Lykken on Leadership: Never Stop Asking Why ... Six Questions to Start With – NMP Skip to main content

Lykken on Leadership: Never Stop Asking Why ... Six Questions to Start With

David Lykken
Dec 23, 2016

Perhaps the greatest leadership lessons of all can be learned from children. If you've ever been around a young child for a long period of time, you've probably been both energized and annoyed by their level of curiosity. When we're adults, we sometimes tend to be satisfied with the simple answers to questions. We seldom feel the need to dig deeper; rather, we shrug our shoulders, say "it is what it is," and move on to the subject. Kids don't seem to have this in them. Instead, they never seem to be satisfied. When they've latched onto something they're trying to figure out, they never stop asking why—no matter how many answers you give.

There's something in this continual asking of "why?" that gets at the heart of what it means to be a leader. Until you really know who you are and why you do what you do, you can't really expect others to follow you. Without a great deal of introspection on your part, you become the very definition of "the blind leading the blind." How can people know why they're following you if you don't even know why you're going where you're going? Asking yourself "why" is elemental. Until you do this, nothing else will make sense.

One of my favorite books on leadership, and one that I'm continuing to integrate into my consulting and coaching, is Simon Sinek's Start With Why. In this book, Sinek explains the concept of the "Golden Circle." The outer ring—what most people see—is "what" you do. It's your product—what you have to show for in your work. Just inside that is "how" you do what you do—the process or methodology by which you accomplish your "what." But the most important part, the center of the circle, is your "why." Your "why" is what motivated you to do what you do. If you haven't spent a great deal of time figuring out what this is, your "how" and your "what" will quickly become hollow as a result. In this article, I would like to discuss a few important "why" questions you might start asking as a leader in the mortgage industry.

1. Why are you in the mortgage business?
When you ask this question, understand that it is a different question than "How did I get into the mortgage business?" We get into the mortgage industry by all sorts of avenues. To some of us, it's the family business. Perhaps our parents were involved in the industry, so we followed in their footsteps. Maybe some of us just happened to land a job in the industry and then decided to make a career of it. But forget how you got here and instead ask this question: Why am I still here? In other words, what drives you to remain in the mortgage industry when there are other industries in which you could be working? What is it about the mortgage industry that drives you? How does it get you excited? If every leader in the mortgage industry started asking this question, I guarantee you we would all be much better off.

2. Why are you in a leadership role?
Just because you are in the mortgage business, that doesn't mean you have to be a leader. You could just put your head down and do your job but, if you're taking the time to read this, I'm betting that you are a leader in some capacity within your organization. Why did you choose to become a leader? Of course, your answer to this question must go beyond perks such as earning more money or getting more vacation time. What gets you passionate about serving in the role of a leader? Why do you like to lead? Is it the thrill of knowing people are counting on you? Is it the feeling you get from inspiring others in their work? Is it knowing that what you are doing really makes a difference? Maybe it's a combination of all these things, but you'll never know unless you ask.

3. Why do you work for the company you work for?
Like the first question, don't confuse this question with, "How did I get this job?" As you grow in your capacity as a leader, your buying power as an employee will grow with it. If you're not at the point where you can start "playing the field" for better opportunities, you will be eventually. When you're at that point, you've got to ask yourself the question, "why am I staying with this company?" What is it about the philosophy or mission of your company that gets under your skin and makes you proud to be an employee? Or, maybe you're an entrepreneur—maybe you're in the company because it's your company. If that's the case, the question only becomes more important. Why are you building the company the way you are? What about it makes you proud that your name is on it? Whether you own your company or you are an employee of your company, you've got to ask this question. Why is your job more than a job?

4. Why do you work with the people you work with?
As a leader in the mortgage industry, you likely have some say over who is on your team. Why do you choose to build your team the way you do? This question is really a deep question, because it means you're not only focusing on your own why; you're also focusing on the "why" of others. Have you asked your people why they do what they do and why they want to work for you? What drives the members of your team to show up for work day in and day out to get the job done? If you don't have much control over who you work with, then you can still ask yourself why you stay on the team when you could go work somewhere else. What is it about your colleagues and/or employees that make you want to keep working for your company?

5. Why do you serve the customers you serve?
If you've had any training in marketing, you'll know the golden rule: you can't please everyone. Your target customer is not likely "everyone." If you cast your net that broadly, you want catch much. So, why do you aim to serve the customers you do? What is it about the people you are trying to reach that makes you want to serve them, and not some other segment of the market? If you can ask this question on an ongoing basis, it will almost certainly help you grow your business.

6. Why do you partner with the vendors you partner with?
In addition to asking why you serve your customers, you'll want to ask why you are choosing to be a customer of the vendors you've hired. If you are a leader in any capacity, you have likely played a role in making purchasing decisions for technology companies, training companies, consulting companies, and so on. Why did you choose the vendors you chose? What is it about their "why" that aligns with your "why?" Great partners can make an enormous difference. Do you know why you've hired the partners you've hired?

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 David’s phone number is (512) 759-0999 and his e-mail is [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. 

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