Seeing Beyond Our Blinders

Most professionals, regardless of industry, are driven by similar motivations. We want to help our clients. We want to make a nice living in a field we find rewarding. And we want to improve our employer’s bottom line. While things vary, let’s focus on these three prime motivations for a moment. As sound, solid and universal as they are, even they can create blinders that lead to not-so-positive outcomes—for our clients, for us, and for our businesses—when one of them begins to dominate our actions.

Scott’s story

Scott, a producing sales manager and loan officer for a large national lender, is someone with whom I’ve worked for a couple of years. He’s bright and driven, and enjoys the challenges that come with his work. He especially loves the challenge—and rewards—of a difficult loan.

Not too long ago, an application ripe with red flags came across his desk. One of Scott’s colleagues even suggested they pass on it all together, convinced it wouldn’t make it through underwriting. Scott was undeterred, but it wasn’t just his love of a challenge that compelled him to go forward.

“The loan was actually for the daughter of one of my neighbors,” Scott says. “She and her husband were in the market for the first time. And there were definitely some questions.”

As Scott considered the “worthiness” of the application, he met with the young couple and made a number of suggestions that, if followed, would improve their chances. “I laid a few things out for them, and said, ‘If you do X, Y and Z, we can get this loan done.’ They heard the part where I said ‘we can get this done for you,’ but not the ‘X, Y and Z.’ Before I knew it, they were under contract with a real estate agent, and hadn’t completed any of my suggestions.”

Bumping into conflict

“Most clients are operating from places of conflict by the time they come see us,” Scott says. “They’re nervous, they feel pressed for time, and they don’t understand the loan process. They’re being pulled in a thousand directions.”

On the other side of the table, so to say, sits the loan officer, who’s handling multiple clients on any given day, each of them dealing with one level of conflict or another.

“During this particular deal, I started to go into my own conflict,” Scott says. “I knew there were holes in the file that needed to be addressed, but I continued to push ahead. I was blinded by the desire to get the loan done, a lot of which had to do with the fact that I had a personal connection with the borrowers.”

In a perfect world, that realization would have set off an internal alarm loud enough to help Scott slow down, look up, and see the bigger picture. Instead he pressed on, and eventually sent the loan off to his underwriting team. They came back with a fairly prompt and predictable reply: no good.

“By this point I was in a bad situation,” Scott says. “I was taking every call, replying to every text message, explaining every challenge at hand. And I thought I was explaining that these challenges could prevent them from getting the house.” To make matters worse, the conflict began to create negative interactions at work.

“Instead of leaning on my team, I was bickering with and blaming them.”

In short, the office was not a fun place to be. Unfortunately, things got to the point where Scott couldn’t even leave his stress at work.

“I thought I was already at the end of my rope,” he says. “Then my neighbor, the father, actually stopped by my house unannounced to discuss the loan one evening.”

Recognizing blind spots

First, let me cut to the end of the story: Scott and his team wound up getting the loan through, and the couple was able to close. While the ending was happy, the journey was not. As coaches, we help clients review every part of the story, from beginning to end, so they can calibrate and stay above the fray in the future.

Concerning the loan above, Scott refused to acknowledge his own conflict as it was happening. Revisiting his three prime motivators—helping others, supporting himself, and improving his business—he’d essentially pushed so far to help these clients that he lost track of the rest of his business.

“I was lost in my own self-focus,” he says. “I took on a lot of pressure, and basically forgot to look up and out of this one situation.”

In the vacuum of this specific deal, Scott was doing what he thought he had to do. Stepping back and scanning the bigger picture, we begin to see how the ripples of his decision cut a negative current through his overall business performance.

“It wound up being my worst month of the year,” he says. “I closed half as many loans as I normally do. I wasn’t marketing, wasn’t meeting for coffee…nothing. I was consumed with this one situation.” His entire business cycle was impacted because of the blinders he threw up to get this one loan completed. Not only was his month off, but also it took another 30 days to catch up—keeping money out of his pocket, and inversely affecting his company’s bottom line.

As we coach, we provide our clients with an opportunity to revisit high and low moments alike in a supportive, respectful manner, so they can use every situation as one from which to learn. Rather than beat himself up, Scott now has new tools to identify moments when conflicts arise. In addition, we’re working with other members of his team, which provides an added layer of collaboration throughout his office.

“It’s easy to get pulled into conflict,” he says. “With the help of Iron Coaching, I’ve been able to use this situation as a learning tool. A few things I’ve gained include knowing when to hold a firmer stance, making sure my clients understand what I’m trying to communicate, and recognizing when and how to go to my colleagues for support.”

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.