Breaking Out of the Comfort Zone

“Our motivation basically boils down to completing the best loans for our clients as seamlessly as possible. Sometimes we lose track of the personal part of the equation. I’m not talking about our relationship with homebuyers—we’re always solid there. I mean what happens in the office, over the phone, and via email between our team members.”  

This client quote echoes a common theme we hear.  We’ve been working with this large national lender, in particular, since 2011. They first contacted us to help reach a number of strategic goals, including improving the way their employees communicate and collaborate with one another.

We introduced them to “Relating for Results” a coaching program designed to build more effective professional relationships. The program emphasizes self-awareness and utilizes the Strength Deployment Inventory, a tool that provides an understanding of the motivations that drive each of us. When individuals are able to tap into this understanding, they gain new perspectives related to everything from communication to goals, working toward results and more.

Their environment is highly competitive. We discovered that this competitiveness is a strong motivational tool, as people feed off the challenges involved with trying to get a loan through. While there’s a power to this type of motivation, it can be difficult for people to walk the line between doing what’s best for their clients, and following the smartest path toward achieving it.

My way vs. the team

It would be one thing if the process were a completely solitary endeavor,” says Sasha, an Idaho-based branch manager. “But in our industry, that’s not the case.”  Sasha has been one of our key point people since early 2013. She’s passionate, focused, and extremely good at what she does. In her office, Sasha’s the person whose name occasionally inspires a certain response you’d otherwise like to avoid—she’s been that person for a very long time. Generally speaking, being “the hammer” is fine. But what happens when the problem isn’t a nail?

For example, Sasha’s team began sending batches of Idaho-based loans to their California underwriting team. One particular loan was for a property in Wyoming. While everything about the loan looked good to the Idaho branch, the California underwriting team didn’t agree. Their view was that the client lived too far from the property. When Sasha’s team tried to explain the situation in local terms, the underwriters held firm. So they moved up the chain, and Sasha connected with the region’s then-recently appointed underwriting manager.

 “We were going to have a chat,” Sasha says. “And my tact for the call was the same as always: launch straight in, present the facts, and get it done.”

How did their chat go? According to Sasha, the call spiraled into something of a “blustery exchange.” Neither party was happy, and the deal, instead of being “pushed through,” fell into a deep level of limbo.

What happened?

As I mentioned earlier, Sasha’s “let’s get it done” mentality is typically seen as a strong suit. With the help of the SDI, we see that when we overdo our strengths, they can actually become weaknesses. Instead of “making it happen,” Sasha actually had a hand in delaying, and potentially derailing, the transaction.

One of the most powerful takeaways people gain from working with Iron Coaching is the understanding that no one is “forcing them” to change. Instead, people gain clearer insight into ways they can move past their comfort zones and try new strategies to achieve a desired outcome.  With practice, they improve as communicators, grow as leaders, and create a culture in which collaboration becomes a competitive advantage.

Through Sasha’s coaching and the Relating for Results framework, she reflected and considered her patterns, and weighed them against those of others around her, beginning with the regional underwriting manager.

 “Things really became clear,” she says. “My ‘get it done at all costs’ mindset actually came across as overly assertive, and borderline abusive. Here we were on our first call, and I went from being a teammate to becoming a loud voice making demands.”

As part of Relating for Results, Sasha and the underwriting manager were able to explore and understand their different styles, and replay the process together. Sasha’s “assertive” personality was at direct odds with her counterpart’s more “altruistic and nurturing approach” to situations. What they came to understand was that they both wanted the same thing—the deal to go through. Where they were at odds had more to do with the approach than the result.

Once you agree on “the what”…then what?

Relating for Results helps form a common language within any organization. In one as large as this lender – 8,000 employees across multiple states – it’s an essential tool that builds bridges instead of barriers.  Getting back to the situation above: not only were they able to complete the Idaho/Wyoming deal, but their greater understanding and shared language has helped forge an entirely new level of collaboration among the Idaho and California branches.

“On average, we’ve gotten five additional loans per month completed than we were doing in the past,” Sasha says. “These are loans that would have either stalled or died completely. Knowing more about each other’s motivations and emotional triggers is something we’re using to our advantage as a team.”

About the Author:

Pat Intraversato launched IRON COACHING in 2009. With 25 years of work experience for Fortune 500 companies, and over eight years of executive coaching experience, Pat provides street-worthy advice for issues facing today's leaders. Pat calls on his years in sales, customer service and management to advise his clients who range from first-line managers to senior executives. His business mission is “To sharpen individuals in the critical skills needed to reach their career potential while living intentional, well balanced lives.” Pat is a certified facilitator in Situational Leadership II, Strength Finders and the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). He facilitates customized sessions in vision and strategy, leadership, planning, team effectiveness, and process improvement.