During this safer at home period, I’ve gotten sort of “close” with my new Peloton and the instructors who guide me through daily workouts. One instructor, in particular, Matt Wilpers, offers classes like he is your own fitness coach, using output metrics tailored to your personal fitness level, so exercisers can improve on an individualized basis during each workout. In the middle of a recent workout, Wilpers said something that lit a lightbulb for me about coaching, teaching and mentoring generally. He said, “Hey, I would love to do the work for you, but you’ll get nothing out of what I’m telling you as your coach if you don’t put in the effort yourself.”
That seems pretty obvious in the exercise context, but it got me to thinking about all forms of leadership, teaching and guidance. Specifically, it got me thinking about what I do as a mortgage attorney when I interact with my clients and even when I write my Mortgage Musings. That is, do I just answer the question for my audience or do I get them to internalize the questions and understand how to analyze and resolve the problem themselves? Leaders that just tell you what to do based on their authority or credibility might give you the right answer (or might not), but, outside of the military context, my observation is that just telling people what to do is a weak form of leadership, even if expedient.
My good friend, Jeremy Potter of Quicken Loans, often mentions his mantra of “answer well” in his weekly “Saturday Cup of Joe.” To Jeremy, that loosely means, “to bring your full attention and energy to every question no matter how big or small. It does not mean prioritizing everything the same way. Once you choose your next task or interaction, give it your best.” I like that formulation a lot as too often a quick and thoughtless answer fails to truly appreciate the problem.
Yet, for me, “answering well” may require even more: that is, beyond carefully focusing your energy on the question and solutions, I should craft my answer in a way that enables the audience to internalize a commitment to action through understanding. For example, I talk a lot about narrative when it comes to RESPA. Knowing how to articulate a compliant narrative for marketing efforts is critical to RESPA compliance. When I train on RESPA, we talk about compliant narratives in the context of understanding how RESPA permits marketing, but not compensation for referrals.
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Just as Matt can’t pedal my exercise bike for me, my goal as an attorney is to offer my guidance in a way that teaches the audience to think for themselves how to solve the problem. Sure, I can answer your question, but it’s what you do with the answer that really matters.
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