Perception is a powerful thing. What you believe about yourself has the power to change your reality. Henry Ford is famous for saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” He was certainly on to something. When leaders stop believing in themselves, the consequence is that they stop taking the necessary actions to develop themselves into better leaders. When you don’t really think you can be successful, you won’t even try. The results of your lack of confidence will bleed into your work and you’ll end up being just as terrible as you think you are.
On the other hand, if you see yourself as having potential for success, you’ll do the necessary work to realize that potential. You’ll take the necessary steps to improve yourself, because you will actually believe that you can improve. You’ll get up earlier. You’ll study harder. You’ll listen better. You’ll focus longer. You’ll communicate more clearly. In the areas you most need to work on, you’ll be willing to put in the effort to inch yourself forward. If you believe you can do it, you will almost certainly get it done.
All of that being said, it’s not just about you. How you see yourself also influences how other people see you. If you don’t have confidence in your ability to lead, how can you expect those you are leading to have confidence in you? On the other hand, if you are fully confident in your ability to lead, you can be sure that others will be just as confident. How you see yourself is the foundation on which all other transformation is based.
I recall seeing an old episode of I Love Lucy in which Lucy’s husband Ricky comes home to find Lucy crawling around on her hands and knees, searching for something in the family room. When he asks her what she’s doing, she replies that she’s looking for her earrings. “You lost your earrings in the living room?” He asks her. “No,” she replies. “I lost them in the bedroom, but the light is much better out here!”
There’s a valuable lesson to be learned from this whimsical scene: just because something is easier, that doesn’t mean that it is better. As a leader in your organization, it may be tempting to look for solutions where “the light is better.” In other words, you might want to only focus on the things you already know and the areas which you’ve already explored. Even if the problems or opportunities lie outside of that area, what’s the point in looking? It’s too dark to see, right?
The truth is that, if you are going to lead your organization to success, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time in the dark. Great leaders aren’t afraid to stick their necks out and find the problems where they are; they’re willing to brave the uncertainties and tread on uncharted terrain. If you want to stay the same, by all means, stay where you are. But if you want to move your organization forward and remain competitive into the future, you’ve got to be willing to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Success lies in the dark places that you have yet to shine a light on. Where are you looking for success?
One of the ideas I often like to use in my consulting practice is the principle of “Start with Why,” discussed by leadership expert Simon Sinek. Before you think about the product you are going to offer or how you are going to go about bringing it to market, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re producing it in the first place. Why are you in the business you are in? What drives you? What is your purpose? If you don’t ask this question, your work will end up mediocre at best, and catastrophic at worst.
This idea, however, extends beyond how we serve our customers. As important as it is for you to ask yourself why you do what you do, it’s also important as a leader for you to ask the same thing of your team. Why do your people do what they do? What drives them? What is their purpose? Have you even asked them? Think back to your last interview. What kinds of questions did you ask the person hired? Maybe you asked them about their experience. Maybe you asked them about their education. Maybe you asked them about skills specific to the position for which they were applying. These are all important questions, but did you remember to ask them, “Why?”
Perhaps the most important question you will ever ask a candidate in an interview is, “Why do you want to work for us?” The point is to get at the heart of what drives the job candidate. Is that person just looking for a job, or are they driven by a core set of values that they see mirrored in your company? Take a look at your team. Who is working for you just to have a job, and who is working for you because their “why” compels them to? Build a team dedicated to purpose, and you’ll have a company committed to success.
Things can quickly become complicated in the mortgage industry. Unlike some other industries dealing directly with consumers, the mortgage industry presents a very complex product. In most cases, borrowers don’t understand mortgages well enough to make decisions without the help of professionals. They can’t just pull a mortgage off the shelf, read the package, and put it into their cart. Rather, they often feel the need to ask questions—to try to figure out what they’re getting themselves into.
In many ways, the complexity of the product is exactly what makes selling mortgages a viable career–we become the package that people can read so that they can put mortgages into their carts. That’s obviously a great benefit to us, because it makes our careers possible; we bring something to the table. But, due to the level of complexity, it also means that a lot can go wrong. When trying to explain a product and buying process that is difficult to understand, there is plenty of room for catastrophic misunderstandings.
The biggest problems that occur in the mortgage industry, I would argue, are from misunderstandings. It isn’t that consumers are unreasonable and demanding; it also isn’t that lenders are greedy and conniving. When things go wrong, though, that’s how each side often sees the other. However, the truth is often that there has merely been some failure in communication. As representatives in the mortgage industry, we should always take responsibility for that. Want to eliminate misunderstandings in the loan process? Maintain constant communication with buyers. It’s a complicated product; make sure you’re clarifying it as much as you possibly can. Communication is everything.
If you’re like most people, you’ve had the experience of purchasing a product or service that was absolutely ordinary. It wasn’t a terrible experience–you didn’t feel angry enough to leave a negative review, file a lawsuit, or even ask for a refund. But it also wasn’t an amazing experience–you didn’t feel compelled to leave a good review or to spread the word to your friends and colleagues about the product or service. It was just a simple transaction. There was nothing special about it. It just met expectations.
Even though these kinds of transactions happen quite often, you’re probably struggling with thinking of a specific occasion and you aren’t likely to remember the name of the company. Why? Because they’re so forgettable. Nothing sets them apart. They lack that something extra that keeps bringing them to the top of your mind. Companies that merely meet expectations are not companies that we deliberately return to. We only become loyal to companies that blow us away. Good enough simply isn’t good enough.
Now, consider this truth as a leader in the mortgage industry. If all you do is offer great rates and the same sort of service that other companies in the industry are offering, how can you expect people to remember you? It isn’t enough to meet expectations. That’s how you become forgettable. No, to be remembered, you have to exceed expectations. You have to go beyond the obvious. You have to blow people away with your extraordinary service. Otherwise, you will be forgotten. So, ask yourself: what creative angle does your company offer that gets peoples’ attention and compels them to come back to you in the future?
I was involved in facilitating an athletic even for a school some time ago, and the coach for the wrestling team asked me to introduce the members of the opposing team who were coming in from out of town. I didn’t really think much of it. I was felt at ease using a microphone and speaking in front of a crowd, so I agreed to do it without question. I didn’t even bother doing any research. What was the worst that could happen?
When it came time to introduce the wrestlers, though, I stumbled and stammered my way all through the introduction. Why? Because, although I hadn’t realized it, they were all Czechoslovakian and I couldn’t pronounce their names! It was an embarrassing moment for me that I’ve never been able to forget, but it taught me an important lesson…
Sometimes, it seems that we commit too quickly. As leaders, it is natural for us to want to help. We see opportunities to serve, and we jump on them. That excitement and eagerness is a good thing, but it can also get us into a lot of trouble if not tempered with some caution and discretion.
We should never commit to something if we aren’t able to deliver on it. In the end, it’s better to say no than it is to commit to something that we don’t end up following through on. You’ve heard the expression “under promise, and over deliver.” Well, that’s exactly what the best leaders among us do. They know what they’re getting themselves into before they commit to things. Learn from my mistakes: if you haven’t learned how to pronounce the names, don’t agree to make the introductions!