If you come across a rotten egg and you break it, it stinks. This adaptation, from a Russian proverb, reflects a life reality. My interest in it is in exploring possible takeaways in the realm of real estate education and practice.
A visit to the RECO website and a casual reading of a disciplinary case could give rise to grossly erroneous conclusions. RECO, entrusted to protect the public interest, performs routine inspections and addresses complaints. Oft-times, RECO disciplines a minority of registrants who conduct their business without regard for honesty and integrity. The heedless reader could easily presume that negligent, irresponsible, incompetent, and unprofessional shenanigans are rampant in the profession.
Don’t be naïve. Ethical principles are alive and well in the real estate arena, but let’s delve a bit deeper.
Whereas ethics may be doing what the law requires, abiding by the set of standards commanded by society, can ethics be taught? RECO is positioned to enforce the standards and, proactively, seeks to provide ongoing professional education. RECO, as most others, believes that standards of right and wrong, of doing the right thing, can be taught.
Agreed, but can ethics be learned?
The RECO discipline cases are replete with information; often the details are particular to the specific case. With so many cases presenting so many different facts, are readers and students really attuned to the lessons learned or do they simply, at best, relate it unemotionally to a given principle in the Code or, at worst, deem it non applicable to their modus operandi?
Ethics can be taught but learning ethics requires a deductive, not an inductive approach.
Studying case after case of wrongdoing is an exercise in breaking one rotten egg at a time. It’s an unpleasant exercise. It’s detractive. It’s not very appetizing.
Learning, ethics or otherwise, needs to be pleasing. It needs to be engaging. It needs to start at the macro level by focusing on foundational principles that apply to disparate situations. Only after understanding and conveying the key principles (and how they relate to the Articles within the Code) can readers and students apply them to a given content and make sense of the situation.
Even before processing the ethics detailed in the RECO Code of Ethics, there needs to be a familiarity with higher moral principles: listening, empathy, commitment, focus, loyalty, giving, respect.
Indeed, William Ury, author of numerous books on negotiation and cofounder of the Harvard Negotiation Project, argues that “getting to yes’ (being ethical) can only be attained after “getting to yes with yourself”. Amen to that.