Success Comes From Outside The Comfort Zone

Kate Amor believes risking failure is invigorating and gets you noticed

Headshot of Laura Brandao
Laura Brandao
Kate Amor

Kate, what does the term “trailblazer” mean to you? How does it feel to be a trailblazer?

KA: Every single person has an inner trailblazer just waiting to be set free.

To me, a trailblazer is someone who follows their inner compass and recognizes the worth they bring to any task. They challenge the status quo and move boldly forward even if the path ahead seems obscured or their confidence might be wavering a bit.

The most innovative and progressive individuals are the ones who follow their own North Star and work toward producing what they believe to be products and services that their customers want and need based on their research and good solid strategy. While it’s important to understand industry trends, trailblazers do not waste energy watching and trying to emulate or outsmart the company next door. They trust their intuition and act accordingly.

One example is how so many companies felt that remote work just wasn’t possible. Many thought it wouldn’t work so they gave up on it before even getting started. My response to this limiting mindset was: OK, what do we need to do to make remote work a reality? How can we build and foster a culture that is sustainable and productive with employees working from home or in different geographic locations?

A trailblazer has a mindset that says, “How can this be done?” instead of “That can’t be done.” They are willing to make the decisions that move us forward rather than waiting to see others succeed or fail.

Let’s build on that example. What recommendations would you give to keep a remote working business culture vibrant and engaging? What changes have you seen with remote work?

KA: Remote working is now the new normal for many of us. So, for managers and people who are leaders, it behooves us to make sure we keep things fresh, engaging, and creative even when we are not all in the same physical space.

First and foremost, I believe it is important to make sure everyone on the remote team is on the same page. It is critical to set firm boundaries and to respect everyone’s time.

I have set expectations for my team regarding flex time, core business hours, what their office space should be like, and what type of technology is necessary to make sure work time is productive time.

Making sure everyone is on board with the boundaries and expectations makes it much easier to have the team working efficiently and all members feeling respected and valued.

We have an employee engagement committee that sponsors activities to foster teamwork and a good workplace culture even from afar. Everyone on the team takes a turn at setting up and running events and it makes everyone feel included and that they have a role to play. Having people rotate responsibilities keeps it fresh and the team engaged and energized.

One of the things I swear by and that was taught to me by more than one of my mentors as I was building my career is to never manage by email. Email is simply a way to cover yourself and create a paper trail and should never be a substitution for important communication. Ask yourself how much time is wasted by employees waiting on responses to emails before proceeding with important tasks?

I coach my leaders to follow up with a different type of contact just like you would if you were in the office. Sending an email is fine, but if a response does not occur within a short window of time, follow up in a more instantaneous manner. We have all these communication tools at our disposal, and we need to use them efficiently.

This is even more important when we are working at a distance. When you can’t simply walk over to someone’s desk and ask if they have had a look at your email, a different method of eliciting a timely response is not only available but needs to be used.

Kate Amor speaker

Remote work has come a long way due to the pandemic making it a necessity in most professions. I also believe that it presents an opportunity to increase engagement and productivity when done with purpose.

One of the benefits about working remotely is the time that would be ultimately wasted on things like a commute or figuring out what to wear to the office is significantly reduced. Remote work has freed us from those relatively unimportant tasks and given us more time for creativity and productivity.

One of my time-saving tricks is I bought several of the same simple — yet professional — shirts for all my online meetings. I don’t waste time wondering what to wear when I have an important meeting. It is a freeing feeling to leave that worry behind.

Kate, please tell us where you see yourself and other women in our industry going in the next five years? What does that landscape look like?

KA: I think this is an amazing time to be a woman in this business. The entire paradigm of how we view ourselves and our professional roles is shifting. It is an exciting time for women to have a seat at the table and really let our lights shine. There are many studies indicating that the more diversity we have in our organizations, the more successful we are.

More awareness creates more opportunity. For women who are willing to step up, raise their hands, and say, “Take a look at what I can do,” the possibilities are truly endless.

I see only more growth and diversity in the years to come. Women are taking their rightful places at the executive table and in all roles in our industry. It is a joy to watch that unfold. I see a landscape that includes women in every level of organizations being recognized for the talent, drive, and creativity they bring to their professions.

What would be your advice to young women just starting out in their careers in the mortgage industry? What would you like them to know based on your experience?

KA: I want the young women starting out today to do things that push them far outside of their comfort zones. To spread their wings and believe they can fly even if they have never tried before. Taking that leap, even if it terrifies them at first, will build confidence, grit and resilience that will carry them further than they can imagine.

So many women don’t apply for that great job, or step forward to run a project or whatever the opportunity is because they are afraid and don’t believe in themselves. I say, “Do it anyway.”

It is worth every drop of sweat and every shaky moment just to prove to yourself that you are worthy, capable, and tough enough to rise to the challenge.

Every step in this direction is another opportunity to build resilience and that resilience is confidence. Confidence that comes with facing your fears and realizing that you are worthy of that promotion or new role or whatever it is you want for yourself.

Don’t allow negative thinking to stop you or be the reason you opt out of something that you are passionate about. Choose to be brave and allow yourself the luxury of confidence and strength. Visualize where you want to go, and the road will appear before you in the form of new challenges to be met.

And what is your opinion about mentors in a career? Do you think they are important?

KA: I think mentorship is a huge component of building a career, especially when just starting out. Finding the right person to support you and push you through the difficult times when you feel like you want to stop or turn away from an opportunity is of inestimable value.

Confidence and resilience can come from within if you have the right person drawing it out of you with advice, hard-earned wisdom and experience. I would even advise finding more than one mentor if you can. Experience and differing points of view are critical to developing and growing into your profession in a successful and healthy way.

What do you like to do outside of work?

KA: My husband and I enjoy renovating and restoring historic homes. We own several property investment companies and we find historic homes, purchase them and renovate and rejuvenate them.

I also like to spend time on myself, so I practice meditation, journaling, and gratitude. I believe in working on myself regularly to become the best version of myself I can possibly be.

One of the keys to my success has been recognizing and working on developing my best self through a positive mindset and choosing to see myself as the author of my own destiny and not a victim of any set of circumstances.

Kate, where did your positive mindset really get started? What made you change your outlook?

KA: I have always been into self-improvement projects and am naturally curious. My goal is to continually evolve, investigate myself and find new and better ways of doing things.

During this journey, I’ve discovered that I have a light within me that needs to shine outwards. It is my authentic self, and it is more than worthy of being seen by the world. It offers hope and hopefully, provides inspiration to others around me.

When we spend more time looking inward for answers rather than worrying about what others think, or comparing ourselves to others, we begin to know who we truly are. A positive attitude follows naturally from knowing your own capabilities and strengths. Having a strong support network is important; however we also need to allow ourselves to get to a place where we can be introspective to solve issues and recognize our ability to be a light and a leader.

If you want to be a leader, trailblazer, or a beacon of light to others, your first task is to work on yourself and be the best and most authentic “you” possible. When that has happened, you can begin to show others how to find that best version of themselves. You have an obligation to do that inner work and transcend your own issues before picking up the mantle for others and giving them the support they need to follow your example.

Headshot of Laura Brandao
Laura Brandao

Laura Brandao is president at American Financial Resources, Inc.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine March 2022 issue.
Published on
Mar 31, 2022
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