Which is more important: recruiting new agents, or keeping the ones you already have? If you said "agent retention," which is the obvious answer, I have a couple of questions for you: What are you doing about it? And how is it working for you?

Do agents leave an office because they can get more commission, the other office has better technology, or because the manager didn’t meet an expectation, real or imagined?

Based on my conversations with other brokers, usually it is a problem with management.

In some cases, the problems are based on misunderstandings — and misunderstandings are often a "somebody has done somebody wrong" kind of song.

It is easy to misunderstand or misinterpret motives, meanings, and feelings — especially within an organization of independent agents who are weathering a tough real estate market.

Every day we hear discouraging words about housing, the economy, what is happening to our fellow agents — including having their cars towed from the office parking lot, as has happened "more often than I would believe," according to one manager.

Count commission sales agents among America’s greatest risk-takers when it comes to generating income: they don’t get unemployment checks or other benefits. Real estate agents get the opportunity to test their courage, passion and skills just about every day.

Who among us hasn’t wanted to quit more than once? Change offices more than once? Send resumes out for salaried positions?

You may have heard the humorous saying, "When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy." There is lot of truth to that.

The last thing we need is a misunderstanding with our broker — especially when it is over a company or office policy that we were not aware of or never heard of, or think is dumb or ridiculous. So down the hill we go.

Who’s fault is this? As an agent I used to blame the broker. As a broker I started blaming the agents, until one day when a wise mentor made a statement that changed the way I thought about management.

My mentor reminded me that most people don’t do the wrong thing on purpose. They think they are doing the right thing, he said, or they wouldn’t be doing it. "They are doing it because they don’t understand your policy."


I was a little uneasy with this, because as a manager I knew this conversation was not going to end well.

But actually it ended extremely well, because of the invaluable lesson learned.

Make sure those affected by the policy understand the policy. Agents don’t have to agree, but the time to find this out is before — not after — an agent joins the firm.

My mentor said that just because agents sign off on having read a policy manual doesn’t mean they understand it — much less agree with it.

Since that time, I always made sure that any agent who joined my team had read the policy manual, and that they review any outstanding questions with me.

To make sure "policy" was important to the agent, we mixed policy and procedures into our training scenarios, and explained the "why" behind certain policies. Our agents responded, and our retention ratios improved.

He also said that it is not important that agents and managers understand each other. But he said it is important that we don’t misunderstand each other. I always remember that, especially when we get into those "it was my understanding that" conversations. What we are admitting in such instances is that we do not understand each other.

Assuming we understand gets all of us in trouble at times, and it is easy to do.

In today’s market, making sure your agents understand your policies might be a great morale booster, as boring as that may sound. Why? Because knowledge generates a positive attitude. A lack of knowledge creates a negative one.

Besides, there is a trust issue that builds when "the boss" shares the "why" behind the policy. Who knows … you might come away with some better ways of doing things.

At the very worst, you will reduce friction, eliminate misunderstandings, and you will no doubt encourage your team. Those are three good reasons for sharing your policies.

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