I am often asked what the most important quality of an exceptional estate agency valuer is. It is one of the easiest questions I deal with. Without hesitation, the answer is self-awareness.
So what does “self-awareness” mean and why should it be top of the tree in terms of the ingredients of an estate agency valuer’s performance?
To answer that question, we first need to assign a clear definition to the concept of self-awareness.
Googling it throws up countless versions but it is perhaps best described as “having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. It allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.”
An integral part of emotional intelligence, self-awareness plays a massive part in achieving true skill development.
The best people I get to provide training to are those who have a high level of self-awareness including an appetite for candid self-assessment to ensure real habit change. (As Epictetus put it: “Self-scrutiny applied with kindness.”)
Self-awareness means recognising that they are not perfect, that they have strengths and weaknesses that need to be harnessed and addressed respectively. And conversely, the most frustrating delegates on our courses are those suffering from a distinct lack of self-awareness which manifests itself in the “Why do I need to be on a training course?” attitude.
The irony here is that the very fact that question is being asked answers it!
Author Paul Jun puts it this way: “Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it can help you make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”
To apply this to our industry, a valuer lacking in self-awareness will blame all sorts of “externalities” for losing instructions (“the other agent overvalued it”, “my competitor offered them 0.75%”, “the vendor knows the other agent’s wife/ uncle/milkman” etc etc) whereas the best highly self-aware valuers upon losing an instruction will go down the “thinking, reflecting” route, replaying the whole appraisal appointment and ask “Where did I go wrong?” (Note: Not “Where did IT go wrong?”)
The importance of self-awareness in estate agency cannot be overstated yet the lack of it within many practitioners within the industry is alarming. The “blind spots” this issue creates represent a significant gap between what a valuer thinks they do and how they actually act.
I remember accompanying a valuer on an appraisal where he talked way too much. Many of you will have heard the old adage “Two ears, one mouth – use them in that proportion” – sadly this had passed the valuer in this case by.
At one point I timed him talking non-stop about his firm and their services for almost 20 minutes without seeking feedback, inviting questions or pausing for breath. The client looked increasingly bored during this experience and ushered us quickly out of the front door at the earliest opportunity.
Afterwards, I asked the valuer the classic coach question “How did you think that went?” to which the valuer replied: “Really well. That is the best presentation I’ve ever done.” He is no longer an estate agent.
Other examples of a lack of self-awareness I have witnessed in recent years in estate agency include: a male estate agency owner asking a female estate agent how she managed to work long hours when she “had to get home to get dinner ready” (chauvinism always riles me); an overseas presenter at an industry conference making reference to his $700 suit (the “show off” approach never goes down well in my eyes); an agency director who refuses to give his business card to people at the start of meetings or valuations based on the fact that “if they don’t know who I am after me being in the town for 30 years, it is their own silly fault” (arrogance beyond belief); and people arriving late for courses having kept all the diligent, organised, punctual attendees waiting (lateness, particularly when not coupled with a sincere apology, speaks volumes about the culprit).
There are even frequent examples on social media. Some of the comments to articles here on Property Industry Eye raise a wry smile. A handful of people spend incalculable amounts of time criticising contributors on here then getting upset at the reactions to their reactions! Bile, hot air, spelling mistakes galore … and to achieve what exactly?
I want to tell them to develop a bit of self-awareness, maybe even check their facts (controversial though that may seem!) and think before they comment, particularly about how they and their comments will be perceived, and also to consider spending this valuable time doing more productive things like reviewing customer phone calls, appraising staff or accompanying their valuers on appointments and coaching them to achieve higher standards.
That’s what I want to tell them. But I don’t. Because I heed Paul Jun’s words about “stopping yourself and admitting, ‘Wait a minute, I’m trolling right now because this person’s opinion just sucker-punched my ego, and I feel a visceral desire to tell this person they’re an idiot so I can feel better!’”
And if I have failed to convince you, I will leave the last word to C.G. Jung: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Julian O’Dell is head of Marvellous Training Solutions.