“Lone Wolves” Starve to Death

A mortgage banking executive recently asked me what distinguishes more successful managers from their peers. This was easy to answer. In my experience, managers who get promoted to the highest levels surround themselves with their own personal “board of directors” who help them achieve their goals.

Every manager has strengths and weaknesses. More successful managers readily and consistently consult with individuals who are experts in areas in which the manager may not be skilled. Sure, a manager’s friends may have these skills but I find that is the exception, not the rule. Obtaining expert help can be expensive but most top-tier managers recognize that the investment pays for itself quickly and is well worth their time and effort.

What skill sets do these highly motivated individuals seek help with? In my practice, the most frequent topics that arise, especially if the manager is a former top producer, include:

  • Presenting to a company’s CEO and board of directors
  • Expanding outside their current network
  • Adding key influencers to their tribe
  • Presenting in front of trade groups
  • Understanding capital markets
  • Using social selling platforms to promote themselves as thought leaders in the industry

For many managers, another roadblock to success is learning how to ask for what they want. Even if the individual was a good salesperson, it can be difficult for managers to effectively convey what sales behaviors they want to see in employees. Often, this is a skill set that needs to be learned.

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, believing that one’s work and production numbers should automatically guarantee a promotion to the next level is a false assumption. This is especially problematic for female sales professionals who face a whole other set of issues that their male counterparts don’t. While production and performance metrics might be what is rewarded in lower positions, this is rarely how higher positions are awarded.

Winning the highest positions in a company doesn’t happen easily nor does it happen without behavioral change and learning new skills. People may call this politics, but I think a better term is “managing up.” The “managing up” process requires individuals to recognize their strengths and weaknesses; and adjust to what is valued by a board and C-suite.

While top level jobs are desired by many, these positions require a different set of skills that the majority of field managers lack. Whether an individual loves their boss or not, reaching the next level will be determined by someone who might not match their particular workplace style. This is a fact of life. Rarely does a manager report to someone who is just like them. Business life would be so much easier if that was the case.

Too often, sales professionals blame their failure to progress to a management position on external factors when the reality is that lack of knowledge and specific skills may be holding them back. Changing or improving one’s skills is not selling out but a smart personal success strategy.

While seeking third-party advice can be a hard decision to make, doing so can reveal an objective evaluation of a manager’s skills in a particular area. In our industry, being “a lone wolf” is often viewed as a sign of strength. However, the truth is that no single individual possesses every skill needed in business. A trial-and-error approach to success can be slow going. Sometimes a better option is to hire an outside expert who can provide honest feedback and proven tactics. An experienced third-party vendor can be worth their weight in gold.

Right now is a great time to put a personal team in place who can help you get to the next level in your career. Our current mortgage origination cycle represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to seek out the resources and skills you need to “manage up.”