride.

3. Enjoy the people and gifts they bring. Relationships with other AEs can make good times great and bad times bearable. Look for and accept the expertise of colleagues.

4. Do not personally care about the outcome of any decision before it is made. If your directors are leaning toward not doing something new, regardless of how great an idea you think it is, don’t influence them away from a no. When a decision is made, that’s when you really need to care—because then you make it happen or you accept it’s not happening.

5. Use membership surveys frequently to gauge opinions on any question or program and to learn early the arguments to be faced. Ask members what they want and don’t want, ask for comments, opinion, and ideas. When controversies happen or you’re being accused of not looking for input, you can show you did ask.

6. Embrace the tenets of the Serenity Prayer to be a better AE: the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

— Cindy Butts, RCE, CAE, EVP, Maine Association of REALTORS®

New & Improved: REALTOR® Association models planning tool

This tool (at can help align staff and leadership expectations, guide your association in developing a strategic plan, and help you and your volunteer leaders get on the same page. View a breakdown by percentage of where your association is today and where you would like it to be in the future. New and improved aggregate reports are also now available!

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