THREE LEADERSHIP LESSONS from CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien: Through her decades of executive experience, CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien has cultivated a deep understanding of what’s important in leadership. Now as the honcho of more than 100 employees, O’Brien has been intentional in stepping back to evaluate what aspects of her own leadership should remain consistent and what should evolve. Here are a few of her insights over the years. 1. Find Your Voice O’Brien believes that we’re all more effective if we’re true to who we are. The same piece of advice that she issues to new leaders is the same she gives to her children and employees: Find your own voice. “It’s great to be exposed to all different types of people, to learn from them and take from them the things you feel you can incorporate,” O’Brien said. “But at the end of the day, you're never going to be as effective unless you find your own voice. You need to be the leader that you are — not the one that you know you thought was great when you were two jobs in. And that means finding a voice and a style that’s really you.” When you harness your voice, O’Brien said that employees will naturally gravitate toward your message. Authenticity is contagious and will empower those around you, she added. “If you’re true to your own voice, the people will really follow you because it’s genuine,” O’Brien said. “Think about what your friends like about you. What your family likes about you? Those are your key attributes that are going to work in your voice. If your friends find you hilariously funny, it may not be the easiest thing to translate to a work

environment. But that means that you probably should be a little bit more lighthearted than the average leader because that is part of your persona.”

and behavior carry more weight. How you conduct yourself or even consider ideas can shape how people execute their work. “Once you actually have that title you've been trying to get to, all of a sudden you have to be careful what you say or how you say it because people are going to do it,” she said. “If you say something in a meeting, they're going to start working on it — even if you are brainstorming. … There's that evolution piece that you have to be mindful of.” 3. Walk the Walk What you accomplish and how you spend your time will always be a stronger testament of your character than what you say. O’Brien encourages all leaders to be mindful of the precedents they set, and to follow through on what they say. “It sounds trite, but I really believe in leading by example,” she said. “If you're going to expect people to do things, you better also be doing the same thing. Do what you expect people to do and that's going to resonate more than anything you say.”

2. Your Approach Should Evolve As with many things in life, O’Brien encourages people to reflect on how far they’ve come and what should change as a result. One thing to consider for new leaders is whether their approach has become inflexible or stuck in time. Often, new leaders are exclusively tapping into the approach that led them to the corner office, rather than adapting their tack to their new role. “One of the early mistakes people make when they're new to being leaders is that they're so used to being an emerging leader. It's important as an emerging leader to show strength and to be forceful. Sometimes, when you actually get to that leadership position, one of the mistakes people make is that they're a little too forceful, a little too direct because it's how they got there. It's a very normal problem.” O’Brien said that tweaking your

approach is necessary to be a more effective leader because your words

CoreVest also worked dili- gently to simplify the loan process via the internet or over the phone. After

According to O’Brien, CoreVest also incorporates a mentality of growth into its company culture, which means that it’s OK to make mistakes along the way. “I don’t want anyone to ever be afraid of a negative outcome,” she said. “You're allowed to challenge, and you're allowed to make mistakes. And that's what I think you need to do if you're trying to build a culture of constant improvement.” At times, O’Brien is still shocked that the company has largely emerged from its startup roots. While it’s exciting and gratifying to drive such growth, O’Brien said that she hopes CoreVest never loses its scrappy, startup attitude. “I think it’s part of what makes us successful,” O’Brien said. “I hope to never fully shed that startup skin, but I recognize that scalability is the quintessential goal of every startup. … I have teenagers, so it's not lost on me that getting teenagers to adulthood is pretty similar to what's going on here. Your basic teenager or 20-some- thing is incredibly capable, incredibly smart, and really not 100 percent ready yet.” As CoreVest has expanded over the last five years, O’Brien said adapting to that growth has been among its biggest challenges. After reading Blitzscaling by entre- preneurs Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman, O’Brien realized

that her company’s challenges were normal. It started out like a small family and grew to become a village, then a town, and then a city. “It made me feel better — that you're supposed to break a little at each step,” she said. “You're supposed to be going along believing tribal knowledge is fine until all of a sudden you need village rules. It was really helpful to think about it that way — that you're supposed to have challenges each step of the way because you’re a different company at 25 people than you are at 50 and 75 and 100 people.” Looking back at the growth over the last five years, O’Brien said she’s thrilled by for Cor- eVest’s growth and is thank- ful for its hand in enhancing customers’ lives.

submitting an application, the CoreVest team works with customers to determine the size and prices of a loan, guiding them through each step. Once approved, a loan can close as fast as a few days, helping customers accelerate plans based on their specific timelines. Such offerings are examples of how CoreVest en- thusiastically tries new things to serve the market and grow its customer base. O’Brien and her team have prioritized an adaptable approach that listens and responds to customers. Iterative design has allowed the company to evolve with the market and continue to address fluctuations as they come. “One of the things that’s really been key to our success is our ability to make decisions, be willing to try new things, and then adjust the decision if it doesn’t work out,” O’Brien said. “We have a culture of constant im- provement. Sometimes it’s just small improvements, like a process or small change. Anything that continues to reduce the friction to the client or increase our efficiency or work in a way that’s a little bit smarter. Sometimes it means evolving the product to fit the client a little bit better. … You can't just build it and they will come.”

Joke breaks are part of the job at CoreVest.

16 | think realty magazine :: november / december 2019

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