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Agent, know thyself

31 January 2018 | 13 minute read
james short

You’ve gone through the training to become a real estate agent. You know your market, you are good with people and you like what you do. But are you playing to your strengths?

If you have a feedback system in place in your organisation, you may have seen that most feedback accentuates the negative. Of course, this is done with good intentions. Formal employee evaluations focus on opportunities for improvement.

Negative feedback has its place, but a better approach overall is to focus on someone’s strengths. It’s an interesting paradox that people remember criticism (they become defensive, hurt and resistant to change), but they respond best to praise (they get a confidence boost, a desire to improve and a genuine motivation to do so).

What does this mean to you within your agency? If you’re a manager: you can tap into your team’s strengths, and in this way, empower them to contribute more to the organisation. If you’re an employee: you can redesign your job to play to your strengths (more on that shortly).

Use this step-by-step method to identify your, or your employees’, unique strengths as a way to leverage them and benefit both the organisation and the individual.

Let’s say we’re working with an agent named Joe. We are trying to identify Joe’s strengths to make him feel more engaged in his job, because lately he’s been acting withdrawn and disinterested. Clearly something is eating at him, but he won’t — or can’t — put his finger on why.

Step 1: Get feedback from a variety of sources

From Joe, his in-house colleagues, past colleagues and teachers, clients and, if possible, Joe’s family. Have each participant provide information about Joe’s strengths and weaknesses, contributions, traits and patterns.


Often, when you ask people what their strengths are, they either downplay or exaggerate them — and at the same time, they either exaggerate or minimise their weaknesses.

It really depends on the person, whether they are self-confident and self-aware. So, it’s more accurate to ask others for input, to compare with what the individual says about themselves.

Step 2: Recognise patterns

Taking the feedback from others, look for behavioural patterns like:

• “Joe is always the first one to offer help.”
• “Joe prefers to work alone rather than in a team. He doesn’t have a lot of patience for discussions.”

Emotional patterns are useful, too, like:
• “Joe is always building something.”
• “Joe isn’t very adaptable when it comes to new technology.”

Step 3: Create a portrait

A portrait is a useful tool because it combines self-analysis with outside perspectives. Its intention is to be insightful — not a list of strengths and weaknesses but rather a narrative.

Start with a paragraph or two of self-analysis:

“When I am at my best, I…” and “When I am at my worst, I…”  — and combine these insights with what other people say.

You will start to see the bigger picture:

Joe is really good one on one with clients and loves to help them design concepts for property development. That’s when he’s at his best, being creative. But when Joe is put into a situation where he’s asked to negotiate on a client’s behalf, he freezes and loses his composure.

He also resents being part of strategy meetings because he has no patience for people’s opinions. However, he lights up when a client is talking about their dreams and he figures out a way to help them achieve that dream through real estate.

As you develop this self-portrait, you begin to understand the situations in which Joe doesn’t perform at his best. It’s not because he doesn’t want to, it’s because it’s not the right situation for him to play to his strengths. He’s encumbered by his weaknesses and there’s no point in training him in his weaknesses — it’s like asking a fish to become better at climbing a tree.

More importantly, you’ll begin to understand the situations in which Joe becomes a bonafide rockstar and give him every opportunity to shine.

Step 4: Redesign the job

Within any job description, there is usually some degree of freedom to redesign the job description to focus on strengths.

Currently, Joe is mostly working as a seller’s agent. Where he really shines, though, is as a buyer’s agent because of his creative eye and his ability to help a client see the potential of a property.

Joe prefers to do things the “old-school” way — on paper — which means he would benefit greatly from a personal assistant. Joe also isn’t particularly fond of the negotiation process when it comes to getting more for a property than his gut instincts tell him it’s worth… so, handing those clients off to someone who enjoys the “hunt” would be a wise move.

To maximise Joe’s performance as a real estate agent, and maximise the agency’s profits, Joe’s manager could assign him to clients who are buyers, or investord/developers, rather than assigning him to clients who are selling, especially in a buyer’s market when people want to haggle or the pressure is high to close a deal fast.

Knowing your strengths also offers you the confidence to address your weaknesses. It gives you the confidence to admit, “I’m great with people but horrible with numbers” or “I love talking one on one, but I can’t stand group discussions”. This knowledge helps you partner with people who are good at what you are not good at (or don’t enjoy doing) so that everyone is playing to their respective strengths.

In the end, strength-based feedback helps you shape your position within your organisation so that you remain enthusiastic, engaged and empowered — and your organisation benefits from you always being “on your game” instead of in a world of frustration where you’re grudgingly doing what you have, but don’t want, to do.

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