After a January-February start that made 2020 seem so promising, our industry was rocked by a tsunami of uncertainty, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. When COVID burst into the national consciousness in March, the world turned upside down for a time. In many places, real estate activity paused completely.
Now, six months later, with summer winding down and the transition to fall coming quickly, it feels like we’re entering the next stage of this bizarrely complicated year. A set of new unknowns are demanding our attention now—from schools to treatment developments to the home stretch of the presidential election—but let’s take just a minute to reflect on a few of the business lessons reinforced by a half-year of COVID.
Some parts of what we’ve learned—shelter-in-place, social distancing, mask etiquette—are unique to a pandemic health crisis. But other key learnings will be applicable later when the coronavirus is behind us. A sampling:
1. Your mindset matters—probably more than you realize.
Make no mistake: no one has enjoyed COVID-19 and its accompanying array of stress, challenge, and heartbreak. Even the most positive person in the world has felt frustration and dismay sometime during this ordeal.
That said, the power of mindset, essentially the combination of our attitude and core values, is most evident when times are tough. A positive mindset enables you to maintain your ability to function and take action. A negative mindset sinks you deeper into the hole, causing you to see despair rather than hope.
Your mindset is the foundation you had in place before the virus arrived. People with a healthy, positive mindset were those most likely to reach out and help others in those early, unnerving days of March and April. Mindset gave people the energy to connect with friends and family, to start sewing masks, to organize food drives, to honor health-care workers, to approach each day with a “how can I help?” attitude.
This also played a huge role in business, because a positive mindset fuels an “I am, I can, I will” viewpoint. And that’s what drove so many agents and brokers to reach out to others, to check-in, to take action, and to stay in the game by helping any way they could.
2. Deploy empathy and care about others.
Emotional intelligence, an important concept for professionals to understand, is loosely defined as being able to recognize your feelings and the feelings of others— and then leverage that insight to manage relationships and decisions. This ability leads to empathy, an especially critical element at a challenging time like this.
Many of the key issues around COVID are supercharged with emotion and opinion. This creates a trap in believing that everyone sees the situation as you do, or at least should. We all know people who are caught in this trap. They move along concerned only about their own perspective and not that of anyone else.
The first step in deploying empathy is controlling your own emotions. Giving in to negative emotions like fear, anger, and frustration—and especially letting them drive your actions— usually makes a tough situation even worse. A better course: Recognize and regulate your emotions, listen to other people, see their feelings as legitimate, try to understand things from their point of view, and shape your actions to meet their needs.
3. Good decisions drive better outcomes.
When COVID arrived, all of us were confronted with an unexpected event that upended the plans we had for 2020. But the event is only part of the story.
In his classic business book, Success Principles, Jack Canfield introduced the concept of E+R=O or Event + Response = Outcome. The idea is that when an event occurs (a negative event, generally), it doesn’t necessarily dictate a certain, preordained outcome. Rather, your response to the event is just as important, and probably even more so, in determining your outcome.
This simple but impactful equation is crucial this year. So much of what’s happening is beyond our control and we’re hit with challenging E’s from every direction. But, as Canfield’s equation reminds us, those events don’t drive our outcomes. We do that ourselves, through our responses.
Emotional maturity, connected closely to emotional intelligence, enables us to make better decisions or, in the case of E+R=O, respond to an event in a more constructive way. Emotional maturity gives agents the courage to adjust their mindset, adapt to the changing business landscape, and keep serving buyers and sellers who are counting on them. In the early summer, it kept the industry moving forward, albeit slowing for a time, while we all shifted to a socially distanced, more virtual approach.
Each of us has made thousands of choices since COVID arrived. Learn a new skill or binge Tiger King? Eat more salad or more potato chips? Reach out and connect or stay in bed and isolate? Work and help others or complain about everything? Emotional maturity leads to better choices, and better choices generate better outcomes.
4. We need each other, especially in a crisis.
Being connected with others has also been crucial throughout the pandemic. After all, as the rallying cry reminded everyone last spring, “We’re all in this together.”
From a business perspective, the act of reaching out and connecting with others is a way to visibly remind people of the relationship they have with you. The conversation doesn’t have to be about real estate or business or anything more than letting them know you care.
Being able to talk through issues with fellow professionals is vital as well. From coaches to peers to mastermind groups to (virtual) industry events, outlets that enable you to talk through business challenges can make a huge difference in your daily outlook, and long-term success. It’s true all the time, but especially in a crisis. There’s nothing like a fresh perspective from a trusted source to keep you focused and on track.
5. Being kind, consistently, serves you well.
At its core, real estate is a people business, and being kind to people is a business approach that never goes wrong. Being kind builds a positive image. It earns trust. It garners respect. It creates huge opportunities for referrals, personal recommendations, and growth.
Throughout this ordeal, kindness has won the day over and over again. Kindness shines through even in the darkest moments. It gives us hope that better days are ahead.
Like many positive traits, kindness must be consistent in order to be authentic. You can’t be compassionate and caring every other day. It’s an all-in, all-the-time proposition.
So be kind. Be fair. Honest. Ethical. And do it consistently, so it becomes a habit and part of who you are. The best part: Kindness spreads, creating a ripple effect that can touch many lives beyond the initial act.
Kindness also sows optimism, and optimism is exactly what we need right now. Because if we give in to the gloom and allow fear to drive our behavior, each day will move us another step further away from where we all need to be.
No one knows what the next chapter in the story of COVID will be. What we do know is that people still want to buy and sell homes, and our role is to help them do that. With the right mindset, a sense of empathy, the courage to press forward, the help of each other, and the resolve to be kind, we can continue to thrive—no matter what else is happening around us.