Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Good Estate Management Is Really Just Good Negotiation

Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, 'Make me feel important.'  Never forget this message when working with people.  - Mary Kay Ash

A few years ago, before the economic recovery of 2012-to-present, which was that very rare moment before NYC became (again) an almost impossibly expensive place to live, I recall having found a small two-bedroom co-op apartment for sale in an Upper West Side neighborhood known as Inwood - a simple, economically humble yet also interesting and somewhat vibrant area, for the at-that-time reasonable asking price of $175K.

Of course, being the savvy New Yorker I imagined myself to be, I offered $165K, which was more in line with what I could afford anyway at the time, plus it gave me a sense of being involved in the process, an active player, someone who's input was respected in the deal.  The counter-offer by the seller, to my surprise, turned out to not be a meet-in-the-middle approach of $170K, yet of holding firm at $175K. Take it or leave it.

Despite knowing (as much as one could actually know anything, when predicting the future) that we were at the tail end of an economic slump, one which saw stock and housing prices in many areas plummet by up to 50%, and knowing (again, as much as possible) this property could one day soon be worth twice this amount or even more - something just didn't feel right, and I passed on the purchase.

In hindsight, was doing that a mistake? I don't know. Maybe it was, maybe not. But maybe being involved in any transaction with another human being, whether it be real estate or something else, is just as much about sense of self as it is about sense of numbers. It took me a while, but I eventually realized that what bothered me about the negotiation for that apartment was the fact that... it wasn't. I mean, it wasn't a negotiation, it was just an instruction - from the other people, to me. "Down" to me, at that. It didn't matter to them that I saw that sign hanging around their neck and tried to respect it and get us to yes; they just didn't see my sign around my own, in the first place. I certainly didn't feel any sense of importance, within that process of trying to have a new home - and all the emotions wrapped up in that one to begin with.

And negotiation is what most of life is, every day, and with virtually everyone we come into contact with. Rarely confrontation; but certainly a negotiation. Where both parties come to the table with an open mind and an open perspective on how the issue being discussed could meet both peoples' needs - not simply just one's - and with both not only saving face and feeling good, yet both coming away from the discussion proud of having just been heard; of that sign around their neck having just been read. Effective negotiations are both sides getting to yes, not just one side getting to shut-up-and-do-what-I-say.
Often persuasive - but never really effective.

Where have we seen this before, on private estates?  Think about the jobs you've held in the past where you either reported to someone else (as everyone does), or others had reported to you. Which stand out in your memory as the successful relationships? 

And then what about those other jobs you've held, those in which the other person was giving you an instruction, an order, a final edict, for you to take it or leave it?  And at those estates, how did that particular approach work out for them?

Has a sign - and sees other people's, too.

What I love about standards of service - at the good estates to work for, anyway - is that they're not written in stone and handed down to staff from The Creator. 

Instead, the service standards at good estates are simply written on a Word document and kept in a binder up on that shelf in the staff room, with one copy given to every staff member too, one in which all of them are encouraged to inquire and improve upon with their Estate Manager - who can then edit the document to reflect the improved way of doing things. 

Because good estate management is, after all, really just good negotiation. And good estate managers know that good negotiations always begin with making sure the other person is aware that sign hanging from their neck has just been fully read and acknowledged.

You know, that sign that says...

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