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Lessons Learned in 2011: Know When to Fall on the Sword

December 25 2011

I'm a big believer that every person we meet has something to teach us. In fact, I find daily inspiration in my RET teammates. Take Melissa, our dynamic Sales Manager. One of the things I admire about her most is that she's not afraid to "fall on the sword" if she thinks it's best for the company and for the client. It's something I think real estate professionals need to be able to do as well.

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Falling on the Sword
If you're unfamiliar with the phrase, "falling on the sword" is defined by Wiktionary as "voluntarily to take the blame for a situation." What this definition doesn't include is that the situation doesn't necessarily have to be your fault. Sometimes, it may make sense to fall on the sword, even if another member of your team is responsible for the error.

Let's look at a few hypotheticals, just to clarify the concept.

  • A member of your support staff misses a deadline or loses a document, something a client was expecting. Saying, "my staff lost this document," doesn't do anything to make the client feel better and it makes it seem like you don't support your team. Instead, consider saying "I am so sorry that we made a mistake on that. Here's what I'm going to do to remedy the situation."
  • You were given a new lead. For some reason, you weren't your usual responsive self and did not reach out to the lead in a timely fashion. Your broker asks for a status update. Instead of making excuses, step up and say "I really dropped the ball there. I'm going to reach out to this contact and I'm going to ensure that I respond promptly in the future."

Of course, there is such a thing as apologizing too profusely. I mean, there's no need to go over-the-top with the "mea culpa." This could inflate the importance of the mistake and increase the other party's anxiety ("Wow, they're really upset about this so I guess it must be serious.") Make your quick, sincere apology and shift the focus to the action you're going to take to remedy it.