Why Realtors are great problem solvers
By Ari Lahdekorpi
Mar 1, 2011 - REM Newspaper
If nothing else, Realtors are skilled problem solvers. The one trait that glues together all of the successful agents across Canada is the ability to work through the myriad of roadblocks that confront what seems like a simple task – that of bringing buyers and sellers together on a transaction within a given time frame.
Keeping a real estate deal together and navigating through the increasingly complex minefield of laws and restrictions that surround the industry is not a task that can be accomplished effectively without logical and creative problem solving skills, along with a strong emotional foundation.
I commented to one of our seasoned agents on how unflappable he seemed in the face of the activity that surrounds him. His response was a shrug of the shoulder and the comment, “If there is an obstacle, you just have to work around it, that’s all.” That sums up nicely one of the key skill sets to an effective long-term real estate career.
It is so very true that although you can’t control the circumstances around you, you can control their impact on you. There is nothing more valuable than clear-headed thinking in a time of crisis. The ability to not throw up your hands in surrender or run away when the bullets are flying around you can come only with experience, training and mental attitude. The storybook and film maker image of the steady handed protagonist who guides the frightened hoards through a crisis is not entirely fictitious. The hero of the real estate deal is a real-life agent who doesn’t allow emotional pressure to impact on his rational and logistical task of serving his client’s best interests through to the completion of the transaction.
Problem solving is a mental process. Considered the most complex of all intellectual functions, problem solving has been defined as a higher-order cognitive process. It is a process that has been studied by psychologists over the last hundred years, as well as by computer programmers trying to perfect the latest artificial intelligence algorithms. The key to Internet giant Google’s success is in the top secret A.I. code that they have perfected to solve the problem of searching the Internet for information that is not tainted by spammer tricks. Make no mistake; problem solving is an intelligence marker of the highest order.
Early experimental work centered on simple tasks so that researchers could analyze and capture real-world problems by understanding the cognitive processes involved. In clinical psychology, researchers have focused on the role of emotions in problem solving. D’Zurilla, Goldfried and Nezu published findings in the early ’70s and ’80s demonstrating that poor emotional control can disrupt focus on a target task and impede problem solving.
Human problem solving consists of two related processes: problem orientation, (the motivational/attitudinal/affective approach to problematic situations) and problem-solving skills (the actual cognitive-behavioural steps, which, if successfully implemented, lead to effective problem resolution). Researchers in neuropsychology have found that frontal lobe injuries will cause deficiencies in emotional control and reasoning. Those findings have concluded that one’s emotional state can impact on the ability to solve problems.
Researchers have also learned that the problem-solving process differs across domains and levels of expertise and emotional wellness. There can be no universal answer to why one can resolve problems under a crisis management mode more efficiently than another. It is clear however, that experience in problem solving in a given discipline helps to calm the emotional impact of confronting problems.
Difficult problems have some typical characteristics, such as lack of clarity of the situation, multiple objectives, decisions hierarchy, communication breakdown and dynamic unpredictability. In all of these characteristics the resolution of difficult problems requires a direct attack on each that is encountered.
Even more than the emotional steadiness and expertise that a skilled problem solver must have is the creative mental process of creating a solution to a problem. Creative problem solving is a special form of problem solving in which the solution is independently created rather than learned with assistance.
Creative problem solving always involves using the creative side of the brain. To qualify as creative problem solving, the solution must either have value, clearly solve the stated problem or be appreciated by someone for whom the situation improves. These are all traits that apply readily to the real estate trade. The situation prior to the solution might not even be recognized as a problem. Alternate labels for hidden problems include words like a “challenge, an opportunity or room for improvement”.
A good Realtor knows from experience that one must be aware of the unintended consequences in any action or inaction. Sometimes a small detail can impact on many elements of a successful transaction with a ripple effect. This is pre-emptive problem solving that can only be done through experience or training.
The value of a real estate professional is much deeper than the average consumer sees on the surface of a problem-free transaction. It could be stated that a good agent is a problem cognoscente in the best sense of the word.
Ari Lahdekorpi is managing broker at Re/Max Select Properties in Vancouver.