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What makes culture in your company ?

As the CEO of your company you may think ” Wow, I’m doing well. My company is ranked #1 in the XYZ market ” You did it. You built your success through your hustle and everyone is happy.
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The Breakfast Club was sharing their personal experiences in the work world this morning as I asked my daily blog question. What makes a truly successful company? We have all concluded that in order to build a successful environment for all, you must build a culture first.



David Lykken says that leaders should be intentional in every move they make. David thinks that sometimes he can be too open and honest but he’d rather be too open than have anyone feel unsure and insecure about their work environment.

Beth Ozenghar thinks that if you’re feeling tension when you walk into the room, it is happening because trust has been broken along the way somehow in the company. Something has been miscommunicated or even not communicated at all and assumptions have begun.

Scott Woll’s opinion is that culture comes from the top. CEO’s often assume that everyone knows what is going on because he told “Mary” to make sure everyone knows. Now Mary has taken what she got out of the message and has now told John to get the message out. Now John is “summing it up” for everyone and all of a sudden that water cooler is filled with whispers and side eyes!  Good CEOs will listen and see the employees. They cannot assume they understand you at every level. A good boss is involved. A good boss knows his company from top to bottom. That’s culture. There should be no assumption that your message is getting out properly.

Beth adds that it still boils down to trust. Bosses can make such a difference. CEO’s needs to have a staff that they can trust to relay the message properly. Trust can be broken so quickly by inefficient communication.

Trust Mortgage Lenders

My opinion (Stephanie Stevens) on this is that a lot of companies just want the hustle. Build your culture. Build your 9-5 family. You will probably be with them more than your actual family at times. Know them. Be the boss that walks into the room and says ” Hey did little Johnny win the big game?!” or ” Hey Mary I know your son wasn’t feeling well yesterday, did he make it to school?”

Yes, this may take time out of your hustle. Our Breakfast Club meets every morning. At first, I’ll admit, I thought “Oh goodness, I don’t have time for this. ” Now, I wish we did it on the weekends too! I make sure I grab a fresh cup of coffee and sit down without any distractions. I really want to know how Beth’s daughter is after her first dirt bike accident. I can’t wait to hear about Scott’s newest Grandchild and I love David’s funny stories! That takes up about 10 minutes and then we are on to business. Updates on clients. Are we prepared for an upcoming meeting and my “topic of the day”.

This is called building Culture in your business. We have built trust and security within our company through effective communication and we can help your company too!

Look around. Do you see your staff gathered at the water cooler? Do you feel tension when you walk into the room? Are your meetings quiet with arms crossed? Do you know who’s kid is in the spelling bee and who’s kid is home from school sick today? Here’s a little funny to make you smile today…..

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Motivational Monday

What-Are-You-Doing-Text-PicWhat are you doing? Where do you want to be? Is your mortgage company running at full capacity? Are you happy to be sitting at work today? Are you HAPPY it’s MONDAY?
If you’re not, you should be. No, seriously, you’re too old to be sitting at your desk reading this and counting the days to the weekend. You’re counting your life away. Why not change what you’re doing? Stop with the stinking thinking and actually do something about it!

That’s easy for anyone to say. There is nothing more annoying than that person that says ” Just be happy.” I’d often like to reply thanks, I never thought of that! Thanks! I’ll try that!”. I like to call that person Captain Obvious!


OK, seriously how do you change?

Well, let’s break it down for those in the mortgage industry.

First, Take a full assessment of your operational policies & procedures across all aspects of your business to ensure they meet the requirements of the agencies. When you have your business process flowing smoothly, it takes the stress out of a lot of other areas and off of a lot of other people.

Next, review your human resources department; Culture, Staffing Experience, P&Ps, Training, Metrics, and Behavior Assessment Review. A lot of times if culture isn’t properly formed within a company it can cause low morale, high staff turnover and even a drop in revenue.

Lastly, don’t do it alone. Reach out to your staff. Have a company-wide meeting and see whats going on. You are probably not the only one that feels like things need to change.

If all that doesn’t work ( here comes the shameless plug) call TMS-Advisors. We’ll come in and shake it up for you and get you saying “THANK GOD ITS MONDAY”.

Seriously, Kick-Ass. Everyday.



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The Importance of Smooth Transitions in the Business Process

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!

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The Leader’s Log: How Do You Spend Your Time?

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.

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Inspiring Your People: The Cornerstone of Leadership

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.

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What It Means to Lead by Example

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?

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A Leader’s Worth is Proven Under Pressure

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.

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Perception: How You See Yourself as a Leader

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.

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Leaders Aren’t Afraid of the Unknown

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?

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The One Question You Should Ask in Every Interview

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.