June 3, 2023
By Julie Piepho, Principal, BlackFin Group
As the mortgage industry continues to right-size and lay off staff to further contain costs, many of the tasks and duties of the departed are often left to the employees who remain. Even while various duties and projects will go away until the bottom line turns green again, many of the tasks and duties must continue to be managed to keep the lights on.
During the boom times when the industry is rocking and rolling with great profits, leadership will often promote people because it was the right thing to do based on the excellent value they bring to the organization, in their area of expertise, not in the area where they were being promoted. Unfortunately, all too often this can result in disastrous results. Unless you as a leader will inspect what you expect.
While I can site numerous examples over the decades where leadership failed to inspect what they expect, I recall one recent, costly, example where an individual was promoted to a key management position by the owners of a mortgage company and the owners effectively turned the reins of the kingdom over to them. Three years and millions of dollars later, the company found themselves having to let this individual go due to a massive project failure and then start scrambling as they desperately had to re-wind the past three years while working to re-gain the trust and culture of their employees. Bottom line, going back to square one after a market has turned, is not ideal.
While we will save the discussion of leadership selection tips for another day, how can leadership prevent this from happening when you do have to combine jobs, promote people, bring key executives or consultant in from the outside to successfully execute, and ensure your culture will remain?
1. Start with a well-defined job description. Other job duties, as defined, which has always been our “laughable” catch all phrase, but the key initiatives and responsibilities, even those now combined, should be well defined.
2. If there are projects or initiatives that come with the open position, make sure you outline the milestones and key delivery dates that must be achieved. Be sure to include the departments that must be involved to support this individual and their team. Then, make sure all parties involved are on board with these milestones and dates.
3. Ensure your culture, mission, vision, and values are also inherent with the potential leader you are considering. Interview them intensely to fully validate what they’ve said versus how they actually live. If they do not believe in your culture, they will go off on their own agenda and become a bad worm and eventually create a sub-culture you do not want.
4. Have weekly and or bi-weekly meetings with these key individuals. Have an agenda. Remain engaged and stay curious. Ask for progress on milestones and dates. Actively monitor and define red flags if these milestones and dates are not being met. Is it resistance from your current staff and why? Is it resistance from the key leadership? Is it the lack of leadership experience or self-awareness, not recognizing or admitting where they need help and default to job preservation maneuvers?
5. Assign a mentor, besides yourself, to a key executive, who has been there for an extended period of time. A mentor who knows the culture and the key initiatives of the company. Sometimes, they will answer questions the new person is afraid to ask.
As highlighted above, when leadership at the top is negligent, not inspecting what they expect, it can cost a firm millions. Expecting someone to take over a new job, with or without additional responsibilities, without doing the things itemized above, one is shirking their duties as an owner/executive. You are setting them up for failure and putting the firm at significant risk. Set everyone up for success and your bottom line will start to increase, cost savings will occur, employee satisfaction will happen, your culture will keep intact. Your strategic plan will continue with just a few minor changes along the way.
Julie Piepho, CMB, is a Principal Consultant with BlackFin Group in the Mortgage Strategy Practice. Julie is nationally recognized as a Mortgage Strategy Consulting expert with over four decades’ experience leading and coaching sales and operations teams while in executive roles at Cornerstone Mortgage, Norwest Mortgage and Wells Fargo Mortgage. She holds the prestigious Master Certified Mortgage Banker designation from the Mortgage Bankers Association. For more information on how we can help contact email@example.com