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By Maria Patterson

RISMEDIA, Feb. 1, 2007-While most brokers don't like dealing with intangibles, the feeling you get when you walk through the doors of their companies speaks volumes about their success…or lack thereof. What is that feeling? Your office culture.

"Office culture is the feeling you get from the people that are interacting in that space," says Buffini & Company 100 Days to Greatness Trainer J'aime Sans Souci. "When office culture is good, it can absolutely propel an organization to higher levels. When it's not good, it can hinder any forward movement."

Every office inherently has a culture, Sans Souci explains: "One exists whether you plan one or not. So you can be intentional about creating the type of culture you want, or you can be unintentional and one will just show up."

To Avoid Toxicity, Be Intentional
Being intentional about creating an office culture is critical in order to avoid a potentially toxic environment. "When you have a toxic culture, you have a bad reputation in the industry, and no one wants to be involved with your company," Sans Souci explains. "A toxic culture grows like a cancer and you find yourself surrounded by negative people. That hurts productivity and hurts every aspect of the business."

To build a winning office culture, brokers need to begin by clearly defining their philosophy, their core values, and what their business stands for.

"You have to have a mission and a vision and that needs to be developed by your leadership team. It can't be a huge list," she stresses. "It has to be specific, not exhaustive." At Buffini & Company, for example, the core values are: "excellent minimum standards;" "live what we teach;" and "to practice servant leadership."

Not being intentional about building a winning office culture will lead to a culture that is mediocre-one that has no direction, no specific goals, and limited profitability at best.

Once You Get it, Protect it
Once your winning office culture is clearly established, says Sans Souci, brokers need to make sure it is carried out and maintained. A winning culture needs to be fiercely protected. This begins by carefully selecting the people you choose to bring into the fold.

"Get clear on what's important to you and then recruit in that image," Sans Souci explains. From agents to service providers to the leadership team, everyone who is part and parcel of your company should embody the office culture you've created.

Protecting your office culture also means that when the line is crossed, consequences need to happen…fast. "You have to uphold those standards," says Sans Souci, "so when the line is crossed-which it will be-it's up to you as the leader to uphold your culture or it will be damaged."

One person can be enough to destroy an entire office culture, Sans Souci adds. "When you're surrounded by negative people it hurts productivity and hurts every aspect of the business."

Conversely, maintaining a winning office culture is an excellent way for brokers to attract and keep great agents and staff. "Exceptional people wan to be part of something great-but you have to keep these people by letting them know we appreciate them," says Sans Souci. "You have to provide the foundation, tools and methods to help them grow."

Keys to a Great Office Culture
– Everyone needs to speak the same language-communication is key to maintaining the right culture
– Leaders/managers must live what they teach
– Be selective-don't let just anyone into your culture
– Maintain congruency throughout the organization
– Remind everyone constantly of the components of your culture, i.e., your core values
– Recognize and reward behavior-not just financial accomplishments, but reward people for being people
– Get regular feedback-use anonymous surveys, etc. to find out how your staff and your clients feel about your company

Source: Real Estate magazine, February 2007

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