Have you ever hired someone who you thought was going to make a great employee—but it didn’t really turn out that way? Perhaps they showed great ambition at first, working diligently and growing quickly. But then, over time, they started to plateau until they abruptly left for a new job. Situations like this can leave those of us in leadership scratching our heads. How can people who seem so interested in our organizations when they’re hired suddenly lose interest and pursue other opportunities so quickly? What’s going on?
Well, we tend to look at our employees and wonder what they’re doing wrong in these cases. But, perhaps the problem isn’t them—perhaps it’s us. Think about what’s actually happening when people lose interest in their jobs. What once was new and exciting becomes the same old, everyday routine. Now, is it really any surprise that the best employees—the ones who want to learn and grow and challenge themselves—grow weary of doing the same job after a while? Boredom is often not, as we might suppose, a sign of laziness. Quite the opposite: boredom is often a sign of intelligence, passion, and drive.
Employees who really have ambition will look for better opportunities when their work is no longer challenging them or fueling their drive for success. Who’s really responsible for the turnover, then? Of course, it’s us. As leaders in the mortgage industry, we’ve got to be creative in keeping the work environment stimulating so that the best workers can thrive within it. Boredom is often the single greatest contributor to turnover. If the organization ceases to be a fun and interesting place to work, the best employees will go out looking for greener pastures and all that will remain are those who are content with complacency.
Outsourcing can be a controversial practice. Of course, when many people hear the term, they think of “offshoring,” or sending jobs overseas. We don’t really run into that much in the mortgage industry, but outsourcing can be trick in our line of work for a different reason. We make promises to customers and investors; hiring someone else to do part of our work for us is taking a risk. If they fail us, we fail our customers and investors. So, here’s the million dollar question: when is it worth taking the risk to outsource some part of our business?
When I first entered in the mortgage industry, I had no experience in business. My boss took a chance on me, though, and I actually ended up doing pretty well. I was a “people person,” and excelled at building relationships as a loan originator. However, I was really bad at math, and my boss was struggling with what to do about it.
Eventually, my boss was given a simple piece of advice that ended up saving my career: why don’t you hire him an assistant? Someone was brought on to work with me to pick up the slack in the areas where I was deficient—and the whole company was made better off for it. That’s the power of outsourcing: none of us can do everything well, but all of us can do something amazingly well. Outsourcing is about recognizing what we’re good at and recruiting others to help us with what we’re not.
So, when should you outsource work in your organization? When someone else can do it better. If you can find someone outside of your company who can perform a function that makes your organization stronger, then you are taking a greater risk by not hiring them. Sometimes, the best reason to outsource is precisely because your customers and investors are counting on you.
If you are reading this, there is a good possibility that you are already working in the mortgage industry. But, perhaps not. Maybe you’re deliberating, trying to decide whether the mortgage industry is for you, and you’re looking for information that could help you decide whether you should give it a shot. Or, maybe you’re already in the industry and you’re trying to convince someone else to enter the business. Regardless, the main question you want answered is the same main question you ask for almost anything: “what’s in it for me?” Why should you work in the mortgage industry?
Well, let’s go ahead and get the obvious out of the way. There a lot of job opportunities as a loan officer, as it’s a continually growing field. Also, the industry can be quite rewarding on the financial end of things. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a loan officer was $63,500 in 2015—nearly twice the amount of the average across all occupations. But, is there more to the industry than just finding a “good job?” Can it be rewarding in other ways?
In my mind, here are two of the biggest reasons for starting a career in the mortgage industry.
1. The mortgage industry offers the opportunity to impact a larger number of people—as it is typical to close on around 20 loans per month.
2. The mortgage industry offers a challenge, as the industry is more complex financially and legally than other sales-oriented professions.
Why should you start a career in the mortgage industry? Pick your reason. Whatever justification sounds best for you, I promise that it’s worth giving a shot…
When I meet with leaders in the mortgage industry, one of my core areas of focus revolves around improving business processes. I work in a hands-on environment for several days at a time, helping organizations clarify their processes, because I believe that there isn’t anything more important for developing the well-being of their employees, their businesses, and society at large. If you you want anything else to work correctly, you’ve got to get your processes right.
So, what is the most important thing to look for when you’re going about fixing your business processes? Well, I don’t know if any one thing is technically more important than any other, but I can tell you one area that often gets overlooked: the hand-off. Just like a hand-off and football can cause a fumble that dramatically alters the outcome of the game, a failed transition in the mortgage industry can send your organization into chaos. The importance of a smooth transition must never be underestimated.
In my workshops, I like to look at business processes as swimming lanes. In this visualization, each department is working within its own lane but, at a certain point, the work is passed onto a simmer in a another lane. It’s like a relay race. Each department’s individual efficiency is important. But, if the delivery from one apartment to another doesn’t go smoothly, it could unravel the entire race. So, remember, while each department may have it’s own lane, we’re all in the same pool. For any organization to succeed, its individual parts must come together as a whole. And the transition is the point when that actually happens. So, take advantage of your transitions and do everything you can to really make them count!
In the years I’ve spent consulting in the mortgage industry, one of the projects I’ve been involved with most often is helping organizations make the transition from broker to banker. In this process, organizations are worried about a great number of things. There are legal and regulatory issues, issues in growth strategy, profitability issues, and issues with recruiting and training. One thing that often gets overlooked, however, are the leadership capabilities of the organization. And I think this one also happens to be the most important.
Whether you are making the transition from broker to banker or some other major shift in your organization, times of change are when solid leadership is needed most. During these times, everything is in flux. The workforce begins to become unstable. Goals change. Processes begin to break down. The mission and values of the organization can start to evolve. If a strong leadership team is not in place during such changes, everything can quickly fall apart.
What major transition do you have coming up in your organization? It could be that you’re making the broker to banker transition. It could be you’re considering going through a merger or acquisition. It could even be that you’re launching an entirely new division or service line. Whatever it is, it’s important to ask yourself whether or not you have the right team in place to lead your organization through the change. Leading is easy when everything stays the same. The real challenges arise when the boat gets rocked and you have to navigate stormy waters. Take a good look at your leadership team. Do you have the right people that can steer the ship to come out smoothly on the other side of the storm?
We’re all familiar with the idea of a captain’s log. The captain of a ship keeps detailed records of the tasks carried about by the crew in case there is any information that later needs to be retrieved. The log is the captain’s legacy—it serves as the story of his ship. In leadership, we keep a log too. Even if we don’t actually write anything down, the ticking clock writes the story of how we’ve led. How we spend our time, for better or for worse, is our leader’s log.
Here’s the important thing to remember: we all have the same twenty-four hours, one thousand four hundred and forty minutes, and eighty-six thousand four hundred seconds in a day. What sets us apart is how we use that time. This reality is like getting a huge deposit of money every day that must be spent by the day’s end. Two different people getting the same amount of money can come away with very different outcomes by the way they’ve spent it.
So, how can you make sure that you are making the most of the time you have? First, you’ve got to stop seeing yourself as a prisoner to time. No one can make you do anything without your consent. Manage your time–don’t let it manage you. Don’t tell yourself that you have to do x, y, or z; tell yourself that you’ve chosen to do those things. Once you take responsibility for your time, you can then work on investing it more wisely.
Leadership means many things to many people. When we think of great leaders, we often think of people who have accomplished great things. We think of of superstar athletes or titans of industry, of award-winning actors or prominent political figures. In other words, we look at the amount of talent or possessed by an individual and then say to ourselves, “That’s what it means to be a leader.”
There is another aspect of leadership, though, that is important to us—and I would argue that it is the foundation of what it means to really be a leader. And that is how we inspire others. Sure, talent and accomplishments can get us into the spotlight, but it takes a deep connection with our audience in order to stay there. We’ve seen many people we thought were greater leaders fall from grace because of the way they treat their audience. Athletes who prove to be poor role models lose fans. Controversial authors lose contracts. And, finally, business executives that don’t treat people well get replaced.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you know or how much you can do–if you can’t deal well with people, it’s all for naught. Why is that the case? Because, by its very definition, leadership requires followers. If people aren’t following you, it doesn’t matter what kind of title you put on your business card–you aren’t a leader. If you want to be a great leader, focus on developing relationships with those whom you are leading. You are a leader, not when you think you are, but rather when your people say you are. Inspiring your people is the cornerstone of leadership.
I once saw a cartoon that really made me pause and think about what it means to be a leader. In the first frame, there is a man called “The Boss” sitting at his desk and pointing forward. The desk is sitting on top of a giant block, being pulled forward by three other people. In the second frame, we see the same three men pulling the large block, but there is one difference. There is no desk sitting on top of the block; instead, the man who had been at the desk is now out in front helping the workers pull the block forward. In this frame, the man is called “The Leader.”
In the mortgage industry, it’s very easy to get caught up in the “boss” mentality—sitting at our desk in the corner office and barking out orders. We may even feel sometimes like we’re entitled to such a position. We worked hard to get where we are, so why do it any other way? The simple answer: the success of our organizations depend on it.
People will only do the bare minimum for a “boss,” but they will willingly bend over backwards for a leader. And the difference between a leader and a boss is that the leader is willing to get his hands dirty. The boss says, “Go!” But the leader says, “Let’s go!” If you aren’t willing to get out in front of your people and show them how to get the job done, then they aren’t following you; they’re dragging you. Work with your people, and they will work with you. So, what approach are you taking in your organization?
We all like a good underdog story. It’s not all that impressive to us when a person “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” becomes a success. When the odds are in your favor, of course you’re going to succeed. What really impresses us is the one who rises to a higher level with the odds stacked against him, the one who makes something of himself even though he comes from nothing, the one who defies expectations. That’s the kind of leader we cheer for.
The housing crisis and recession of the last decade was difficult for all of us involved in the mortgage industry—even more so the often excessive regulation that has followed. However, I think the challenging environment has done one good thing for us–it has separated the wheat from the chaff. It has turned us all into underdogs who must overcome overwhelming odds to become successful.
Pressure is the crucible in which truly great leaders emerge triumphantly. It puts our feet to the fire and tells us whether or not we really have what it takes. Those who don’t have what it takes will not be able to adapt and will falter under pressure. If you want to develop into a great leader, you’ve got to change how you deal with challenging situations. It’s easy to look good when everything is going according to plan, but how do you look when things go awry? Expose yourself to a little risk and take some chances–that’s really the only way to see if you’ve got what it takes.
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.