#5 Having Tough Conversations That Will Lead To Growth (with Toby Harris)

Show Notes

Having tough conversations with the people you lead can sometimes feel awkward…  We all have to have them at some point, but how should you have them, and how can you have LESS of them? Today’s guest - Toby Harris - is the Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of Movement Mortgage a company that he started in 2008, in the middle of a massive meltdown in our country. Since then, Movement has grown from a small team of 4 people to a team of over 4,000 employees with more than 650 locations over 47 states. INC. Magazine has listed Movement as the fastest- growing mortgage bank IN THE COUNTRY! Listen as Toby, Chantel, and Heather share tough conversations they’ve had or have experienced. DISC Score test link: https://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/

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Chantel: Welcome to the Real-Life Leadership podcast, where we share real life stories from real life leaders to help you become a better leader in your organization. Today's guest is the co-founder of Movement Mortgage. He started his company in 2008, and they have just had massive, massive growth. They started with four people, and now have a team of over 4,000 employees, with more than 650 locations, in over 47 states. Inc Magazine has listed Movement as the fastest growing mortgage bank in the country. He's a close personal friend of mine, and I just admire him so much as a leader, and as a person. He has the most amazing heart, and welcome Toby Harris.

Toby Harris: Wow, I am really excited to be here. A little intimidated with all of this equipment and everything. But I'm sure we will have fun.

Chantel: We also have Heather Roemmich, who's our guest always, that we always love having on. Before we get started, well let's tell everyone the topic today. Today's topic is all about having tough conversations that will lead to growth and the bottom line is, if you don't want to have tough conversations just get yourself out of leadership, don't you agree?

Heather: Oh absolutely. Yeah. I was saying, a leader who has tough conversations but isn't really good at it typically will throw someone else under the bus, and we are kind of talking about ...

Chantel: Yes, what they'll say is like, "Oh gosh I don't want to do this. I hate to do this, but Suzie said I had to do it." They won't take ownership of it. Toby?

Toby Harris: Well we've all had to have tough conversations. I think if we really look at that, one of our primary goals should be to have less tough conversations. But the only way to have less tough conversations with people is to have more upfront conversations on your vision, and what you expect.

Chantel: That's so good.

Toby Harris: Letting someone enter your business world without really understanding what's expected of them, will almost always lead to a tough conversation.

Chantel: That's so good. I love that.

Heather: It really is, yeah.

Chantel: Cause it's like if you have to have a tough conversation, it's because they weren't very clear on what the expectations were in the beginning. Can you give us an example of that?

Toby Harris: Yeah, one comes to mind that we've laughed about and cried about different times. There was a particular period in our growth when we were just desperate for qualified help in processing and what have you and I interviewed this lady and just thought she was fantastic.

Chantel: She interviewed well.

Toby Harris: She interviewed so well. She was very experienced, she was obviously a leader, and had been in leadership positions, and we needed her really, really bad, so we hired her. We thought ...

Chantel: What was her name? Give us a fake name.

Toby Harris: We'll just call her Suzie.

Chantel: Okay.

Toby Harris: That's not her name.

Heather: I mean Suzie again.

Toby Harris: But we put Suzie in a position of leadership for team lead for processing. We really thought we were clear about our expectations and our vision.

Chantel: Did you check her DISC score? Do you guys check everyone's DISC score before you hire them?

Toby Harris: We do now. But if we had checked her DISC score, we would've hired her.

Chantel: Oh, okay.

Toby Harris: That would've at the time would've made no difference.

Chantel: If you don't know what a DISC score is, we'll put that in the show notes with a full explanation. What was her DISC score?

Toby Harris: Well I don't know. We never did.

Chantel: Oh, that's right.

Toby Harris: But I suspect that she was probably a very high D, and that's what we wanted for that position, and we would have hired her.

Chantel: What was her downfalls? And before we started the show, tell everyone what you said, 'cause I love that.

Heather: Yeah, it was so good.

Chantel: You said that there's three characteristics of a leader. What are those three that you're looking for?

Toby Harris: Well leadership is comprised of three different things. If you're a leader first, you have to have an extremely clear vision, not only of where you want to go, but where you want your company to go, and where you want each employee to go. What's required in each position. You have to have the vision. Then you have to have a process that works. A lot of people come up with a process, but it's either incomplete, inaccurate for what you really want to accomplish, or it just doesn't work with people. You have to have a vision, you have to have a process to get to the vision ...

Chantel: And you have to have a process that's easy too, because you can have a process that's so complicated that the training takes forever, and it's just a nightmare. Okay, and what's the third?

Toby Harris: Well, this is a pyramid. The tip of the pyramid is the vision, the middle of the pyramid is the process, but the foundation of the pyramid is servant leadership, and I call that servantship. If you lose that part or you don't have it, then you come across as harsh. Once you come across as harsh, even a person who has the vision will start to withdraw from that vision in many cases because they're afraid.

Chantel: That's good. Well one of the things that is really good is people who are high Ds, if they're a super high D, if what they can do is so ... I'm off the charts D.

Toby Harris: You talking about you and me?

Chantel: Yeah. I'm off the charts D. If you can find someone ... So I have Heather who I can go to Heather behind closed doors and be like, "I am furious about this. So and so did this, ba ba ba did this, da da. We need to fix this." I can literally vent to her and be like, "This is all the issues that we have." But then she turns around and communicates that to everyone else in ribbons and roses. She'll take what I just said and say, "All right now, you guys are doing a great job at X, Y, Z, but we do have some small tweaking we need to do in this, this, this, and this." Then when it's come to you in this package, it's this beautiful package. But if I had presented it to you originally ...

Heather: Everyone would have quit. That's what would have happened.

Chantel: That's so true. But I've improved just myself that I'm now actually able to turn it into a beautiful package myself, which is hysterical. Yesterday ... It wasn't yesterday. Friday, we were on the phone with someone, and you could see ... You know how you could see steam coming out of her ears, and she put the person on mute, and she's like, "You talk, I can't." She's like, "I'm so furious." This is the best because I've never been able to do this before. I was like, "Oh, hi, Carol," it wasn't carol by the way. I was like, "Well and you're just doing a beautiful job." Blah, blah. I turned it into this beautiful package when she couldn't.

Heather: Yeah, we did a role reversal. Yeah.

Chantel: We did a major role reversal. It was beautiful.

Toby Harris: Great.

Chantel: Okay, so back to what you were saying. Three things: vision, process, and servantship. Which one was this lady missing?

Toby Harris: All of them. She disguised it. She interviewed really well, and we put her in a position of leadership. She had a vision, but ...

Chantel: It wasn't the same as the company's.

Toby Harris: It was not our vision. She was probably a 99D. She listened to our vision and decided she would do it her own way. Some of the loan officers called us up and said, "Hey, you know something's not right here. These things that aren't happening that should be happening with my files." We would get check, "Oh yeah, I've got it under control. I'm doing it. I'm doing it." What we found out was that she wasn't doing it, her team knew she wasn't doing it, and she lied about it.

Chantel: Let me recap, was she saying ... Let's say you said here's 100 things that need to be done on the check list. Was she just being like, "Eh, if we don't do number one through 20, not big deal."

Toby Harris: No. She didn't even go into the file. She said she was doing it, but with our software we can tell. It leads breadcrumbs. We can tell if you've been in, and we can tell what you've done. She hadn't even been in. She had lied to the field, her team knew she was doing it, so she failed in her job, the technical aspects, then she failed as a leader, her team knew she was doing it and she had no intention of changing, so she was gone that day at 5 o'clock.

Chantel: Gotcha.

Toby Harris: It wasn't just about her, it was about the people she was supposed to serve, it was about our vision, but it was also about the people she was leading. She was going to take those people down a path away from our vision, and onto her vision. We just couldn't do that. It would have ruined department after department.

Chantel: Awesome. All right, and any other tough conversations, let's talk about tough conversations that someone has had with you. They literally looked at you and said, "Hey, you're blocking our growth right now by doing A, B, C and D." I'll tell you one for me. One is just I had my ... I'm a very good delegator, that's something I'm really, really great at, but there was a couple pots that I wasn't willing to let go of. I liked the marketing pot, there was some management meetings, and I had, had Heather lead a couple of meetings. Someone came to me and said, "I'm gonna be honest with you. Heather does a better job running these meetings than you, because you ... We have a list of 20 things we need to get through, and we're only getting to number one through five. With Heather, she's making sure we get through all 20. She's stopping it, she's timing it, she's doing all these things. You don't need to run those meetings anymore. Heather needs to run those meetings."

Chantel: That's a conversation that someone had ... It was a tough conversation for them to come to me about, but I feel like was a way that we could grow. What about for you, Heather?

Heather: I would say ... When she was talking a little bit early about, I'm the Yin to her Yang, Chantelle obviously is a very High D, I would say one of her best and worst attributes is execution. That lady can execute something faster than anyone can blink their eye. I'm like, "Wait, wait. We didn't even finish talking about this and you already ordered it. What's going on here." One of the things that ... Sometimes she's like, "Heather, you're taking too long to make this decision. We've got a ... Pick it or don't." I like to make sure I've researched the products, we're picking the best product.

Chantel: She would just research it, and I want to make sure we have this one, and this one. I was like, "At some point, give us two options, give us three options and choose one. Let's go."

Heather: She's done that to me. As the years have went on, I am making quicker decisions. Today, we had another role reversal. We have this program where basically it's our proplan program. They have to pay a listing fee when they list a property. She had sent me an email yesterday and it was like, "Let's talk about this on Monday. People have two ideas of what's happening with it." We were going through stuff and I said, "Hey, let's go ahead and make this decision. Are they paying it at listing time, are they paying it on an office bill." She's like, "I'm not ready to make that decision today." I was like, "This is two seconds."

Chantel: She's like, "Who are you?"

Heather: I was like, "No, we're making the decision today." She's like, "I'm not ready. I'll make this afternoon." I said, "No, this is literally, do you pay it now or later, we're not waiting? We're making this decision right now." And so one of the things that she's taught me is that, don't spend so much time in the details. Like obviously check it out and make sure it's something that's good for our company, but move on. And that's what's really helped me move us in a quicker pace and can get things done.

Chantel: What about for you Toby, what is some tough conversations that has lead to your personal growth that someone's coming to you, maybe Casey came to you or someone came to you and said, "Hey, this is stumping our growth right now. You've got to grow in this area."

Toby Harris: Well, typically it's when I'm not clear enough about our vision, I obsess over the vision being complete and it's never complete. You can never, ever have a complete vision if you're growing because you're out growing what your vision was yesterday. You're always thinking ahead. The overall vision hasn't changed. What changes are the vision for different processes because as you grow you begin to outgrow them. And a few years ago, we were at a certain level in our growth and decided that, I remember I told him, "In order to get bigger we have to get smaller." We chopped up our operations from one big operational unit into multiple operational units, several. And we run them independently. Now we have three times more leaders because we went from three to nine. Okay. So now we have to communicate with all nine of those leaders about the vision and get them in step, that letting go ...

Toby Harris: And it also meant going to the those top three leaders and saying, "You know what, you're not in charge of these other guys anymore, we're going to split this up." And we really had to spend time on the vision in order for that to be effective. And it was, it grew very fast. But you're talking months there of reiterating the vision over and over. Because a lot of times managers will go in and I say managers not leaders.

Chantel: [inaudible 00:14:48]

Toby Harris: Managers will go in and they'll tell somebody a vision and think, "Okay, you've got it." But a leader knows you have to relive that vision on a regular basis with your managers because telling them once doesn't work any more than telling your child to clean his closet once.

Chantel: One thing that that I look at all the time is, I always say if you want to be a big company you've got to look at big companies and see how they do things. And so when you said that one thing it made me think of is Geico, Geico is a company that I really look up to. I think they do a fantastic job and we run our companies so much like Geico, for whatever reason we have two companies. It's not that we've recruited from them, but they just apply to our company all the time. And that's Apple and Geico. And so, so many of our processes and the way we do things or like that. And one thing about Geico that I noticed is that Geico could right?

Chantel: Because one of the things they say is to make everything into a big like when you have things in a centralized location, it's so much easier to do it on a centralized location. But if you look at Geico, Geico even has ... They have one here in Hampton roads area, but then they have another one. They have it in regions in the country. They don't just have one call center for the entire country. Why do you think that is?

Toby Harris: Well there's a lot of different reasons for that efficiency control in different areas and things like that. I mean you have to empower the people that you put in charge in different areas and you have to come to grips with the fact that if you're a large company, you're going to have leaders that have different leadership characteristics than you do and they're going to lead their own way. You can't make them into you. As a matter of fact, you don't want to make them into you.

Chantel: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Toby Harris: You want to take that leader. If you're sure that, that person is the leader you want to hire, then you have to come to grips with letting that person lead their way. Now, it's critical that they understand the vision. There's multiple ways to reach the same goal. They may talk a little bit differently. They may held their meetings differently than you do and that's okay because their personalities a little different than yours, as long as you let them be themselves. If they are a good leader, if their core is a good leader, then you will have success there. But that puts pressure on you as a company owner because you have to let go.

Chantel: Let me, I want to dive deeper into this. Cause you said you had originally everyone at ... This is hysterical cause he's drinking a coffee cup out of a competing mortgage companies coffee mug and he's doing it proudly.

Toby Harris: And I'm gonna steal it.

Chantel: And he says he's taking it with him.

Heather: There you go.

Chantel: He's doing it proudly. I love that about him. But anyway back to what we're talking about. You started out with every process in one central location, is that correct?

Toby Harris: We did. And that really helped form the company itself because we could refine every process and we could grow. We were a new company every 90 days. Right. We could not have done that if we had started out with three or four processing [inaudible 00:18:28]

Chantel: What was main reason that you then switched from that one big location to three or four locations.

Toby Harris: Almost any operation reaches a critical mass. And if you're really successful, webinar operation center and you have it refined, have all of your processes refined, you can duplicate that. Once we spread across the country, we were three hours off time in the east from the West and in order to continue to grow, we needed a western location. And on the east we needed at least two locations because of weather issues. Sometimes Charlotte gets shut down by snow and ice. We don't get that as much here, but we get shut down by hurricane. And they don't. So we had to have duplication and everything so that one department, one OP center could pick up for another OP center if something went wrong.

Chantel: Got It.

Heather: And that's the same reason Geico does theirs cause if one call center loses electricity the power grid goes down, they immediately route calls to the next region over and they're never down in operations.

Toby Harris: Well the core of this though, the core reason for that is from day one we made a decision to work for our producers. Now if you're really going to work for your producers and you have one OP center and it's three hours off time with California, then you're not working for that producer. So we had to have one out there. If you're in an area and you're really controlling everything and sometimes you get shut down by inclement weather or something like that, you need to have another one. And that went back to working for our producers and the producers jumped on it. They loved it. The fact that we spent the money and the energy to make sure they were supported.

Heather: Can I go back, I want to go back to something he said earlier. When he talks about breaking up his, from one operation center to others, he had three leaders that he then had to put down to, he went to nine and he had to have that conversation with those three leaders that you're not the only ones in charge anymore. I kind of want to talk about tough conversations we've all had to have with people who were in a level of higher leadership that then, because of the growth of the company, they either had to take a step sideways or sometimes a step down in order for the company to grow.

Chantel: Yeah. And I want you to talk about tips for that. I had a girl that was in a very, very high leadership role with me and had been with me from day one, she'd been with us for basically 10 to 12 years. I can't remember the exact time I had that conversation with her, but I literally had to say to her, "I love you, I value you and you were the right position when we were at 80 people. But now that we are over 200 people, I need to find someone who has the experience for this larger organization and has seen processes for larger organizations." And I said, "Number one, I'm not changing your pay at all. Your pay is staying exactly the same." That's one thing I did. "Number two, we're going to kind of create." we created a different title for her and a different role that people didn't really know that it was a step down. It was just, we kind of moved it over a little bit and it hurt for a little while, but she's still with the company, which is amazing.

Chantel: But I think one of the biggest things for that is if you at all possible can keep their pay the same that does ease the process of having to have that tough conversation. Have you had any things like that where you've had to tell people, "Look, you are a fantastic fit when we were at this size, but now that we've grown to here, this isn't the right fit for you." How have you handled that?

Toby Harris: Okay. Usually it, and a lot of that goes back to vision. If you sit down with your managers and you say, "Okay, this is where we are today and this is where we think will be next year." But three years down the road, this is where we're going to be. So you need to start thinking differently now, not then." And if you have the right kind of leadership, if you have the right kind of meetings, if you're really talking to them about it, sometimes they will realize, "I just don't want to do that. I'm not gonna, I don't want to grow into that area." And in many cases they're really good employees. They choose another position, they choose an easier position but they have plenty of time to do that. It's when you wake up one morning and all of a sudden you want to change things and you hit them with it, that you ended up having tough conversations.

Toby Harris: Now sometimes you have to have rapid change, if the economy changes, if you're going into a recession, something like that. You have to adapt in a hurry and you sat down with the people. But then again, casting the vision is so important and if they can't step up to that new vision they will know and you will know much sooner.

Chantel: Yeah. I think one of the things that I have had to really learn is this example of like sometimes someone will say something to me. Let's say I'll read a book about centralizing all processes, right? About how that streamlines things. It gets things faster and, but then I will look at people like a Geico, who you have to kind of put in your mind and go, "Okay, well this is good at this level, but once I get to this level, we might have to to change that vision of where we're going and we might need to say, all right at 300 people this is a good amount or 2000 people or whatever it is. But then we might need to think outside the box and go, what is that critical mass you were talking about." At some point you go, "We need to have another operation for growth."

Chantel: All right, well we are ready to wrap up. Do you guys have any final advice for having tough conversation for growth, or Toby share. If you had to say these are the top three things that I've done that really have helped me grow either in your mindset or in conversations that you've had, what would you say they are?

Toby Harris: Well, first of all is trying to figure out what your total vision is and putting that in writing so that people can take it home and read it [crosstalk 00:25:35]

Chantel: What is the vision for Movement Mortgage?

Toby Harris: Well, one out of 10 mortgages all over the country. And that's been our vision for a long time, but it's also reached by helping the employees that worked for us in a lot of ways and making it a good place to work. But casting that vision, making sure the vision is clear.

Chantel: Where are you guys right now? Your goal is that one out of every 10 mortgages in the United States will be done by Movement. And where are you guys at on that scale right now?

Toby Harris: In some areas we are above that, in some areas we haven't gotten there yet. Some areas we've just opened up. Some areas we're not in yet. We are not in North Dakota yet.

Chantel: Is that the only state. Wait, so you guys are what? 47 states, is that right?

Toby Harris: Yeah, something like that. I think we're licensed in North Dakota, but we don't have one [inaudible 00:26:36].

Chantel: All right if you're listening right now and you are in North Dakota, you need to contact Toby. We gotta make that happen. Okay. Do you have specific vision on how do you make Movement such a great place to work that people don't want to leave?

Toby Harris: Well there's just tons of components to that. We have a program called Thrive and with that program we focus on our employees health and welfare, their financial welfare there, things like that. And just this morning I had an employee come into my office and he said, "My blood pressure is 118 over 70. And I burst out laughing because I go, we have a health station and in our offices and ...

Chantel: Where you can take your blood pressure?

Toby Harris: Your blood pressure and your weight. Things like that. And I had ...

Chantel: Oh we need that Heather.

Heather: Yeah.

Toby Harris: I had gone over around last week harassing and probably that's the right word to describe it. "And when did you take your blood pressure?" I'm like, "Oh a couple of years ago." Stuff like that. We're all going to take a blood ... Stuff like that and what was amazing is they did it on their own. They knew it was the right thing to do. And helping your employees be healthy and helping them to have that vision and helping them to understand that there is a ceiling they can't go above and they put that ceiling there we didn't. And if they want to break through that ceiling they can.

Chantel: What other things are in that Thrive program?

Toby Harris: It talks about a lot of different things, financial things, how to deal with family, the love language, things like that and health. The big component is health. If you're not healthy, then [crosstalk 00:28:41]

Chantel: What specifically besides having them take their blood pressure, that sort of thing. What else do you do for them to improve their health?

Toby Harris: We monitor their steps on a daily, they can, we don't. But they can monitor their steps, their activities, how often they work out, their weight, things like that ...

Heather: Can they win rewards?

Toby Harris: Yes.

Chantel: Like the biggest loser.

Toby Harris: No, they get a discount on health insurance.

Heather: Yeah.

Toby Harris: a big discount and then a couple of dollars.

Heather: Right? Yeah.

Toby Harris: It's a big discount. And we encourage them to do ... It cost us a lot of money. But when your staff is healthier, then you have less turnover. Higher efficiency. It's just a better place to work.

Heather: Plus we appreciate that.

Chantel: Yeah. Well we know a lot of people who work at Movement and they absolutely love it.

Heather: Love it.

Chantel: You guys are doing an amazing job. You and Casey are just the most amazing leaders and everybody I know, I've never heard anyone not say anything but raving reviews about how much they love working there though I never met that one girl, Suzie. You were talking about.

Toby Harris: And you won't. She's gone.

Chantel: Well, thank you so much for being on this show. We really, really appreciate it.

Toby Harris: Oh I love it, I'm gonna steal the coffee cup.

Chantel: And I know all the listeners ... Yes steal the coffee cup and we know all the listeners got so much out of it as well. And so we will see you next time to be a better leader.

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