I exited Corporate America in 2006 and opened a real estate brokerage in Galveston, Texas. On September 13, 2008, we were wiped out by Hurricane Ike.
I spent the next two-plus years recovering. Part of that process was coaching my agents through the chaos and change the storm dropped on them. I had a comfortable green chair in my office that each agent would plop down into and start to bitch. And they’d bitch and bitch and bitch and bitch, punctuated only by my head nods and barely verbal, but compassionate, acknowledgement of their predicaments. It was true and legitimate that there was a lot of pain in Galveston those days. Anyone who’s ever dealt with FEMA and insurance companies and utilities and contractors knows that, never mind that this was a disaster zone and these folks were trying to make their living selling real estate. But the more my agents bitched, the further into their bellybuttons they dug until there seemed to be no reason for them to get out of bed in the morning. Life was just too hard.
So I made a rule that my storm survivors could have exactly five uninterrupted minutes of whining at the top of each session, and then we were going to move on to solutions. Interestingly, it turns out it’s hard to complain for five straight minutes if nobody’s feeding your fire. Without my “uh-huh,” “oh no,” “that’s awful,” and “hmmm,” most people got about ninety seconds in and ran out of fuel. And their lives began to change as their energy shifted from fatalistic to hopeful and then to excited and happy.
The green chair went back to Corporate America with me after Ike, and has lived in each of my offices ever since. It’s my metaphor for effective coaching: We acknowledge the gremlins and speed-bumps and literal hurricanes in our lives, but quickly bid them adieu and get on with our journey. As my friend and real estate partner, rockstar agent Weldon Rigby, once taught me: The best word in the English language is “Next!”