Focused Managers Increase Staff Performance

“What may be the tried-and-true process of yesterday may not be the best way to do the business today.”

Anyone can be capable of managing people successfully, but not everyone does it well. Managing requires a steady focus on what is important. Whatever your specific supervisory or management role, you need to focus on objectives, to understand the big picture, to know the details, and to use your resources in order to be successful.

Focus on Objectives
One of the bigger mistakes managers make is focusing too much on the processes they manage. The manager’s real focus must be on getting the required results, which means understanding the business purpose for your specific area of responsibility.

At a basic level, the work your staff performs is just a means to an end. You have to develop a particular work flow and a set of tasks and responsibilities in order to meet a defined business objective. It could be producing loans, processing or underwriting, or some other function in the organization. But remember that the mortgage business is changing. What may be the tried-and-true process of yesterday may not be the best way to do business today. The only way to get better–producing more, doing it cheaper, or delivering your internal or external customer greater value–is to understand precisely what you are trying to accomplish and make sure you are organized enough to make it happen.

When you focus on objectives, don’t get hung up on policies and procedures. It is important to realize that policies and procedures are only guidelines for getting things done. Managers must interpret them and not be hamstrung by them. If they get in the way of accomplishing your responsibilities, change them. In making a case for change, you need to develop an even better understanding of what needs to happen, how it can work, and what it takes to perform more effectively.

Understand the Big Picture
Business direction changes as interest cycles change or as innovations occur. At the same time, no organization is perfect–no matter how intelligent the business plan or how diligently everyone works to succeed. New strategies, mistakes in judgement, and misalignment of strategy do occur. When it happens, managers must know how to relate to the changes or make sense of it and interpret it for employees.

No matter what your position or level in management, you must know your company’s overall strategy and how and where you fit into the plan. It will help you more intelligently interpret management changes, directions, and decisions. With a big picture insight, most decisions and changes will be easily understood, communicated, explained, and discussed with your staff.

Know the Details
While I do not believe a manager’s job is to focus on process, it is a manager’s job to understand the functions and important details of the work being performed. Sufficient detailed knowledge of individual tasks helps managers understand what can be accomplished, how long it should take, areas where shortcuts can be taken if necessary without too great a risk, and the problems likely to be encountered. It also helps in establishing realistic goals and monitoring progress. You do not need to be the best at every function, but you do need to understand what they are and how they fit together.

Recruit Resources and Retain Talent
Business success requires the best human resources. Recruiting and retaining qualified staff is critical. Do whatever you can to hire people even more capable than yourself. Attracting the best people requires paying close attention to compensation, setting clear expectations, rewarding and recognizing accomplishments, adding value for employees, and creating confidence through leadership.

Even if you work for a great company and consider yourself a terrific manager, salaries and benefits are important when recruiting and retaining competent staff. It is a manager’s responsibility to know what other companies in the area are paying for similar positions. If you are having difficulty in attracting the best talent to interview, reexamine your pay scales and benefits. They do not have to be the best, but they must be competitive.

Managers must set and communicate what is expected from employees, how each can be successful, and how each role fits into where the company is going. It is important to remember that talented, capable employees can work anywhere and that quality employees are in demand. These prospective employees choose one company over another because of confidence in management’s direction, quality of direct supervision, and perceived level of commitment to their individual success.

Every day, managers must add value. This requires recognizing when it is important to get out of the way, but it is also requires making sure employees have clear direction, know what is expected, have a defined game plan for success, and receive consistent review, feedback, and coaching. Helping each employee reach their potential is a big part of a manager’s job.

Being a manager requires communicating expectations. It is essential to give clear direction and to make sure everyone is moving in a common direction. Not only should you communicate often with your employees, you must also review your direction, problems, and opportunities with peers and make sure you are aligned with corporate goals.

Employees perform well when they are compensated fairly and given the opportunity to succeed. They also achieve higher goals when individual and team performance is recognized and rewarded. Set individual and team goals for daily, weekly, or monthly value-added performance and celebrate all goals attained.

The mortgage business is not easy. It has its cycles. It is important that even the smallest team in every company has confidence in the team’s direction. Employees need leaders that stand up, speak out, and give clear direction.

Employees will tell you what is working and what is not. Most of the time, they know exactly what changes should be made. Listen to them often and act accordingly. Always listen first and then decide what decision to make or direction to take. Involve staff in the decision-making process, but remember that in the end it is your decision to make.

You should also be able to recognize activities and pressures away from work that impact an employee’s performance. Managers should be sensitive to these outside influences, but at the same time, they must also help employees focus on their responsibilities. Managers should care about the professional lives of employees. Understanding what each employee wants to accomplish in their career and helping them achieve it is one of the most rewarding responsibilities of a manager. If employees cannot achieve all their aspirations within your organization, help them move to the next right opportunity.

Managing and supervising can be a heavy load. It can often take a physical toll on you. Consistently performing well requires tremendous energy. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you cannot afford to take time away from work for family and relaxation, or that you cannot afford to take time for physical conditioning. You cannot afford not to do it. To consistently be at the top of your game, you need to refresh and reenergize yourself regularly. I’m convinced that dedication to your career and success is enhanced when you are physically fit and have achieved what is for you a comfortable balance between your work and personal life.

by Jerry Baker