There’s no doubt that this year’s global health crisis shook the foundations of our life and work. So, what are the rules of living in this new normal? One coach weighs on adapting to this year’s realities.

In today’s virtual, work-from-home environment, agents are seeking training and coaching in entirely new ways. In August, we’re laser-focused on what defines good coaching today and how to get the most out of it.

* This article series is largely taken from the Success Faster On Fire Hot! (which will be released on Amazon in October this year) with permission from the author. It was edited for length, style and grammar. 

If someone had suggested that the 2020 business scene would involve a global pandemic that would overwhelm hospitals worldwide, bring the economy to a screeching halt, shut down travel, close schools, cancel major sporting events, cripple supply chains, board nonessential businesses, generate historical unemployment during a profoundly divisive election — well, we would’ve all thought that’s completely ridiculous.

Well, hell.

There’s no doubt that 2020 will go down in history as the year of the COVID-19 global pandemic. It has altered our world, pumping the breaks on how we do business and live our daily lives.

Friends and family are laid off or furloughed. About 30 million people are collecting unemployment benefits. Parents are day-drinking in their home offices, and alcohol sales are spiking. (Nationally, tequila saw the biggest spike — and I participated in this.) A container of Clorox wipes is a commodity. No one had a “pandemic” or “staying at home full-time with the entire family for months on end” on their 2020 vision board.

Work-from-home policies, social distancing and other restrictions have forced a new way of being. Families are reconnecting at home, cooking more, building victory gardens, cleaning closets, reducing expenses, fostering dogs, simplifying life, simplifying entertainment, simplifying working out — just simplifying. It’s almost refreshing, if it weren’t maddening.

Friends who live alone are struggling. Zoom fatigue is real. If a family was stressed before the coronavirus, they may be experienced an added layer of stress on top of that. If a marriage was on the rocks before COVID-19, well, perhaps they’re working it out while they’re spending more time together.

And then there’s business, work, jobs, income, the economy. Everyone and everything is impacted. For real estate agents, it’s a mixed bag.

Homes are selling — at least in Austin and Chicago, Cincinnati, Phoenix, Des Moines, Jacksonville, Nashville, New Zealand and second-home markets like Aspen. The harder hit the local economy, like, let’s say Las Vegas, then the deeper the impact. And all of this is unprecedented and unpredictable. We miss “precedented” and predictable.

So how do you clear your head and build your life with this as the backstory? How do we push our businesses and lives forward? Let’s take a look at five ways professionals are adapting and five rules for the new normal.

Rule No. 1: Fluidity

In normal life, the ability to shift, adjust, reset, change course, shake things off and start again is a great gift. That adjustment acuity, that fluidity and flexibility is perhaps the greatest tool for achieving overall happiness and mastery of life.

And now, in the midst of the greatest shake-up and smackdown of the century, your resilience and plasticity have become a necessity — your survival tool. It’s like grit and flex had a baby, and she was born in April of 2020. We need that DNA in our toolkit.

Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 has forced a restart on pretty much every single business out there. Even the essential businesses that stayed open had to press the reset button. They had to adjust quickly. Everyone had to figure out how to make things work in this new normal, which is a constantly moving target.

So the No. 1 rule is to gut-check your fluidity. Become flexible, get creative, un-dig your heels, and loosen your hard positions. Recognize that anything and everything is up for close scrutiny.

How you did business last year may be different from what works this year. Your goals may stay the same, but the path to achieving them just shifted. Fluidity is not only your friend — it’s now one of your greatest assets.

Rule No. 2: Being human

Your greatest sales tool has always been simply showing up as an authentic, decent human being. Always has, always will be. Now, that’s a necessity. So, what does that mean in your business?

It means checking in on everyone you know. Call them all. No business chat should be allowed in these check-in conversations unless they bring it up. You’re bringing humanity to other people’s insanity. And stay in your lane — you’re not a pandemic expert.

“How are you doing?” “Do you have everything you need?” “How are your parents?” “How is homeschooling?” “Are you day-drinking?” (Kidding on that last one, unless whoever you’re calling is your good friend, then that’s pretty funny. Unless they’re in recovery, in which case, it’s not.) Back to decent human being questions. “Do you know anyone who has COVID-19?” “Do you have any family members who are health professionals?”

If they ask about real estate, have your stats ready. People do want to know what’s going on in the market. Don’t spin the market into something more than it is. Don’t make it worse, either. Deliver facts while keeping an even keel and seeing things how they are. Look at the MLS weekly stats every day, because those are the facts.

I spoke with an agent in Omaha during the early months of the COVID-19 scene, and we talked about what was working in his business and how he was using his time. It wasn’t really the right time to talk business with most people or make sales calls. People’s lives were turned sideways, and parents were figuring out how to how to juggle homeschooling and their jobs.

This agent (who’s very successful at his job) admitted that he really didn’t like talking on the phone. But he had already talked with 20 people so far that day, and none of those conversations had anything to do with real estate.

He was just being a good human being, checking in, making sure the family and the kids were OK and that the elderly parents had everything they needed. We will look back at this time and realize that being a good human was one of our best tools all along.

Rule No. 3: Back to the basics

I spoke with a Realtor friend of mine in Baton Rouge recently. I asked her how she had pushed her business from good to great and kept it there three years running.

She said that every Sunday evening, she logged into her favorite “Real Estate 101” class online. She spent one hour every week revisiting the fundamentals. She realized that she has a tendency to over-complicate the business, and whenever she over-complicated things, her business went down. When she just focused on the basics, her business grew.

What would happen to your business and bank account if all you focused on for the next six months were the basics of business? If you did some version of “Real Estate 101” every Sunday evening and stuck with the program? What if all you focused on was lead generation, having conversations, perfecting what to say, expanding and communicating with your database, and having decent human conversations with those people?

Basics have always mattered, and they matter more in times of a market shift or a business relaunch or a global health crisis. Put those basics solidly in your toolkit — and own them.

Rule No. 4: Gut-check your leadership

How are you showing up as a leader for your clients and sphere right now? In times of crisis (and even in normal times), people need reassurance and facts. They are looking for certainty and optimism. In other words, now’s the time to up your leadership.

Tom Ferry, industry badass coach, says that great leaders follow a schedule. He says that there isn’t a single leader in a pressure cooker who doesn’t follow an agenda, a list of calls and objectives, and a tight routine.

Great leaders over-communicate. They get in front of the facts. They are knowledge brokers for what’s going on in their market. You can’t be silent and let other people drive opinions that are not based on facts. You are, and always have been, in a keen position to deliver facts. How’s the market? Where is this going? What they really want to know is: “Will I be OK?”

Huge corporations have crisis teams. These teams plan for when ridiculously bad things happen. Think: The apple juice E. coli outbreak, when KFC ran out of chicken in the U.K., when teens started eating Tide Pods (yeah, that happened).

What’s one of the main things we, as consumers, witness with these crisis teams? We see them in front of the camera with information and leadership. They get in front of the news, lead the conversation and deliver data. The new normal is your time to step up your leadership, lean in and lead the conversation.

Rule No. 5: Working virtually

No one saw this coming. No one thought we’d say: “Hey, let’s shut down the office for about eight months or so, and let’s all work from home!” But it happened for almost everyone, everywhere — with little to no notice.

Zoom, FaceTime and other virtual venues exploded overnight. Work attire involved wearing slippers or flip-flops and pajamas from the waist down, and a business casual shirt from the waist up. Commutes dropped, and air quality improved dramatically.

(And yes, that last statement is true! While sheltering in place, I saved about $100 a month on gas. I never went to the gas station in April, and spent zero gas dollars on my April Visa statement. I had filled up in March, but still, zero for April. I figure I was getting about three weeks to the gallon.)

So, how is your setup for the virtual world? First and foremost, if all of a sudden, you found yourself homeschooling your kids, that’s a pretty big game-changer. I’ve seen some amazingly creative parents-turned-educators transforming the dining room into a sophisticated learning lab.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen parents really struggle while hoping their kids don’t hurt one another and celebrating when they covered even half of what their school expected. Maybe that’s been your experience. Or maybe your college kid moved back in. How’s that working for you?

If your household is a bit quieter, sans little people or extra people, hopefully you managed to create a peaceful and productive workplace. At least I’m hoping that’s the case for agents, since many of us already have things set up. A lot of agents have been working from home for years.

The main point here is that working virtually means creating an environment that works. And now, we know it needs to work longer than we may have originally thought. So, adjust that home office, your client setup and your virtual bag of tricks so that everything is working well for you and your clients.

What’s more: how has your company adapted for the digital world? Most brokers figured this out, more or less. I witnessed the Austin Board of Realtors take their entire curriculum online quickly, and they did it well. I witnessed brokerages offering Zoom classes, streaming video and online broker hours.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, who reopens when, and who figures out that the digital space actually works really well in so many ways.

While the COVID dynamics are unique and unprecedented, the lessons are evergreen. These new-normal lessons — of fluidity, being human, getting back to the basics, gut-checking your leadership and stepping up virtually — matter for you and your business, and your success this year and always.

Julie Nelson is the chief success officer at The Nelson Project, eXp Realty in Austin, Texas, and the author of Success Faster: Quickly Launch or Relaunch Your Real Estate Career. You can follow her on YouTube or LinkedIn

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