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There are many characteristics that are vital to becoming a great leader, and I've written about them before in great detail. Character, compassion, communication, and many other qualities can propel you to the top and help you lead your organization forward into a successful future. But even if you have all of the necessary traits of a great leader, you can fail miserably if you don't have something else. No matter how well you have mastered your role as a “leader” in your organization, you cannot succeed unless you have a solid support group around you to help. You cannot be a great leader without a great leadership team.
So, while our tendency is to focus on self-improvement—developing our own qualities so that we can become better leaders—it is also important to turn our focus outward. In addition to striving to become better leaders, we must consider how we might surround ourselves with better leaders. No President has even been successful without a great Cabinet. No head coach can manage without assistant coaches. No general has ever been victorious without competent lieutenants and majors. In the same way, we as leaders of our organizations in the mortgage industry need to surround ourselves with great leadership teams in order for us to be successful. So, how do we do that? I suggest six ways ...
1. We need to gather the right people
I began this article discussing the personal characteristics you try to develop in yourself as a leader. In general, you want to be a person of integrity. You want to be strong and dependable, so that you don't let down the people who are looking up to you and trusting in you to move your organization forward. The relevant question here is: are you looking for those same qualities in the people you select for your leadership team? If you are going to be successful, you want to bring people in who have the same drive toward integrity and dependability that you do. You want people on your team who are just as interested in self-improvement and professional development. Take a look at your leadership team right now. Do you have the right people? Do you have, for example, people who are selfish or people who are always complaining about everything? Or, do you have people who are conscientious and who are constantly trying to improve themselves as well as the organization? The first step toward building a great leadership team is making sure you have the right people on it.
2. Putting people into the right positions
After you've determined you've got the right people, the next step is putting them into the right positions. What's important here is knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the people your leadership team. All of them should have the desire to be better leaders, but not all of them will have the capabilities to lead equally well in every area. You've got to be able to "put your aces in their places," and determine who is best suited for which responsibilities. The leaders on your team with great people skills shouldn't be shut up in an office and, vice versa, the leaders who excel in quantitative thinking shouldn't be out mixing and mingling with the public. More than likely, you have a diverse range of people on your team. Learn where they fit best, and you'll have everything you need.
3. Assign priorities
After you have the right people and you've put them into the right positions, you've got to give them the right priorities. This step is all about getting your leadership team on board with fulfilling the mission of your organization. As the leader, you've got to be the one who sets the strategic vision for your team. One of the biggest problems that could occur on a leadership team involves its members losing sight of the big picture. As each member of your team gets wrapped up their individual roles, they may lose sight of the broader objectives they're working toward. You've got to be the one to keep these priorities fresh in their minds, so they can always be aware of the fact that they're working toward a common goal.
4. Following the right processes
The fourth step in developing a strong leadership team is to make sure your team members are following the right processes. Every organization has a system that enables it to operate smoothly, minimizing bottlenecks and permitting each department to be as effective and efficient as possible. Since leaders tend to have strong personalities, the temptation will always be there for the members of your leadership team to become too cavalier. They may begin to feel at times that they're in charge, so they can make their own rules and do what they want. If this happens too often, the result can quickly become utter chaos in your organization. You've got to make sure the people on your leadership team are commit to the system in your organization. They've got to be willing to follow the processes that lead to organizational success.
5. Growth through participation
The fifth step in building a solid leadership team is bringing the people on your team together in participation. It doesn't matter how competent your team members are individually. If they never get together to spent time with one another, it isn't exactly accurate to call them a team. In his book Death by Meeting, one of my favorite leadership experts Patrick Lencioni suggests committing to a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly meeting to make sure your team members are working out their differences to be on the same page. Whether or not such frequency is feasible for you, I do think it's important to commit to some consistent meeting times to bring your team together. Thinking of meetings as practice before the big game. Teams that don't practice together aren't likely to play well together when it's game time.
6. Commit to progress
The final step in building the best leadership team possible is to get the members of your team to commit to progress. This last step involves the ongoing training and development of your team. It's not enough to build a team of people who are great at what they do—you've got to build a team of people who are devoted to getting even better at what they do. Of course, this final step never ends. Training must continue on, and the members of your team must be lifelong learners. When I talk about commitment to progress, I'm talking about each member of your team being committed to professional development in their areas of expertise. But, if each team member is devoted to individual progress, the inevitable result will be progress for the entire team. Are you committed to providing your leadership team with the resources they need for continual improvement? If you want to best team you can get, you've got to be willing to push them to get better.
So, to sum up, building a solid leadership team is all about putting the right people into the right positions and giving them the right priorities to—by following the right processes, agreeing to the right amount of participation, and committing to the right amount of progress—achieve success for your organization. Does this sound like the way you are building your team? If not, what needs to change?
David Lykken, a 43-year veteran of the mortgage industry, is president of Transformational Mortgage Solutions (TMS), a management consulting firm that provides transformative business strategies to owners and “C-Level” executives via consulting, executive coaching and various communications strategies. He is a frequent guest on FOX Business News and hosts his own weekly podcast called “Lykken On Lending” heard Monday’s at 1:00 p.m. ET at LykkenOnLending.com. David’s phone number is (512) 759-0999 and his e-mail is David@TMS-Advisors.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.