By Elizabeth S. Breen
When you were a new association executive, you probably spent your first several months on the job trying to define your duties and your role in the organization. No doubt, your leadership, volunteers, members, and affiliates all had thoughts on the matter.
In my first year as AE of the Santa Ynez Valley Association of REALTORS® in California, I aimed to provide outstanding customer service in everything I did. I spent a lot time juggling the many hats I had to wear and came across a strategy that helped me better define my responsibilities.
I found it essential to define what my duties were not and draw a clear boundary line between my role and what others thought my role should be. This isn’t a one-time exercise. I continue to establish with new leaders and new members, and under new circumstances, what is and is not my job. In my experience, setting clear boundaries is the best way to ensure that you’ll be successful.
One of my go-to books on this topic is Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge, by Henry Cloud. Cloud describes boundaries this way: “Boundaries are made up of two essential things: what you create and what you allow. A boundary is a property line. It defines where your property begins and ends. If you think about your home, on your property, you can define what is going to happen there and what is not. You are ‘ridiculously in charge’ of the vision.”
So, how do you apply this vision to your REALTOR® association?
Articulating boundaries is an important step. Back up your written documents by verbally confirming the policy. For example, when I recently had a REALTOR® call me to help her with renewing her real estate license, I said, “I would love to help you, but, since I am not a licensed agent, I would hate to advise you incorrectly. You really should reach out to your office manager or broker.” She thanked me for my response. Yes, I could have taken 15 or 20 minutes to outline the steps she needed to take, but I found that if I ignore or overstep my own boundaries, it will cause more work and stress in the long run. What other questions and issues might this member come to me with next?
Establish boundaries for members
There’s no end to the things that members want you to fix for them. Many of these things have nothing to do with your association. Learn where to draw the line. If a member calls to complain about another member’s property signage, for example, don’t get in the middle. Direct the member to where he or she can find the relevant sign ordinance and suggest contacting the other agent. You are not the sign police, but you can offer resources.