Pat Sherlock interviews Greg Gianoplus, the Reverse Mortgage Division Manager at Alpha Mortgage.
- Value-based leadership;
- Vision and purpose;
- Production vs customer driven business; and
- Competitive advantage.
Conveying Your Company Vision To Your Employees With Greg Gianoplus
This is such a critical topic, Conveying Your Company’s Vision to Your Employees. I’m excited to have a terrific expert who’s going to share his thoughts, Greg Gianoplus. He is the Channel Head of Alpha Mortgage, and he is responsible for the Reverse Mortgage. Greg has a long history of mortgage banking. He had his own company for over twenty years. Before that, he was at Gateway American Bank. Greg, share with everyone how did you get into managing?
It wasn’t by design. I started a company where I had myself and then 1 or 2 employees. Over the course of about 4 or 5 years, that company quickly grew to 130-plus employees. I was forced into managing, and I did not have the skillset to be a manager.
Was that shocking?
Yes, it was shocking. I went through the school of hard knocks. I had to get trained and develop skills that I didn’t have as an entrepreneur. Amongst other things, I quickly learned that just because someone is good in sales doesn’t necessarily mean that’s going to translate into being equally good as a manager.
That’s one of my favorite topics. What was the best advice you ever got for managing?
I would say the best advice I got about managing is that there are tons of managers out there in the marketplace, but there are not many leaders. My objective became one of which I tried to invest in our staff and personnel in a way that they could be leaders in every position within the company. Every employee would be self-led, even if they had no one to manage. You don’t necessarily need, in my view, anyone to manage to be a leader. Those leaders that have folks to manage, it really helps. I found that the goal for me was to have a good functioning employee-based where everybody in every job and every position knew how to lead themselves.There are tons of managers out there in the marketplace, but not many leaders. Click To Tweet
Where did you come up with this? Were books important to you? What was it that led you to this thought?
There was one in particular called Fail-Safe Leadership. It straight talks about leadership in an organization. That book is written by Linda Martin and David Mutchler. There’s a new addition that came out in 2019, but the original one was from 2003 that I had read. That had a big impact on me because I quickly learned after hiring a consultant who introduced me to this book that the problem was more with me than my staff. I took that to heart. I was introspective about it. I paid to get the skills that I didn’t have, that was missing so that I can more effectively lead and manage others.
When you look at all of this, you did research and attended training efforts. What’s the secret sauce in managing people that people miss?
There’s a big thing in my view. I call it “valueship.” It’s values-based leadership and management. It is always operating within the framework of our values and bringing them to life. Not just talking about them going through an exercise offsite and doing some heavy lifting for 2 or 3 days, and then not living the values.
It’s operating and leading the company, your department, or your staff within the framework of your values. It’s called values-based leadership. It may sound a little cliche and it’s easy to understand academically, but it’s much more difficult to implement on an ongoing basis. The greater the responsibility, the fewer the rights. I had to be the one that was leading the charge in that effort.
You commented that it was a shock to you that the failure was in you. Talk about that for everyone because I think every manager has faced this issue and it is somewhat of a wake-up call.
When I was in production myself, in my business, I just assumed that just because I was good at that, I could teach, train, mentor, and manage others to do the same. Managing others and producing are two very different things and sometimes at odds with one another. It costs me a lot of money for mistakes. Mostly those mistakes are due to the fact that I hired the wrong people, and I spent too much time on the C employees instead of helping my B and A employees. It was to their detriment and my loss because I lost some good talent as a result of that. Sometimes lost some really good sales talent by elevating them to management positions.
I can’t agree with you more. In my consulting practice, a lot of times that’s what I’m here to do. To rechange their thinking that if you don’t hire right, therefore, you end up always correcting. Our people problems are our biggest problems. Why don’t you share the key practice that you keep coming back to over all these years of your managing?
It’s leading by example at a granular level. It’s making my own mistakes known so that others feel comfortable making mistakes. These mistakes are just opportunities to improve your process, people, knowledge, and training. All of that. It’s okay to fail and to share that failure with your staff. As a business owner or now as a business manager, those failures and mistakes that I don’t know about that keep me up at night.
The ones that I do know about are fantastic because it gives me an opportunity to engage, correct, grow, and improve. Not just myself but others and the organization at large. That’s what I would say is the secret sauce. To go along with that hand-in-hand, I have come to learn over the years that I can’t really motivate anybody. I could maybe provide a spark of motivation. I think a lot of managers, including those of us that come from the sales side first, think we have the ability to motivate people.
I believe that motivation is something internal. It becomes even more important to hire people that are self-motivated rather than trying to train them to be motivated. I can teach people skills and knowledge, and they can get experience under my umbrella, but it’s very hard to teach good habits and a positive attitude. I would say that’s the number one overarching recommendation to hire those with a good positive attitude and then just create an environment that helps their internal motivation flourish.
That’s a great point, for sure, which leads us to our topic, conveying your company’s vision to your employees. I know we can spend hours on this topic because it’s a key component of managing. A lot of times, managers don’t do a good job of it. Why don’t you talk about the corporate goals and how you convey them down to your employees and share with you what works and what hasn’t worked?
I would be happy to. It’s the area that I love to live in. I feel very strongly that if the employees don’t know where, we as an organization, want to go, it’s not fair to them to try to ask them to help us get there. The bus is going to Florida, but I want to go to California. Those are two different directions. It’s important to share with clarity. Not just what the vision of the organization is, but the goals that cascade down to achieving the vision.If the employees don't know where the organization wants to go, it's not fair to ask them to help us get there. Click To Tweet
The vision to me is not something that exists now. It’s visionary. It’s the future. It’s one possible future that might be ours if collectively we work together through teamwork and collaboration, through successive cascading of goals and goal achievement, and then overcoming obstacles for which we have not achieved those goals. Identifying new obstacles to continuously move us in that direction of becoming the company that is outlined in our vision.
The way we breathe life into that is by using moments of truth. Every day within our organization, there are moments of truth between me and other managers, me and rank and file staff, and then rank and file staff and their peers. Every moment of truth is an opportunity for those employees, whoever is communicating to align whatever the issue is with the vision that we have as an organization.
For example, our vision in part is to become the most trusted and most reputable reverse mortgage lender to which people in business easily and naturally flow. I share that part of our vision with you because when we start meetings or when we are dealing with an issue, we always start it with something like, “In keeping with our commitment and our vision to become the most reputable reverse mortgage lender to which people in business easily and naturally flow.”
We bring it up daily. It’s not just me bringing it up, it’s others bringing it up with each other. It defines the purpose, the reason for being. It gives people the possibility to put aside their individual human differences and focus on collaborating around the vision, the mission, or even an individual goal or task. It helps promote teamwork and collaboration.
That is a great point, which leads me to my next question. Many times, what I see at mortgage companies and a variety of lenders is that the vision is always defined as X number of sales volume. What you are talking about is more than volume.
Many people I find consider it soft. That soft stuff is great, but what about the numbers? The numbers are very important to me, but they come underneath the direction. You can have a lot of wasted productivity trying to swim up a stream that you just don’t want to go there. For example, I think every organization has to decide, whether are they production-driven or are they customer-driven.
There’s nothing wrong with either one, but decide what you are. We have decided that we are customer-driven. It doesn’t mean that sales and production are not important. It just comes underneath serving the customer. Although we have a customer-driven organization, we also have production goals in particular. Those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
It’s interesting you talk about deciding to become production-driven or customer-driven. In my experience, what I see in the mortgage landscape is. A lot of discussion about being customer-driven, but I find it’s just a PR strategy and not a strategy that the whole company is living up to. I do find that, particularly at some mortgage lenders, it is almost a farce in a lot of ways. Talk about how did you get to this point of deciding that you want to be customer-driven.
How did you become customer-driven versus production-driven?
At that point, how do we choose to do that? We had success early on because we were running with the current. I knew that we didn’t have patents and something secret, a secret product, or a secret way of making things. We all had the same commodity product. It was the way in which we were bringing this product to market.
I felt like, to get a competitive advantage, maintain one, and continue to improve upon it, we had to go that direction, to be customer-driven, because the way we do things results in the reputation that we exemplify or shoot for in our vision. That’s why we made that choice. It wasn’t about production numbers out of the gate. It was about satisfying the customer so that we could build a referral business because the cost of new customer acquisition was so expensive. The cost of referral business is a lot less expensive. That’s why we made that choice.
It’s a smart choice, but I must tell you what I see and I’m sure you see this, too. When you look at producers, the book of business that they previously had, which is the gold mine rarely worked. As a result, it’s always being defined as sending out some postcards every once in a while as being enough. I think CRMs in a lot of ways have become a crutch that doesn’t satisfy this whole issue of being truly customer-orientated.
For us in particular, it’s about the customer, not always being right, but being made to feel special. We all know that customers aren’t always right, but every customer needs to be made to feel special because customers have choices. That’s one of our mantras in business is that at least around here, customers don’t need us, we need them.Customers don't need us; we need them. Click To Tweet
Every so often, I will have a staff member say something like they will pay more somewhere else, or because of the complexity of their scenario, they are likely not to have the outcome they were hoping for if they use one of our competitors. I’m like, “That’s not true. It won’t change their life.” We need customers. They don’t need us, so customers need to be made to feel special, some old-fashioned human contact with the customer.
One of our values is gratitude. Our customer needs to feel that, not just to be told that. They need to be made to feel that they are special, that we appreciate them, that we keenly understand and are aware that you have choices in selecting a lender. Thank you for choosing us. We will do backflips to earn your satisfaction. It’s that sentiment that we have to cascade throughout the organization so that it happens with every internal customer who’s serving our external customers. At the end of the day, we are not bulletproof. External customers can evaporate, and we can lose them to a competitor that’s ready to eat our lunch. We would rather be that competitor.
This vision that you are talking about, it’s not the normal vision within mortgage banking per se, although there are companies like yourself that do align themselves with it. How do you hire people that buy into this vision? A lot of times that may not be what the loan officer is really about.
We sometimes don’t and we sometimes make mistakes. Folks that don’t align with that vision and that customer-driven model quickly become uncomfortable here. They don’t last here too long. We are all about the customer here. I know that sounds cliche, but that’s what we do. We use teamwork and collaboration for the benefit of the customer.
Specifically, in the market niche that we are in now in the area of my discipline, which is reverse mortgage lending, we don’t have to sell the product. We have to unpack it. The product itself lends itself more to this customer-driven approach and it becomes the sales process. They don’t stay around here long. I don’t keep them here long or they don’t join our company, to begin with. During the interview process, we quickly come to see that if they are production-driven, we are not going to hire them.
The time has flown by really fast, and these are a lot of wonderful comments for sure. If you had to wrap it up in the last few minutes, what would you want the takeaways to be for our readers?
There are so many. There was one thing in particular. I would say hire people with a strong and positive attitude. Do not succumb to the age-old failure of just interviewing people for their skillset. A positive attitude is a huge multiplier of customer delight or satisfaction. I would rather take somebody on who’s a little bit raw or inexperienced but an off the hook on a scale of 1 to 10, 9 or 10 in attitude and habits. As opposed to someone that has a 9 or 10 in skills and knowledge, but a very poor attitude and habits.
Those are the employees that have cost us the most over the years in terms of money and lost opportunity. We, as managers, in an environment that’s committed to teamwork, collaboration, and growth of the employee, you can take and leverage that positive attitude of an employee and teach them the skills and knowledge. Someday, you will just have a seasoned staff of people that get it done and they know how to get it done. That’s what I live for in business.
They are great words of wisdom. I want to thank you for sharing them with us. I want to thank our readers. I look forward to our next show. Thanks, Greg.