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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   November 2018

These Leadership Traits Will Serve You and Others Well

The mortgage industry needs to move away from a sink-or-swim mentality with new employees

There is no traditional or clear-cut path to success for those entering the mortgage industry. Whereas most employers look to recent college graduates or technically skilled workers to fill their ranks, individuals looking to work as mortgage originators typically have a wide variety of skills and backgrounds. r_2018-11_Hardwick_spot

While some transition from a career in financial services or sales, the mortgage industry is such a unique and complicated space that it requires years of in-depth training and coaching for entrants to achieve meaningful long-term success. Just as there’s no clear-cut pathway into the industry, there’s also some difficulty for those looking to hire, train and coach their own staff of mortgage professionals.

It’s a frank truth that most branch or office managers started exactly where their newfound employees did: as a single mortgage originator looking to positively impact borrowers’ lives. While this makes managers well-equipped to explain the nuances of the mortgage process, it does not necessarily make them natural leaders.

Instead, leadership is a trait and skill that is best developed through years of service and with strict dedication to continued learning. While a new employee will benefit from a manager’s experience as a mortgage originator, it also falls upon managers to serve as mentors and leaders for their employees. This means guiding them toward true success, not only in the workplace, but in their lifestyle as well — ensuring that employees maintain a healthy work-life balance and develop their skills as mortgage professionals.

Learn to listen

One of the most important tools in a lender’s toolkit is active listening. As the name suggests, active listening means giving one’s full attention to whoever is speaking and concentrating on the purpose or intention behind their words.

Oftentimes, and this applies to both management and staff, individuals will passively listen to others, only registering what they consider interesting or relevant to themselves within the immediate moment. All great leaders have been guilty of this at times, but with diligent work, anyone can learn how to be an active listener.

Active listening removes the passive element and helps one meaningfully engage with others on a personal and professional level. Active listening requires listeners to not only use nonverbal cues — such as strong eye contact, facial expressions and posture — but verbal ones as well.

Establishing boundaries between work and employees’ personal lives creates healthier, happier mortgage professionals.

These can often be the most difficult habits to internalize, but asking thoughtful questions, reflecting or repeating key phrases, and summarizing what someone has said demonstrates the listener’s interest and attentiveness. Furthermore, it also helps the listener to better understand and respond with sound reasoning that adds value to the conversation. 

Employees expect managers and, more importantly, their leaders to serve as the guiding force in their day-to-day work lives. A leader who is unable or uninterested in listening to their employees will have a tough time building an efficient and well-run team. Not only does active listening help leadership earn the trust and respect of employees, it also helps them better understand issues and potential solutions — which are often provided directly by the employee and identified through active listening.

Serve as a coach

Learning how to be a responsible, helpful coach can make all the difference in a team’s success. The industry has for too long now lacked mentorship programs with high levels of accountability, training and guidance.

Why is it that mortgage offices are notorious for their sink-or-swim mentality? This mindset only encourages employees to overwork themselves and not learn or engage with their borrowers on a meaningful level. Additionally, it increases costs as employee turnover has been proven to be quite expensive.

 

Key Points

Manage wisely with these tips
  • Listen to others actively.
  • Engage both verbally and nonverbally.
  • Create mentorships with accountability.
  • Consider reverse mentorships.
  • Encourage work-life balance for employees.
  • Teach employees how to plan their work weeks.
 

New mortgage originators are too often encouraged to start pursuing loans with little more than a week or two of training. Considering a home is one of the most important buying decisions in a person’s life, lenders should strive to provide a high-level of service throughout the process. This is impossible for new staff without the guidance and abilities of an experienced mortgage mentor.

Just as working with borrowers requires a soft touch and the heart of a teacher, so too does working with employees. For leaders, it’s not so much getting employees to do their jobs perfectly 100 percent of the time, as it is helping them to learn the skills necessary to accomplish their daily tasks and learn from their mistakes.

This can be accomplished by pairing inexperienced home-loan specialists with those employees who have a proven track record of success. This way, newer employees can learn the ropes and, eventually, work toward achieving the same level of skill as their mentors.

Learning does not stop, however, even after years of service. The pace of technology today is rapidly changing how borrowers engage with lenders and even the mortgage process as a whole.

Not only do inexperienced employees require a mentor, but industry veterans do as well. This can even happen in the form of “reverse mentorships,” where experienced professionals can learn from their newer colleagues who are familiar with the latest forms of technology, particularly in social media, sales and marketing techniques.

Set boundaries

Establishing boundaries between work and employees’ personal lives creates healthier, happier mortgage professionals. Unfortunately, this is an area where the industry as a whole is woefully lacking.

There also is a tendency to encourage employees to work well beyond the traditional work week. All too often intelligent and skilled mortgage professionals come into the business with a passion for serving others, only to have the business slowly take over their personal lives as well.

While there are moments in everyone’s career where additional time and effort are needed to complete a project or serve a client, it is only to the detriment of an employee’s physical, mental and emotional health to have that occur on a consistent basis. In all frankness, doing so also hurts the business they work for by encouraging other high-value recruits to fall into a similar pattern. It also increases the likelihood for costly mistakes to occur at any step of the mortgage process through carelessness and lack of attention to detail.

To combat this trend, it’s necessary for leadership to step up and help employees build positive habits that allow them to balance their personal and professional lives. This can be accomplished simply through leading by example.

Just as employees should maintain a positive work-life balance, so too should their supervisors and managers. In this way, employees not only learn the ins and outs of the mortgage business from those experienced mentors, but they also learn how to manage their priorities and day-to-day workload.

Proper planning also is important to maintaining a healthy mindset. Rather than haphazardly approaching each week, help employees map out their days and weeks through the use of planning meetings and action charts or lists. This helps them build daily discipline and move through their week with purpose, which ensures they will be at home (and focused on being at home) at the end of each and every day.

Lead with purpose

Leadership in the service of others is an ideal that all managers should strive for. Gathering together a team of mortgage professionals, whether in a one-room shop, branch network or on a multinational business, is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

Employees will look to leadership for more than guidance and a strategic mission, but also for how they should conduct themselves and work with borrowers. With proper planning and a commitment to continued learning and education, business leaders can engage with their employees on a meaningful level and instill in them a commitment to success.

After all, an office is much more than just a business venture. It’s a place where productive, talented people collaborate daily. Many will even stake their future careers and livelihoods on such opportunities. It’s a leader’s job to recognize and reward this commitment by listening to their needs, coaching them through problems and providing a clearly-defined vision for the future that allows employees to live well-balanced and successful lives.

•  •  •

People are a business’s most valuable and prized assets. If an organization treats their teammates well, it will reap the rewards of a productive, excited workforce. One way to accomplish this is to listen, coach and mentor well.


 


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