Being a professional home inspector is an interesting job. We get paid to go into a stranger’s home, walk around testing stuff, opening things, and generally checking to make sure that all the different items in a house are functioning like they should. We do our investigating, we report our findings, and we’re on our way, out the door, heading on to our next victim.
Hey, it’s a living.
In many inspectors’ minds, that’s all there is to the process: Check stuff. Report what we find. Run to the next house.
And, as we always say, as long as we’re doing what the law demands, we’re good. Do what’s required. Anything else we do is a business decision that’s left up to the individual inspector. How far we go past our required standards is entirely up to us.
While the inspectors at the bottom end of the quality spectrum claim that our job ends at the standards, those at the top end will argue otherwise. Inspectors that offer a higher quality product believe that being an inspector is much more than simply compiling a list to prove that we inspected all the required items. These connoisseurs of the inspection arts will contend that providing a quality product requires the professional home inspector to offer much more than simply providing their clients with a repair punch list.
Being an authority in the field, someone who’s trusted, revered, and (most importantly) called upon when a cared-for client needs us, demands that we do more than the minimum. It requires that we’re an investigator and reporter, a practitioner as well as a renovator, an authority, and a therapist, but mostly it requires us to be leader.
While some people may think it’s a stretch to say so, being a good home inspector demands that we operate as a leader in all situations. To illustrate this point, let’s compare some examples of leadership traits from the book “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin to the job requirements of a Professional Home Inspector.
Any good leader is immersed in the planning and execution of tasks, projects, and operations to move the team toward a strategic goal. Such leaders possess insight into the bigger picture and why specific tasks need to be accomplished.
In order to provide our clients with the best possible service, it’s an inspector’s responsibility to determine the needs of his/her clients. They must also find out what needs to be done to a property to safeguard their client and must understand how a home’s properly functioning systems and components contributes to their client’s’ wellbeing.
This information does not automatically translate to… the frontline troops. Junior members of the team… are rightly focused on their specific jobs… They do not need the full knowledge and insight of their senior leaders… Leaders must routinely communicate with their team members to help them understand… This understanding helps the team members prioritize their efforts in a rapidly changing, dynamic environment.
The frontline troops (our clients and their agents) don’t automatically understand the implications of the issues discovered by their inspector. Most people have no idea the safety implications presented by an ungrounded electrical system. And while it’s not an inspector’s responsibility to ensure that everyone involved is intricately familiar with Faraday’s laws of electromagnetic induction, it is beneficial to our clients if we can explain the basic reasons behind our recommendations. Knowing which of our findings has the biggest effect on their finances, safety, and happiness will go a long way in helping our clients prioritize their needs when dealing with the seller.
…(Leading) requires regularly stepping out of the office and personally engaging in face-to-face conversations… and observing the frontline troops in action to understand their particular challenges… This enables the team to understand why they are doing what they are doing…
An inspector that doesn’t take the time to make sure that they’re intimately familiar with the needs and desires of each individual client, relying instead on the client reading the report and figuring things out for themselves, is setting themselves up for failure. Each client is an individual, with different needs, unique concerns, and specific preconceived notions about the inspection process. Without the guidance and tutelage of an inspection professional, the client’s erroneous preconceptions and unrealistic expectations are certain to lead to future misunderstandings, complicating the life of the unsuspecting inspector.
As a leader… if your team isn’t doing what you need them to do, you first have to look at yourself. Rather than blame them for not seeing the strategic picture, you must figure out a way to better communicate it to them in terms that are simple, clear, and concise, so that they understand.
If our clients and their agents aren’t acting on the information we’ve provided to them in our report, we’ve got to accept some responsibility for their shortcomings. While it’s easy for us to deflect blame onto them, saying that they should have taken action and followed our report recommendations, that’s not how good leaders respond. A good leader takes responsibility for things that didn’t go according to plan on their watch and works to figure out how to keep the same mistakes from happening again.
When faced with the choice of recommending an inspector who accepts responsibility for their failures, apologizes, and vows to improve their process or an inspector who’s constantly blaming any problems on the client and their agent, which of these inspectors is a real estate agent likely to recommend to their home-buying clients?
Accepting responsibility for problems, instead of blaming things on other people, is the sign of a great leader. If things aren’t working out exactly like we would like, we’ve got to take the initiative, stepping back to examine our process, and figuring out exactly where we’ve got to improve; determining where the disconnect lies and how to go about fixing it. Do we need to be more explicit when we talk to the client and their agent? Should we change the way things are worded in our written report? Are we reiterating the importance of certain items in our follow-up communication?
Taking the blame for failure and placing the onus for improvement squarely on our shoulders, acting just like a strong and dependable leader, will go a long way toward endearing us to those agents whose trust is instrumental in our future success.
Acting like a leader in our business can be hard. It’s difficult to wrestle, even for a few moments, the leadership mantle from an overzealous real estate agent who’s trying hard to protect her commission check. But eventually, through experience and attrition, we’ll develop relationships with high quality agents who trust us and our process and are willing to let us be in charge of the show during the inspection process.
And once we’ve reached that point in our career, it’s on us to be able to step up and fill the shoes of a real leader.
The principles are simple, but not easy. Taking ownership for mistakes and failures is hard. But doing so is key to learning, to developing solutions, and, ultimately, to victory. Those who successfully implement these principles run circles around the rest of the world.Jocko Willink & Leif Babin from “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win”
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