How to break out of “firefighting mode”

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in “firefighting mode” – dealing with urgent problems instead of focusing on your core priorities? It’s likely a familiar concept to REALTORS® who manage a team or office.

To address this universal human resources (HR) challenge, many organizations, including us here at CREA, are beginning to develop HR strategic plans linked to specific corporate objectives.  And while the operation of an Association may differ from a real estate business, here are a few strategies we’ve implemented that you may also find helpful.

For a start, we have aligned our team members’ goals with our corporate objectives. This has helped us avoid the HR function operating as a silo. It helps everyone across all departments keep the big picture in mind on a daily basis. At the core of this is the fact that REALTORS® are our customers and deserve the very best service from us.

How do we do that? We relate all roles and responsibilities in our job descriptions back to our corporate objectives. Our individual goals align with our organization’s goal, which is to help REALTORS® succeed in their chosen profession. We refer back to these goals and our corporate strategic priorities as part of our annual performance appraisal process. This way, we all know what we are working towards and we can ensure adequate resources and professional development opportunities continue to be provided to empower our team to achieve our shared goals.

The nature of the real estate profession means there are times when CREA staff (and our members) are working full tilt. To reduce employee stress and foster esprit de corps, our Social Committee plans regular events where staff can socialize and celebrate our achievements together. Many of these events also incorporate a fundraising component, so our team has the opportunity to make a difference for local charities in our community.


It is hard to avoid “fires” altogether; but if your team is all on the same page as to where their focus should be, they feel they have the tools and training they need to meet their goals, and there’s high morale in the workplace, it should be easier for everyone to focus their time and energy appropriately.

REALTORS®, share your insights into your own HR challenges and successes in our Comments section below.

As CREA’s Chief Financial Officer, Debra Cowan splits her time between managing the finances of the organization, maintaining the office, and dealing with various human resource matters. Deb has over 20 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector and began her career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers where she obtained her CPA and then moved to the Canadian Bar Association as Director of Finance. Deb likes to start her day with a run with her dog and, when not in the office, you may find her on the golf course, entertaining friends, or relaxing with hot yoga.

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