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Encourage the Code

Of course, motivating members challenges your time and your talents. The good news is that resources are available that allow you to maximize both. And from my 11 years as a professional standards administrator, I’ve found education and creativity to be key tools.

First, conquer the fear that is the primary reason why members fail to get involved in professional standards or file complaints. Education plays a major role in overcoming this fear, and given that adults learn in different ways, the key is to vary the message and the delivery method to reach as many members as possible.

A key component to our ethics education is what I call the “three secrets to avoid filing a complaint.” Given that most ethics violations are -inadvertent—that is, the respondent didn’t realize he or she had violated the code—these three -methods show members how to resolve issues in ways that are less confrontational than a full-blown hearing. By talking face to face with the other agent, asking for broker assistance, or implementing the ombudsman program, members can stop the behavior while preserving the relationship between members. These methods show members that they don’t have to be afraid of the professional standards process. Perhaps most important, they show that you can raise and resolve an issue without even registering a formal complaint.

Case studies, which introduce the concepts of the Code of Ethics and Procuring Cause in a real-world context, are a valuable method of education. Pique members’ interest by showing them scenarios of unethical behavior. In an online publication, you can link to case studies in NAR’s REALTOR® magazine. For print publications, you can excerpt them from the case interpretations in the Code of -Ethics and Arbitration Manual, or ask your local professional standards guru to write some for you. The important thing is to mix the scenarios and the medium. Each exposure brings a few members closer to getting it.

Additionally, NAR has produced an ethics video series. There are 15, five- to seven-minute videos that present the concepts of the code in an easy-to--understand format. They can be downloaded, free of charge, or viewed right from Remind your members that these would be valuable tools for their sales meetings. If you are looking to generate traffic to your association office, consider a “lunch and learn” session with one or two videos as the “learn” portion. Each video comes with support materials, including discussion questions.

A mock hearing is an interactive, fun way to introduce the professional standards process to -members. At my local association, we have capacity seating (80 to 150 members, depending on venue) for nearly all our mock hearings, and two or three -people usually approach me afterwords to learn about getting involved. A mock hearing can be made into an interactive session where a moderator “-pauses” the live presentation just as he or she would a DVD, using the break in action to engage the audience in a question-and-answer session or to expand on important concepts. Considering the popularity of mock hearings, you might even be able to borrow a script from someone in the AE community. This is also a great opportunity to partner with your state or neighboring local association. Although a live presentation works best, if you tape yours you can use the video for subsequent showings.

Now that you’ve piqued their interest, volunteers for the Grievance and Professional Standards Committees become easier to find. Another way to get volunteers is to simply ask. Sometimes people are thinking about it but hesitate to contact you.

So whom do you ask? Ask staff members to help identify potential candidates. Often, previous hearing participants make good committee members. REALTOR® complainants or respondents (not found in violation, of course) who have experienced the process firsthand now have an appreciation for it. Also consider asking principal brokers for recommendations.

Lastly, to attract good committee members, lend the program an air of distinction by requiring a formal application and training process. This will also help you identify good candidates. In addition to keeping the members informed, training provides you with an opportunity to see their strengths and weaknesses. So when you need a hearing panel or grievance committee, you can balance the individual’s traits. An unexpected, yet helpful, benefit of training is that it also helps weed out gossip mongers. In my experience, these members withdraw when they realize they have to work for it! z

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