Mastering the Politics of Teamwork
Pay attention to decisionmaking, team input and communication
By Michelle LaBrosse, founder, Cheetah Learning
There is a science to making
rules and decisions, especially
in business when you’re working
with a team. The process involves the entire team establishing and respecting the
rules in place.
Communication among team members
also plays a key role. Positive communication leads to open minds about resolving
issues and making changes, whereas negative communication is off-putting and destructive to reaching the goal.
To work successfully as a team, it’s wise
to focus on decisionmaking, team input
and communication. Here’s how.
The three-way vote
Arguing about decisions can take up a lot
of time and slow things down. The fast-est way to move projects along is to make
decisions by majority. If there is a tie, the
team leader should have the final say.
To use consensus to make decisions,
give people a three-way vote: agree, disagree or don’t agree but live with the majority vote.
After a few rounds of brainstorming
alternative solutions, move to a majority-rules decision.
Employees may have different work styles
and comfort levels, but they are all valuable members of the team. When working
with them, it’s important to keep the following points in mind.
■■ Confidentiality: Some people feel free
discussing anything with everyone, whereas
others feel this behavior is a breach of trust.
Establish upfront what level of confidentiality
is appropriate and with which audiences.
■■ Attribution: People have different needs
for recognition. Some feel comfortable tooting their own horn, while others prefer to
be acknowledged for their work quietly. As
a team, establish how everyone will talk to
each other about their accomplishments.
■■ Participation: Some team members are
passive during meetings, while others are
more assertive and take charge. To get an
even amount of participation, give everyone
a few minutes to discuss their issues during
each team meeting.
■■ Acceptance: Different opinions may stimulate thinking that will ultimately solve issues. Other times, conflicting opinions can
slow down or derail a project. Team members must decide when it is acceptable to
have freewheeling discussions and divergent
opinions and when it’s time to rally together
and keep a project moving.
Great communication skills will lead a
team to victory. Negative communication
will derail a project and leave a sour taste
in everyone’s mouth. Here are the key aspects to positive communication:
■■ Conflict resolution: Team members
should try to solve problems that are within
their circle of influence without burdening
other team members or customers. The
exception is if the problem significantly impacts another team member’s performance.
On the flip side, the team leader must decide
what types of problems should be disclosed
to the team, how to report them and the information needed to describe problems.
■■ Feedback: A primary rule of feedback is
to not give it unless it’s requested. Giving
someone unsolicited feedback to correct
what is considered a problem negates the
other person and can hurt the relationship.
Another rule is that all feedback should be
positive. If the feedback cannot be provided
in positive, constructive terms, then it should
not be said until it is requested and can be
framed constructively. In addition, avoid
using positive statements followed by “but.”
The discussion should focus on how to fix
the system, rather than fixing the person.
■■ Acceptable topics for discussion: People
have different tolerance levels for acceptable
discussion topics. Although it is common
for team members to become friends, having to listen to daily personal issues can be
distracting. It’s best to state that personal
issues should be kept personal.
Establishing rules for communication and
a decisionmaking process keeps work streamlined, the teams focused and unwanted
power-plays away from your backyard.
Michelle LaBrosse is
founder and “chief cheetah” of Cheetah Learning, the market leader
training and professional
development. The Project
( www.pmi.org) selected LaBrosse as one of
the “ 25 Most Influential Women in Project
Management in the World.” LaBrosse is a
graduate of Harvard Business School’s owner/
president-management program and is author
of Cheetah Project Management and Cheetah
Negotiations. Reach her at marketing@chee
REOs Can Rev up Business
Continued from Page 42
participate in unparalleled networking
The Importance of Integrity
Continued from Page 50
evictions, repairs, valuation and everyday
REO transactions. Lenders looking for
an area expert will know they can rely on
your knowledge and experience.
“An advantage of working
with REO properties
is that they usually don’t
have other liens or
encumbrances on their
title. Often, they have
been wiped out at
Further, you must continuously hone
your REO skills to better ensure your success and minimize complications down
the line. Get involved with different REO
organizations. They can help you gain industry knowledge that can assist you in
advancing your career in working with
REOs and keep you updated on the latest
Through industry organizations,
you can learn from industry leaders and
It’s little secret that of late, lenders have
tightened their underwriting criteria so
much that otherwise-creditworthy borrowers can no longer qualify for mortgage loans.
Along with the FHA’s Streamlined
203(k) program, look for sensible, alternative loan products that can work for your
new clients. Know your lending sources
and continue to seek more.
Some small banks have been more
aggressive with their lending programs.
Contact lenders directly and find out how
they can assist in helping your clients purchase one of their REO properties.
An advantage of working with REO
properties is that they usually don’t have
other liens or encumbrances on their title.
Often, they have been wiped out at foreclosure sale.
Many REOs also are vacant, and
some have already been repaired to
FHA standards and are therefore ready
Certainly, programs, fees and rates
sometimes change during the process —
that’s the nature of our business. When
these changes occur, you should explain
why and advise borrowers in writing. It is
additional work, but you will be rewarded
with well-prepared clients who feel more
comfortable with the process.
Setting realistic expectations
It is necessary to establish realistic expectations to guide borrowers through
the transaction. For example, if underwriting is taking two weeks to review
files, let the borrower know. It may seem
like a long time to us, but most borrowers often don’t know what a typical underwriting time is. They simply accept
the wait as part of the process.
The adage “underpromise and overde-liver” holds true here. When applicable,
pad your quote by a day or two. Borrowers are always pleasantly surprised when
something happens ahead of schedule.
evaluation more than a quick “Sure, no
problem.” This lets them move on to the
Realtors and referral partners also
must be updated with good and bad news.
Many brokers don’t advise Realtors about
a problem until the 11th hour, hoping the
problem will be fixed. Each day that goes
by where you have identified a problem
but you have not conveyed the information to your business partners magnifies the problem and calls your integrity
For instance, if a loan closing must
be delayed because of a problem with
the loan file, let the Realtor know. Realtors plan to do walkthroughs, schedule
closings and communicate with agents
on the other side of the transaction. Buyers schedule time off work, book moving
vans and schedule utility appointments.
They do this based on assumptions that a
loan will close by a certain date.
Your industry partners understand
that the mortgage process sometimes has
problems. Advising them of a problem as
soon as you know about it lets them adjust the expectations of their clients and
any other parties to the transaction.
Once you have done your homework, set
up your networking partnerships and developed lists of potential buyers and REO
On the Web properties, it's time to start closing some
deals. If you work with a timetable and
a clear strategy, it won’t take long before
you are a REO professional and people
seek you for your knowledge and expertise in this niche.
Working with referral partners
Integrity with Realtors and other referral sources is key to your ability to
Many brokers say yes to a deal too
quickly and then struggle with the consequences. You may not want to risk losing
a newfound referral source’s confidence
by saying you can’t do a particular loan,
but the wrong answer will quickly erode
any confidence they have in you. Seasoned Realtors will appreciate an honest
Federal Housing Administration’s
Streamlined 203(k) Limited Repair
When working with your referral partners or with borrowers, integrity represents your honor, word and commitment
to your profession. By conveying honesty
and truthfulness, you will gain attention
from those who need guidance. This is
a surefire way to increase your referrals
and close more deals.