Enhancing the Manager/Leader Equation

The mortgage business, like most businesses, must be well managed to succeed. But today a successful mortgage branch or company requires more than capable management to succeed in a challenging industry. It requires leaders to guide, inspire, and maintain every employee’s focus on the immediate tasks as well as important goals and objectives to be realized.
A mortgage team can be managed to an established or known set of rules and still fail. In the mortgage business seldom does a day go by without challenges. We can be confronted with obstacles on a specific loan, processes that are not working or understood, and differences or conflicts between employees that distract others from the work to be done. Any of these challenges—and many others that arise—can be handled in accordance with policy, procedure, or custom and fall short of what is needed and certainly far short of what could be accomplished.
Leadership is what makes the difference in how well managers succeed. Management and leadership are not the same. It has been said of managers that they “do things right,” but leaders “do the right thing.” Managers need to know what must be done and how to do it. There is no substitute for job knowledge. But managers who are leaders know how to temper policies, procedures and customs to work in the specific environment and situation they face. They understand how to make decisions in the context of where they are and the goals to be accomplished. Leaders take charge and make decisions. Their judgments may not always be the most desired, but the team nevertheless respects them.
Some people may be born with the innate skill to be effective leaders. But you do not need to be a natural leader to be effective. You just need to recognize what it takes to be more effective. The following seven skills can help improve your leadership abilities. Review each one. Evaluate yourself. Work on any area that may need more focus and you will become a more effective manager and leader.

Define Core Values
Values are the principles, standards or ethics by which you want to operate your business. These values shape the character of your team. Daily management actions reinforce these core values. Everyone on the team should know what attributes and actions are valued most and how employee performance will be measured.
Defining these core values is the responsibility of the team’s leadership. These are the business and workplace values important to management and the ones employees would be expected to exhibit. It is terribly difficult, if not impossible, to be something you’re not. If your team is to exhibit values you believe important, management must live by them too.
Hard work, teamwork, and integrity are core team values crucial to me. I would also add entrepreneurial spirit. You may have others or different ones that you believe are most important. These values are what you look for when hiring new employees and promoting and advancing others. Managers must coach their team to embrace and build upon a defined core value system.

Create a Common Understanding
Every team must have a common framework by which to work. The team must have a clear understanding of the most important core values to go by. This common value system must be consistently communicated and reinforced to all employees. Values are lived every day. They are not dusted off occasionally and spoken about.
The team must know where they are going. What is the vision and what are the strategies and timeframes to get there? Strategies, plans, and directions must fit within the context of the team’s values.
Good managers ensure their teams know what to do and what is expected. A leader works constantly to ensure every employee has a common understanding of what is important to the team and where and how the employee fits in. Internal and external factors inevitably change operating environments. Reacting to change and taking advantage of opportunities requires good communication. Make sure everyone is on the same page, moving in a common direction and at the same time. It is challenging, but when done, it makes a big difference.

Consistency is Critical
Management decisions and actions must be consistent with core values and the team’s vision and direction. There is nothing more confusing and ultimately debilitating to team’s morale and spirit than inconsistency in decision-making. The result of inconsistent decision-making is an increasing unwillingness by managers to make decisions.
Ultimately you want everyone on the team to be a leader, able and willing to make the right decision. Getting to this point happens in progressive stages. It starts with everyone understanding the core values and then understanding the goals and directions. When decisions and actions are consistent, the team will be more able to consistently make the right decisions themselves.

Be Decisive
Decision-making can be difficult. There is seldom one right answer and there is seldom only one approach to solving issues or ways to take advantage of opportunities. Getting all the facts necessary to make a decision may not come easy. But, despite the difficulties, decisions must be made quickly.
Some smart person once said that “time is money.” Making the wrong decision also costs money. Not making a decision or making it too quickly will cost money either way. Managers must quickly get the facts, ask questions for understanding, make the decision and move on.

Have a Bias toward Objectivity
Managers and leaders must have the facts when making decisions. You may have noticed that some people with a particular point of view typically have facts that support that view. Other people with different views have somewhat different supporting information. Decisiveness is important, but it is also important to be right.
Good decision-making requires objectivity. Decisiveness can save money or make money, so make sure you have asked questions and understand the pros and cons before using your best judgment. There is nothing like having some solid information when making small and big decisions.

Everyone is Different
Every employee or team member is different. They have different levels of knowledge, different goals and aspirations, and are motivated by different reasons. No single management style or approach works for everyone. Good leaders recognize they need different management approaches to motivate and guide each employee’s development. This will help each employee achieve greater results.

It’s Not About You
We all have egos. Some have bigger ones than others, but egos do drive performance and results. But the team’s success is not about the leader; it is about the success of the team. It is important to take “I” out of what is being done. The team doesn’t want to hear “I did this or I want this.” The team wants to be included and recognized for it what it can do and what it can contribute.
The goal must always be individual action and accomplishment. Accomplishments must be directed to where the total organization is headed. It will take everyone working together to succeed.
When managers become leaders, and employees recognize they have an opportunity to demonstrate personal initiative and be a leader, the results can be exponential. Do not miss this opportunity.

By Jerry Baker