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Great Leaders Come to Terms with Their Weaknesses

We’re all better at some things than we are at others. The greatest basketball player in history (perhaps up until recent years) fell far short of expectations when he tried his luck at baseball. Leaders in the business world are no different. We have some things that we’re really good at, and others that could use some improvement. So, what should we do about those weaknesses? Should we just ignore them, and focus exclusively on our strengths?

In the Bible, there is a story about a mighty man named Samson. His physical strength was unmatched by anyone in his day. However, his weaknesses allowed him to be lured into a situation in which his strength was taken from him. Samson never acknowledged his weaknesses, and they ended up getting the best of him. If you ignore your weaknesses, will they go away? I don’t think so. It didn’t work for Samson back then, and it won’t work for us today.

So, how do we deal with our weaknesses as leaders in the world today? Really, it all boils down to acknowledging that we have them and taking precautions given that understanding. For example, rather than tackling a project for which we aren’t equipped, coming to terms with our weaknesses may enable us to delegate that project to someone more qualified. The problem doesn’t occur when we have weaknesses; the problem occurs when we do have weaknesses but we fail to acknowledge them. Great leaders come to terms with their weaknesses, and the whole team is made better off for it.

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Can Working in the Mortgage Industry Give Us a Sense of Purpose?

Ask anyone why they do what they do and you will get a great deal of answers. The reasons people choose to work in the industries they do are multi-faceted. Some people go where there’s job security. Some people follow the money. Some people do what they find interesting. I do think, however, that all of us like to find meaning in our work. We want to believe that what we do serves some higher purpose.

I was once approached by an 85 year old man who asked for advice on starting a business. Surprised, I had asked him how much longer he thought he would live. He told me that he thought he would live until at least 90. When I asked him why, he said this: “Because I’ve got a 5 year business plan.”

Like any other industry, many of us in the mortgage industry approach the work as “just a job.” But, could it be more than that? Could it be something we never want to give up, because we see it as important work? Can working in the mortgage industry be a calling? Yes, I think it can.

Working in the mortgage industry can be meaningful work. We play a vital role of getting people into the homes in which they will raise families and build communities. If that isn’t something to aspire to, I don’t know what is. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with retiring. But try to look at your work in the industry such that, when you do retire, you look back on your career in recognition that you did a lot of good for a lot of people.

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Adapting in Difficult Times

In the last decade, the mortgage industry has experienced an enduring series of setbacks. The extent to which it has improved since the housing crisis is still up for debate. Heavy regulation has made it difficult for many organizations to remain competitive. Now, as we usher in a new Presidential administration, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the air. Is it going to get better, or is it going to get worse? What does a President Trump mean for the mortgage industry?

Throughout the financial crisis, the organizations who have remained competitive in the industry have been those who have proved to be the most adaptable. Organizations that get stuck in a set way of doing things become complacent and, when change inevitably occurs, they can’t quite react. On the other hand, the nimble organizations have been able to persevere through the crisis to come out stronger.

Like everyone else, I don’t know what’s going to happen in this administration. I’m not sure what the effects will be on the mortgage industry. I can’t predict the future. That being said, I feel confident in predicting the kinds of organizations that will withstand whatever changes we encounter. The organizations that are quick to adapt will be the only ones resilient enough to persevere through difficult times. When the smoke clears, those are the ones we will see still standing.

As leaders in the mortgage industry, we need to remain nimble. We need to be flexible–able to adapt quickly to whatever comes our way. I am confident the industry will remain strong, because I know we have a great deal of leaders who simply won’t give up no matter what comes their way…

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Competitors: A Threat or An Opportunity?

When I consult with leaders in the mortgage industry, one of the very first things I recommend is performing a SWOT analysis. Identifying one’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats provides a solid foundation on what a strategic plan can be built going forward. Knowing where we are enables us to see how might get where we want to go.

In the “threat” category, much of the discussion often falls around current and potential competitors. We operate in a very competitive industry, so it stands to reason that other companies serving the same customers might pose a threat to us. While it is generally true that the competition is a real threat, I also think–if we play our cards right–competitors can be an opportunity…

When the current CEO of Walmart took over, one of the first questions he was asked was how he plans to make Walmart.com more competitive with Amazon.com. He didn’t say anything about his pricing strategy, product assortment, or promotion ideas. Instead, he said that he was having his entire board of directors read a biography on Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. His plan we to learn from the competition.

In the mortgage industry, competitors pose a threat, but they also pose an opportunity for learning. Rather than ignoring or downplaying the competition, then, we should be thinking about what the competition is doing right. We should be asking why we consider them a threat. What gives them that edge over us? In understanding this, we might just be able to grasp what we need to outcompete them. Even competitors–the biggest threats of all–can turn out to be opportunities…