Strong leadership is vital to actualising desirable futures and requires moving past the “one-style-fits-all” approach, according to a broking industry veteran.
Speaking with The Adviser, Jason Back, director at Broker Essentials, referred to a quote he came across suggesting that leaders “be the type of leader in [their] organisation where it’s hard to tell who the leader actually is” as it helps create an organisational culture where “people take accountability and responsibility and drive themselves”.
A similar sentiment was expressed by another industry veteran, Rob Emmett, the founder and CEO of Collins Home Loans, who said the brokerage “[relies] more on personal responsibility and accountability rather than an organisational hierarchy”.
“This is a structure that allows our staff to focus on the project or task at hand, rather than waiting for specific direction from management and in doing so, fulfil or further the goals of the company,” Mr Emmett explained.
“In my view, rewarding personal responsibility and accountability creates a much more autonomous and successful working environment.
“Personal accountability also builds trust amongst team members, as our staff learn to know that they can depend on each other.”
Mr Back stressed, however, that it’s important to avoid applying a “one-style-fits-all” approach to leadership as it is ineffective. Rather, leaders need to “be agile” and “have range”, applying a variety of different approaches – such as directing, coaching, supporting and delegating – when managing a diverse team of people with different competences, personalities and perspectives.
“There are going to be times when you’re going to need to [apply a] top-down [approach]; at other times, you’re going to need to be more consultative... [You need to] recognise that your people will have different needs. You can’t manage a 22-year-old the same way you manage a 50-year-old,” the Broker Essentials director said.
Mr Back, who was previously the managing director of The Australian Lending & Investment Centre, noted that often what is considered a “process issue” that requires “more training” is actually a “behavioural issue”.
“The reality is people will choose to make decisions that fit inside or outside of a process for certain reasons. Understanding the root cause of behaviour, why people do what they do, what motivates them, what drives them, what their behavioural biases are, that’s [what] leadership is about,” Mr Back explained.
“Leadership is not about pushing people into a particular process or making sure A equals B or C. Leadership is about understanding how to get the best out of your people, understanding what drives people, and making sure that people are in the right jobs.”
When it comes to “cultivating” the generation of workers, Mr Back said it’s important to keep in mind that today’s youngest workers are “more courageous in asking for what they want”, which are valuable experiences that enable them develop and evolve professionally.
“Leadership today is about recognising that change is a permanent constant,” he said.
“Leadership has to recognise that not everyone wants to sit in a job for three years before they stick their hand up and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to try the next thing’.
“When you’re looking at cultivating the next generation of people in the broker market (brokers and support staff), a lot of them are looking for experiences. They want to come in, they want to learn, but then in 12 months’ time, they may want to move into something totally different or they may want to come back to something.”
Mr Emmet, who has held a number of leadership roles in the broking industry, including with the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA), admitted that technology has shaped his leadership style.
The brokerage uses tools such as customised sales pipelines, automated follow-up and task reminders, and a fully integrated CRM, which the Collins Home Loans CEO said has been a “real game changer” when it comes to managing staff and customers.
“Over time, we have adopted a more agile and responsive model to cater more quickly for our customer’s needs based on the uptake of new technology,” Mr Emmett said.
“Everyone is responsible for meeting their own budgets and goals, and we can easily monitor the progress of individuals and entire teams in real-time through sophisticated reporting tools. In doing so, I am able to gain valuable insights into the progress of deals without feeling like I am looking over everyone’s shoulders.”
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