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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Commercial Edition   |   August 2016

Building Trust Can Boost Your Career

Honesty, self-confidence and a strong work ethic make brokers more valuable

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan once said a company’s value amounts, at its most basic level, to “capitalized reputation.” In other words, trust is a company’s most valuable asset. This is as true for people as it is for companies, if not more so. We all want to work with, play with and do business with those whom we trust.

Trust, however, is a tenuous commodity. It can take years to develop, and it can be lost in a heartbeat. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that the more reasons your employer, colleagues, customers and suppliers have to place trust in you, the more valuable you become.

Mortgage brokers, like those in other professions, primarily believe the evidence of their senses when gauging trustworthiness. It’s what we see, hear and touch, etc., that provides the evidence we need to make a decision on trustworthiness. Consequently, how you communicate is as important to building trust as what you communicate. Are you there when you said you would be? Is there confidence in your voice when you speak? Are your written communications complete, well-worded and clean? Are you well-groomed? The list goes on and on.

The point is that you have immediate, direct control over the sensory input that others receive from you. That means you have the power to build up the level of trust others place in you. Your actions will speak volumes and can lead to higher levels of professional and personal success.

First impressions count

A study  conducted at Harvard University and published more than two decades ago in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology provides telling evidence about the importance of first impressions. In the study, researchers selected 13 university instructors and surveyed several hundred students who had taken their courses. They asked questions about how well the instructor communicated. Did they know their subjects? Were they trustworthy? Were they likable? Were they competent?

The researchers then took a group of students that had not taken courses from these instructors, showed them a 30-second video clip with no sound of the instructors teaching, and asked the students the same battery of questions. The responses between the two groups were statistically insignificant.

They took the experiment one step further and showed another group of students even shorter video clips — six seconds and 15 seconds — of the same teachers, again with no sound. They asked the students the same battery of questions. Remarkably, the responses between this group, the 30-second viewers, and the students who actually took classes from the teachers were, again, statistically insignificant.

People who had spent many hours with an individual had the same impression as those who had only seen the individual for six seconds. This can mean one of two things. Either we are capable of taking the true measure of a person based on how they look, or we make snap judgments based on outward appearance and use further interaction to validate those judgments.

People draw substantive conclusions about you within seconds of seeing you for the first time. They do not even realize they are doing so. This means it is vitally important for you to be conscious of your mannerisms and the way you present yourself when you deal with clients, potential clients and lenders. As a mortgage broker, you will always be meeting people for the first time: clients, suppliers, colleagues, friends of friends, security guards and ticket agents — all of them strangers. To the degree that you understand snap judgments are typically made, you can do a couple things to your advantage.

First, consciously decide not to make snap judgments yourself about your new customers, colleagues and acquaintances. Second, conduct yourself in a way that creates the most advantageous first impression. This includes your body language, personal grooming and dress. Until the rest of humankind sheds itself of the habit of casting judgment based on outward appearances, it is to your advantage to make the best first impression possible.

Master self-esteem

The dictionary defines esteem as “high regard or respect.” It’s how you feel about someone. When you have esteem for a person, you appreciate them for who they are and what they are capable of doing. You see them in action and draw conclusions about their character. If you are like most people, you are much more comfortable doing business with those whom you regard highly.

Self-esteem boils down to believing in your own abilities and having respect for the person you are. But we draw conclusions about ourselves based on the perceptions of others. Such reflections are tainted by the other person’s agenda and biases. They are not a true reflection of self. As a result, many people either have low self-esteem or inflated egos.

This is a problem for mortgage brokers. As an executive, manager, salesperson or front-line worker, you are called upon to make decisions daily. If the esteem with which you hold yourself and your belief in your abilities are excessively low or excessively inflated, your effectiveness will be diminished. How this manifests itself is a major topic in its own right. Suffice it to say, your work will typically be of lower quality, lower quantity and plagued with problems. You will find it harder to attract and retain potential clients, win referrals from other professionals and establish beneficial relationships with lenders.

The process of improving self-esteem is straightforward, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. It involves making a current and accurate assessment of yourself and your abilities. You may not like what you find. The next step is to decide what improvements you would like to make. From there, a plan of action can be developed. Then you will face the most difficult part: following the plan. This is where you must fight inertia. It is so much easier to stay where you are than to press forward. If you do act, however, you will like the results.

You might not see the evidence immediately, but most of the time you will find that as your self-esteem improves in a more authentic way, the esteem with which others hold you and your work also will rise. The result will be better relationships with others, including fellow mortgage brokers, and more profitable business.

Take action

No matter how much good work you do as a broker, there are times in life (and at work) that things just don’t go as planned. How you respond to these situations makes the difference between whether you come through the challenge smelling like a rose or something much less appealing.

The question is: Do you act or react? Action is the process of evaluating the situation and determining what you can do about it. It is a logical, methodical approach to the situation and almost always reveals a new path for achieving your objective.

Reaction is typically an emotionally driven response. In this case, things are done out of fear or anger. Responding in this manner almost always makes the situation worse. Sometimes apathy causes one to do absolutely nothing, which is just as bad. Strive to be a person who “acts” and not one who simply “reacts.”

Saying “No” matters

One of the more insidious barriers to achieving your objectives as a mortgage broker is becoming over-extended. The temptation is to say yes to every opportunity or request that comes your way, both because you have the ability, and you want to help the person who is asking. The problem is that you can get pulled in so many directions that everything suffers, including your ability to establish yourself as a trustworthy and dependable broker.

You need to develop the ability to say no. This doesn’t mean that you can choose not to perform the more distasteful tasks associated with a job, project or activity to which you have committed yourself. Many activities involve some elements that you would rather not do.

Saying no involves assessing potential loan opportunities and commercial real estate projects when they are presented and making a determination about them. Are they likely to succeed? Are they consistent with your mortgage specialty, or a specialty you are trying to develop? Are they a distraction, or do they allow you to focus on your goals?

Ernest Hemmingway once said: “Don’t do what you sincerely don’t want to do. Never confuse movement with action.” Those who know what they want from their careers, their businesses and their lives will be able to select endeavors that take them in the direction of their goals. Develop that knowledge yourself, and you will spend more time with activities and people that provide fulfillment. You can do what you love with the people you love.


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