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Why Autonomy is Essential for Building a Great Team

In the mortgage industry, we as leaders face a difficult dilemma. We want our employees to feel the freedom to be creative. We want to enable them to take risks and have failures in order grow. However, due to the regulatory nature of our industry, there are some risk that cannot be taken; the breaking of some rules can be catastrophic.

Due to the fear of falling out of compliance, we are often tempted to make it all about the rules. We develop systems that include safeguards for staying within compliance, and we expect our people to work within those systems. Thinking outside of the box isn’t often considered an asset in the mortgage industry but, rather, a liability. In our line of work, it can be very easy to buy into the idea that a good employee is an employee who follows the rules.

There are a few problems with this model. First, playing it safe and limiting ourselves to the same systems cannot lead to growth. If you can’t think outside the box, then the box will never get any bigger than it is. Growth comes from expanding the possibilities and developing the systems beyond their current capabilities. Only if employees feel they have the autonomy to take some healthy risks will they express any interest in growth.

More importantly, though, autonomy attracts the right kind of people to our organizations. If we attract only people who are interested in following the rules, we are attracting people with no ambition or passion for their work. The people who are passionate about what they do are also the people who take risks and push possibilities. These are the kind of people we want on our team. Do we need to be careful? Of course we do. But we can never let fear prevent us from moving in a positive direction. How do you juggle to tension between staying compliant and enabling your people to take healthy risks?