Communicating with clients and stakeholders as “Accidental Counsellor”

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    For Brokers, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on business, and the “new normal” for mortgage professionals is evolving every day. As a lead up to Broker Connect, MPA’s virtual forum dedicated to the mortgage industry and creating digital connections, we look at the issues that lenders, aggregators, and brokers around Australasia are focusing on, asking questions about, and overcoming to help clients through this difficult time.

    With the coronavirus causing financial stress across the world, brokers are well placed to help those in hardship.

    But despite a having a thorough knowledge of all the assistance packages on offer, many brokers may not know how to best respond to clients or colleagues in a state of crisis.

    According to Cutty Felton, Corporate and Community Training Manager of Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury, in many cases, brokers could be a vital link in helping those who are struggling to cope get the professional help they need.

    She spoke with MPA about the ways brokers can help those in need off the back of the Accidental Counsellor program developed by Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury and tailored for the MFAA.

    Brokers are on the frontline to help

    As tens of thousands of Australians lose their jobs and worry about the future of their businesses, brokers are answering the call to help them find solutions.

    However, with domestic violence on the rise and social isolation expected to have an effect on our mental health, many brokers may find themselves acting as “accidental counsellor.”

    According to Felton, it is important for brokers to recognise and act appropriately when clients and colleagues need help.

    “Brokers are not only one of the largest frontline forces engaging with vast numbers of people every year, but they are also known for the trusting and often long-lasting relationships that they build with their clients and colleagues.”

    “Brokers can be of genuine help by engaging, in a non-judgemental, empathic and empowering way, with those whom they recognise as struggling, assisting to ease the intensity of the distress they might be feeling in the moment and connecting them with the support and help that is most appropriate going forward.”

    She says the Accidental Counsellor workshop provides practical tools for brokers to help others without stepping over the line professionally.

    “The Recognise, Respond, Refer model allows the broker to engage with those people in a way that is appropriate, respectful and compassionate, whilst being within strictly defined boundaries.”

    “Brokers are not (and are not expected to be) counsellors or therapists and it is reassuring and important to know how far our human response should extend and when it is no longer helpful.”

    The program also includes the “5 E’s Framework for Difficult Conversations”, in which participants are given practical insights into how to speak with someone in a state of crisis.

    Honing in on our people skills

    She says it is important not to categorise others according to the way they act; recommending we instead respond to each individual rather than look for certain symptoms or signs.

    While connecting over video call or phone may not feel as personal as talking face-to-face, Felton says it is still possible to achieve a good rapport with others via digital technology.

    “There are skills that we, on a human level and with integrity, can use to ensure that the person to whom we are speaking truly feels heard and this is what builds a good relationship.”

    On the other side of the coin, she says there are also things we may do in conversation which have an opposite and unwanted effect.

    These are “seemingly minor things that we often do but which might interfere with the trusting rapport we have built with another, particularly if that person is heightened or in crisis”.

    Looking after yourself

    But it’s not just others we can help by implementing these practical skills. Felton says a big part of the program is also about looking after ourselves.

    “Self-care is also an extremely important theme that runs through the training and there is an emphasis on the need to prioritise self-care and view it as a sign of self-respect and not as being selfish.”

    “There is discussion, both about the routine self-care that all should have in place, as well as the additional care that needs to be taken, and help sought, when brokers themselves are in crisis.”

    Join MPA and Key Media for Broker Connect – a virtual forum dedicated to the mortgage industry – as we look at the current issues and network with each other

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    Original Article