Nobody likes being criticized. Nobody likes being told they’re wrong. Nobody likes being told that there are things about them that they need to change. As leaders in our organizations, it can be really easy to escape that discomfort. Most of the people who come into contact with us each day are probably more interested in flattering us than they are in critiquing us. So, why wouldn’t we take advantage of our position and avoid the discomfort of feedback?
Well, if we’ve risen to positions of leadership in our organizations, we probably already know the answer to this question: without feedback, we can’t improve. We can’t grow. We can’t become better leaders. The fact that so many people are trying to avoid criticism of us isn’t a benefit; it’s actually a disadvantage. If we don’t have people who are willing to tell us where we’re going wrong, then how are we supposed to turn things around and continue heading in the right direction?
Here’s my advice: always be soliciting feedback from your people. At the end of every conversation, ask your people if they agree with you and why they feel the way they do. Conduct anonymous surveys periodically on the policies you are implementing. Have an open door policy and let your people come to you when they have suggestions. Feedback may feel uncomfortable in the short term, but it strengthens us in the long term. Being a great leader often means we’ve made a lot of mistakes…and then fixed them. Find people who are willing to point out your mistakes to you–that’s how you become a stronger leader.
Every once in a while, we’ll see a company get caught up in an ethical scandal. In recent years, regulators have been looking closely for such slip-ups and, while it can certainly be argued that some of the treatment is unfair and overreaching, some organizations have been caught red-handed. When this sort of things happens, we sometimes see the leadership laying the blame on lower level workers. What we rarely see is the leaders in an organization taking the blame for what goes on in their own organizations.
It is true that some employees go against the ethical standards of their leaders, and it actually isn’t the leaders’ fault when they get into trouble. More often than not, though, I think that issues of integrity lay squarely at the feed of the organization’s leadership. Integrity nearly always starts at the top and funnels downward through the organization. If we as leaders in our organizations do not have high standards of integrity, then chances are our people won’t either.
What does integrity mean? When you think about it, it’s all about consistency. The actual root of the word has to do with being “integrated,” and it really boils down to holding yourself to the same standard all the time. Integrity is when your beliefs, words, and actions are in alignment. Whether you realize it or not, your people are looking to you to set the pace for what integrity looks like in your organization. What kind of example are you setting for your people with the integrity that you hold?
Passion not typically associated with the mortgage industry. From the outside, people often view anything within the financial sector as drab and uninteresting. As a result, many people entering the industry for the first time may be doing so simply because it’s a job. They may not fully grasp how fulfilling a career in the industry can be. As leaders in the industry, it’s up to us to show them.
It’s hard, however, to convince our people to be passionate about their work if we aren’t showing any passion in what we do. In the day-in, day-out hustle and bustle of business, it can be easy to start feeling like we’re going through the motions. Passion, sometimes, is not a natural disposition. As leaders, we’ve got to deliberately keep the fire fueled if we want to communicate the excitement we have for the industry to our people.
Our people will be interested to the extent that we are interested. Passion is contagious. You can’t be a great leader without a sense of passion for what you do. People want to be inspired in their work. If you aren’t passionate about your work, people will look elsewhere. Are you showing in your behavior that the mortgage industry is a fulfilling place to build a career? Do you run on passion?
Why are you in the mortgage business? What drives you? Until you answer these questions, you can’t really have the fire inside that spreads to your team. If you ask yourself these questions, though, and get a firm handle on your purpose, you’ll start the kind of fire that becomes unquenchable.
In the mortgage industry, everyone starts in the same place. While there are some college programs specializing in the mortgage business, most people who are new to the industry are discovering the mortgage business for the first time and therefore rely on extensive training. As a result, our teams are only as good as we can train them to be. The problem, of course, is that training in the mortgage industry can be difficult, time consuming, and expensive. How do you make sure you’re getting the most out of it?
Most of the time, when we’re looking for good training programs, we focus on the quality of information the trainer is bringing to the table. We look for trainers who know the industry well and can communicate everything they know to our team. We figure that, if the trainers know what they’re talking about, that knowledge will automatically be absorbed by the team. However, while industry knowledge is obviously vital, there is one other thing essential to a good training program….
Think about the best teachers you had growing up. What do they all have in common? Sure, they were probably smart, but is that why you remember them? What makes them stick out? If you’re like me and many others, I would say that it’s one simple thing: they managed to make learning fun.
In the same way, you want to seek out trainers who make the learning process enjoyable. Training should be engaging. Your people should love it. If you find a training program that actually makes your people want to learn, then you know you’ve found a winner.