MReport September 2020

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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22 | M R EP O RT FEATURE Being authentic makes others feel more at ease. Most people prefer to do business with people they like and are comfortable with. a wide variety of people in dif- ferent areas. Each person brings a different perspective to the table, and I value each one. I also really like taking all of those views into account and then working to help find clarity in where we're head- ing and what the next steps are to accomplish our goals. But if after discussing an issue and hearing everyone's input, a consensus is not reached, the ultimate decision is mine and the team accepts this. Leaders often get a lot of information thrown at them, and they need to be able to parse through it all and then act decisively. That's important, and I would advise all women leaders to make it clear that they can and will make the definitive decisions. Along with empathy, I believe women executives have a natural aptitude for working with teams and using consensus leadership to make decisions. Research bears this out. Another Korn Ferry study, "What Makes Women CEOs Different?" found women CEOs were more likely to engage the power of teams. Women CEOs in the study were more likely to leverage others to achieve desired results and also scored significantly higher than the benchmark group on humility— that is, showing a consistent lack of self-promotion, an expressed appreciation for others, and a tendency to share the credit. While women may have an advantage when it comes to empathy and consensus leader- ship, there are some who may struggle to truly take charge and not let negative feedback get in the way of making decisions. Unfortunately, everyone has mo- ments of self-doubt. It's important to remember that all leaders—male and female—have had to work really hard at developing attri- butes or skills they don't have. Work at it. Find trusted advisors. Take courses if you need to. I find that most women leaders don't want to do a job if they can't do it well. But rather than turning down a leadership op- portunity, I would advise them to learn the necessary skills, put away self-doubt and just go for it. Taking Steps Toward Leadership T here is no blueprint to becoming an effective leader, but I have learned what works. Below are a few steps women (or men for that matter) should take towards reaching their goals of being managers or executives. Listen carefully. Along with empathy, listening is something women do very well. Make sure you're listening closely to those in your department, on your team, and in the entire organization. By doing so, you are better able to pinpoint where problems exist, which is the first step to solving them. Listening is also the key to developing effective working re- lationships among employees and between management and staff. Be prepared. I'm a big believer in preparation, and I think it has made all the difference in my success. A person who is prepared stands out in meet- ings, and people pay attention to that person. Rather than simply showing up to meetings, take the time to think about what will be discussed, strategize, and plan in advance. Go ahead and write that document or put that presentation together. By doing so, you can set the pace and come across as a leader. Develop Trust. Work to establish trust with your team, your organization, and your customers. When people trust you, you automatically have more credibility. According to Stephen M.R. Covey, author of the bestselling book The Speed of Trust, trust impacts two measur- able outcomes: speed and cost. When trust goes down—on a team, in a company, or with a customer—speed decreases with it. Everything takes longer and costs increase. On the flip side, when trust goes up, speed goes up with it and costs come down. Everything happens faster and everything costs less because trust has been established. Take control and make things happen. Most people who are not already leaders tend to hang back and wait for others to tell them what to do. Get out of that mindset. Instead, think about ways that you can move your company forward. Then take the initiative to develop a plan and make it happen. Cultivate trusted advisors and mentors. Every leader needs as- sistance from time to time. By de- veloping a strong network of advi- sor or mentors, you have people to turn to when you need help thinking things through, getting feedback on a strategy or plan, or simply a response to, "Am I head- ing in the right direction?" Be authentic. In other words, be yourself. Don't try to mold your- self into someone else's vision of a leader. By simply being yourself, your co-workers and customers get to know the real you. Being authentic makes others feel more at ease. Most people prefer to do business with people they like and are comfortable with. I've long been an admirer of Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, who put it this way: "True lead- ership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed ... leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection." The days of leaders ruling with iron fists are gone—and thank goodness. Today, becoming a great leader and an impactful influ- encer is about all of the things I've discussed—listening to people, showing you truly care about their ideas, providing encourage- ment, using team work to reach a consensus, being decisive and clear, and finally, just being yourself. Women certainly don't have a monopoly on these traits. But we do have them, and the opportuni- ties for women to lead are greater than ever. If you feel that's your calling, there's no better time to heed that call. . CLAUDIA MERKLE is the CEO of National MI, a private mortgage insurer based in Emeryville, California. She has more than 30 years' experience in the mortgage and private mortgage insurance industries. Merkle joined National MI in May 2012 as SVP of underwriting fulfillment and risk operations, was promoted to EVP of insurance operations in 2013, appointed COO in 2016, was promoted to President in 2018 and promoted to CEO in January 2019. She has held previous executive leadership positions within the mortgage banking and mortgage insurance industries and has been recognized with several industry awards for leadership.

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