Are You Connected?

In the current regulatory environment, especially under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule, the lender is responsible for accurate and timely delivery of key disclosures to the borrower.

Historically, the lender prepared early disclosures, often without collaboration with the settlement agent, and the settlement agent carried the burden of preparing the HUD-1 Settlement statement. Now, due to the strict tolerances on fees and high potential fines to the lender, most lenders are preparing the new forms (Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms) themselves and requiring information from the settlement agent earlier in the process.

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Today, the collaboration is often via phone or email and not centralized or audited. Since the lenders are on the hook for completing these forms correctly, they need stricter controls and more streamlined processes to reconcile data between the lender’s main system, the loan origination system (LOS), and the settlement agent’s system, the title closing system.

Lenders are under intense pressure to comply with these new rules and regulations. There is increased scrutiny and accountability thrust upon lenders in this new regulatory landscape. It requires lenders to rethink their lending practices, the touch points throughout the loan transaction and the communication that must take place among industry participants.

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In order to mitigate risk, meet strict compliance requirements and profitability goals, lenders have to drive new processes, but they need other parties to come along. Being connected to the right people at the right times throughout the loan transaction is critical.

To do this securely and effectively, an electronic portal or document/data exchange is required. In addition, lenders are also feeling increasing pressure from investors to deliver final documents such as the recorded documents and the final title policy.

The answer to these and many other industry challenges, is to connect lenders and closing agents in a truly collaborative manner. Simplifile – long known for its dominance in the e-recording sector – has expanded its network to connect lenders to its nexus of closing agents, and counties.

Simplifile Collaboration enables lenders to share, receive, and validate documents and data with their network of settlement agents. This independent service gives visibility into settlement agent processes and provides a platform for collaborating on fee data, documents, and transaction details. Simplifile allows lenders to share changes, updates, deficiencies, and statuses within one system, making it easier to audit and ensure compliance.

With lenders now responsible for the closing process, visibility is more important than ever. Simplifile Post Closing provides the visibility lenders need into settlement agent processes along with the reception of recorded documents, fee data, and final title policy.

Their post closing service is organization, system, and closing type independent. Simplifile supports all closing types including paper, hybrid, and fully electronic closings.

Over 17,000 closing and settlement companies are part of the Simplifile network. In total, over 9 million transactions go through the system annually. Also, Simplifile’s network has coverage of over 70 percent of the population from the counties. At present, 25 title closing systems and 93 land record systems are integrated with Simplifile.

This powerful, agnostic and independent network already provides vast and deep relationships with closing agents and can now be leveraged by lenders to deliver critical collaboration (communication tools, document sharing, fee data sharing, notifications & alerts and audit trails) and post close tracking (recording and transfer tax fee estimates, recording status, estimated recording times, and electronic return of recorded documents and final title policy).

To address these challenges head on, lenders must collaborate with the right parties at the right time throughout the loan transaction to successfully navigate these new regulatory requirements while maintaining profitability. The time to connect lenders, settlement agents and counties is now.

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The Three C’s Of TRID

Jewelers have often cited the “Four C’s” of a diamond’s quality – carat, cut, clarity, color. These four standards help consumers judge the quality of a diamond, and the “Four C’s” provide a simple method for remembering the keys to a valuable gem.

When it comes to mortgage compliance, lenders must also juggle a variety of factors to ensure that all standards are met. The complexity has only risen over the past five years as various pieces of the Dodd-Frank Law have come into effect.

One of the most significant changes is coming up August 1, when the new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rules go into effect. After that day, mortgage lenders will have to issue a new up-front disclosure document called the Loan Estimate. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) did a number of consumer studies, and based on consumer feedback they have designed two new forms, combining the information from the previous Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and Truth-in-Lending (TIL) into a single set of documents. Any loans with an application date of August 1 or later will also need to use the new Closing Disclosure to close the loan at the end of the origination process. This new form requires several changes from the current loan closing process.

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Just as jewelers can use the Four C’s to guide diamond quality, lenders can rely on the “Three C’s of TRID” – comply, communicate and cooperate – to ensure that all processes are ready, staff trained and compliance requirements met.

Comply

A common misperception is that the TRID rule is a forms and document rule. While new forms are certainly a component of it, lenders deal with form and document changes regularly. The new forms and documents, while challenging, do not present the level of difficulty and change that the procedural aspects of the rule convey.

On the other hand, the process for closing first lien mortgage loans will change dramatically come August of this year. Under the new processes, the lender has the burden for issuing the new Closing Disclosure, whereas today the Title/Escrow agent provides that service.

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All mortgage lenders originating residential first lien mortgages will have to comply with this rule and it’s a daunting task for many. Given that challenge, the other two “C’s of TRID” can help ensure your success in complying with this rule.

Communicate

The final rule has been out for a year and half, and the industry has had ample notification of the deadline. Yet there are many organizations in the lending industry that have not communicated to their employees, their partners and their providers what is needed to prepare. Communication needs to cover at least the following three bases:

  1. General overview of what the rule is and how it will affect the lenders’ and partners’ business and when it goes into effect. Every employee in every organization who participates in the mortgage lending process needs to know this.
  2. What are your firm’s plans to address the rule? How will you be doing testing and validation of the new forms and procedures? When will you be training your staff and potentially your partners (title/escrow firms, brokers, realtors, etc) on how you will comply with the rule?
  3. How should an employee or partner get help or support if they have questions? Will there be online resources to access? Will there be a telephone number or group to call for help?

By ensuring that everyone involved knows what the rule is, how you plan to address it and how they get help in the event of a question or problem, you will dramatically increase the probability of success in executing against the regulatory requirements.

Cooperate

As mentioned previously, the major challenge with the TRID rule is procedural, not the form and document changes.

Requiring lenders instead of the Title/Escrow agents to issue the closing document will require many parties in the lending process to work together more closely and in concert in order to make targeted closing dates. Final closing fees will need to be determined as many as eight to 10 days before the closing date depending on how the borrower chooses to receive their documents.

You need to be thinking about cooperation with all of the parties involved in the loan process. This includes property inspectors, appraisal firms, realtors and settlement agents, amongst others. Without strong communication among these parties, it will be very difficult to get the final fees and issue the Closing Disclosure on time. Not being able to make timely closings has many implications, including expiring rate locks, expiring purchase contracts, impacting secondary or tertiary closings dependent on the funds from this closing, etc. It is a lawyer’s playground as soon as several of these circumstances happen, and the best way to stay ahead of that game is to have a plan for cooperation with your clients and partners.

All in all, the TRID rule will have a big impact on our industry. The new forms do seem to be easier to understand and hopefully will provide a better experience for our borrower customers. But lenders will bear the burden and expense of the regulation. Those who are on top of the Three C’s of TRID will be best prepared to excel under the rule while other firms struggle.

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Vendor Management: A Necessity Of The Future

We already know that servicers have to balance the needs of tech savvy consumers and more tenacious regulatory bodies. Consumers are more knowledgeable and want real-time access to their accounts, make a payment and/or talk to someone at their discretion. Federal regulatory agencies, such as Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, want to protect consumers from any unscrupulous financial practices. Some of these same regulatory agencies now regulate vendors’ relationships with servicers or lenders. Trying to satisfy the two does not have to be double efforts. Servicers can have a synergy between their consumer management system and vendor management systems that provide complete transparency and at the same time create reports for management and auditing purposes.

While I understand and believe in the need to protect consumers, regulations are extremely restrictive and the best way for servicers to do this is to focus on using their current internal data to create better, cost effective vendor management processes seamlessly.

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In order to be productive and survive any federal audits, servicers have had to adjust to not only understanding vendor management requirements but educating their staff, implementing processes and systems that can help them with the process. They have modified their current day to day practices to include vendor oversight efforts. This has included educating their staff about ever changing regulations in addition to possibly adding new technology. And as if that isn’t enough, they must repeat the process with every single one of their service providers. The kicker is if these service providers cannot comply with regulatory requirements, the lender/servicer unfortunately is forced to find an alternative service provider. This process takes precious and valuable time away from their core business, originating or servicing loans.

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So imagine if you will, a scenario that would include effective, ongoing regulatory monitoring for compliance, having a viable contingency plan in place, notification of any updates that staff need to be trained and made aware of and having this done in real time without hiring a staff to maintain it. It is possible to make this happen but with proper planning by the servicer. During the development or purchasing of a vendor management system, servicers need to consider major factors that can affect how they perform, such as updating, educating and training around regulations that are constantly changing. It becomes imperative for servicers to have a robust and adaptable system. In fact, with the right system, whenever there is a change in regulations, the system’s provider should provide the update. Such a system should provide a seamless update for users. Adapting to such a system can save the servicer time with immediate updates and money by avoid regulatory fines.

Servicers survival now depends on adhering to these regulations, and even further, adapting to the regulations in a cost effective manner. They can either develop their own technology from scratch or license the product from other vendors. I would think they would turn to a trusted third party that would provide user-friendly technology that can be easily configured to the latest regulatory changes along with stellar customer service. Going this route will help servicers focus more on their core business; servicing loans and meeting the needs of borrowers.

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We All Matter

The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals ® (NAHREP) has released its 2015 report on the Top 250 Latino Mortgage Originators in the United States. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage led the way with the most agents on the list, with independent lenders New American Funding and Alterra Home Loans finishing second and third, respectively. NAHREP reports that it received more than 800 nominations from 42 different companies.

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“These agents and mortgage loan originators are highly dedicated to their trade and know first-hand the significance that homeownership holds for the Latino community,” said Teresa Palacios Smith, NAHREP’s 2015 president. “We are proud to recognize these hardworking individuals for their success and devotion to their profession.”

The Top 250 reports include snapshots of interesting data points as well as photos and personal stories of this year’s honorees. The report, which is sponsored by Radian Guaranty, is available at www.nahrep.org/top250/originator.

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“Radian recognizes the growing importance of the diverse populations for our country’s housing and economic recovery, and is thrilled to partner withNAHREP in making sure that mortgage professionals are not only aware of the needs of these populations but are ready to support them,” said Teresa Bryce Bazemore, president of Radian Guaranty. “Radian is proud to recognize some of the best mortgage originators in the industry today and advance the goal of sustainable homeownership.”

The listing of the Top 250 Latino Mortgage Originators in America is compiled through a self-nomination process reflective of total transactions closed during the 2014 calendar year, which are verified by NAHREP and the senior management of the loan originator’s employer. Membership in NAHREP is not a requirement. This year’s Top 10 Latino Mortgage Originators in the U.S. are:

  1. Manuel Corral, GEM Mortgage, Pomona, CA
  2. Edward A. Hernandez, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Highland Village, TX
  3. Benjamin Herrera, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Des Moines, IA
  4. Donald Ambrose King, IV, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Des Moines, IA
  5. Alexander Varela, PrimeLending, Bedford, TX
  6. Miguel Dominguez, PrimeLending, Sterling Heights, MI
  7. Carlos Augusto Gutierrez-Villalba, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Tempe, AZ
  8. Sergio Corona, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Des Moines, IA
  9. Natalie Navarro, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Tempe, AZ
  10. Jorge Montoya, Guild Mortgage, Reno, NV

NAHREP’s Top 250 Latino Real Estate Agents will be announced on June 16, 2015. Both the Top 250 Mortgage Originators and Top 250 Agents will be recognized at the NAHREP 2015 National Convention & Latin Music Festival at the Chicago Hilton Downtown, September 20-22, 2015.

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Compliance Doesn’t Matter

That may sound like a bold and foolish statement. There is an intense regulatory burden that is stretching staff resources and driving up the cost to originate. While all of the new rules and regulations are certainly an important priority for all lenders, and one that must be properly addressed, at the end of the day, compliance doesn’t matter if you don’t have any borrowers.

Even with the flood of rules and regulations and the enormous pressure to comply, lenders must continue to attract new borrowers if they want to remain viable. In the face of these challenges lenders cannot afford to loose sight of the importance of bringing in new business and constantly looking for ways to drive new business in the most efficient manner possible.

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How will your company continue to thrive in such a demanding and compliance focused environment? Identifying and acting on high-quality business opportunities is a big part of the answer. You need to generate leads quickly and efficiently, and then drive them to the point-of-sale. You need to convert them into customers with compliant in-process marketing. You also need to retain them and maximize their lifetime value through repeat business and referrals. It’s critically important to create and nourish strong relationships with referral partners in a purchase market.

That’s where marketing automation comes into play. Lenders focused on driving new business and attracting more borrowers are turning to advanced marketing technology to attract more borrowers in today’s highly competitive and regulated mortgage market.

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So what is marketing automation and why should lenders take notice? Marketing automation for lenders can be described as software and strategies that allow companies to consistently attract new borrowers–that is, to nurture prospective borrowers with highly personalized, relevant content that helps convert borrowers into customers and turns customers into raving fans. Marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for lenders and provides an excellent return on the investment, in addition to attracting top loan officer (LO) talent to the organization.

Leading LO’s demand advanced marketing solutions. These solutions automate engagement with prospective clients and provide relevant updates for in-process milestones while developing and enhancing partner relationships. Marketing Automation employs leading technology to maximize marketing relevance and automation of communication that capitalizes on opportunities to increase pipelines and profitability. LO’s experience:

>> Increased pipelines and commission potential

>> Maximize market opportunities

>> Experience a surge in response rates

>> Develop loyalty throughout customer base

>> Gain a clear competitive advantage

>> Automate communications with prospective borrowers and clients

>> Develop and enhance partner relationships

At the end of the day, compliance does matter, but it only matters if you have borrowers. That’s where marketing automation comes into play. Isn’t it time to focus as much attention on driving new business as you do in meeting your compliance obligations?

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Nothing To Rejoice About

Following a request by NAMB, The Association of Mortgage Professionals, to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to implement a “hold harmless” period on TRID enforcement on August 1, housing industry groups are now backing legislation that would mandate such a period.

Supported by NAMB and numerous other housing industry leaders, H.R. 2213, sponsored by Congressman Stevan Pearce (R-NM), will provide a reasonable hold-harmless period for enforcement of the of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) regulation for those that make good-faith efforts to comply. A hold-harmless period helps ensure consumers’ real estate closings will not be disrupted after the complicated regulation’s August 1 effective date.

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“NAMB has repeatedly warned the policy makers in Washington, D.C. that, while everyone involved is doing their very best to be ready, there is just too much uncertainty surrounding the August 1 TRID deadline,” said John Councilman, NAMB President.

“Today we’re urging Congress and the President to make this clear for the CFPB,” added Councilman. “Pass and sign H.R. 2213 into law right away and remove the uncertainty in the mortgage market as we head into summer.”

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However, regardless of any delays in enforcement, this change is coming and cannot be stopped. So those celebrating a grace period should stop rejoicing and start preparing.

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A Total Marketing Approach

Do you have a 360-degree approach to your marketing? It can help you provide a consistent experience across channels.

“A 360-degree approach is about taking a broad and all-encompassing view of your entire customer journey, from discovery to purchase, across multiple devices and touchpoints,” states Wheelhouse Advisors in an infographic.

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This approach includes customer communication, outbound email, inbound lead nurturing, social, content, website, SEO, and PPC.

For example, “a strong customer communications plan can help you build lasting, fruitful relationships with your clients—pushing up customer lifetime value and developing a powerful sense of brand advocacy,” Wheelhouse Advisors explains.

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“Keep in touch with a CRM,” Wheelhouse Advisors recommends. “Ask your customers how they’re finding your product or service, and if there’s anything you can do to improve things.”

To find out more about each section of 360-degree digital marketing, click or tap on the infographic:

15069-306-degree-marketing-wheel-infographic

Implementing MBI : It’s Not About the Software

Anyone who does more than a little reading about mortgage technology will likely recognize a pattern in the way vendors discuss their offerings. They constantly attempt to outdo each other by pointing to their most flattering technical specifications. One provider will claim to get their clients live in 30 days or less, while another will advertise the fastest database performance. In the world of mortgage business intelligence, this approach is fascinating, because it ignores the most critical aspect of the implementation.

Implementing MBI is about much more than simply installing the software, connecting the data sources, and setting up user credentials. That’s only the beginning. The core of an MBI implementation is the successful conversion of an organization’s traditional analytics to embedded analytics. What’s being implemented is not just software, but a fundamental shift in the way an organization thinks and works, and this type of shift doesn’t just happen automatically once the software is installed and running.

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Managers must first understand how to get the same information they currently get from their old spreadsheets and traditional reports with their new MBI platform. This may be the most critical phase of an MBI implementation, because if managers can’t immediately begin to abandon the analytics they’re currently using, the MBI implementation will have stalled before it’s begun. Even if an MBI platform comes with an array of prebuilt solutions, a consultative configuration phase is necessary to ensure that there is a smooth transition from whatever reports and spreadsheets managers currently live by to corresponding MBI components. And these components must do more than just provide the same information in the same format. They must provide it in a more dynamic and effective format that is easier to use.

Once managers take this first step in migrating to MBI, the implementation must continue with ongoing consulting and training to expand the use and impact of the system. Instead of the effort leveling off once the first couple of spreadsheets are turned into KPIs, the movement should go on to absorb any spreadsheet and report in its path until there are none left. Superior vendors will know that the more your system proliferates, the more success you’ll have with it. They should constantly be encouraging you to expand your use of the system, and they should be available to show you how and to help you do it.

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MBI isn’t just about the software. It merely starts with the software. The goal of MBI is to create a new type of energy in an organization. To get staff to naturally gravitate toward peak performance. To create departments that are intrinsically proactive instead of reactive. To foster dynamic thinking and effective prioritizing. To go from task oriented to goal oriented workflow, and to become more successful.

If your MBI vendor isnít discussing these effects with you, theyíre not an MBI vendor. If all theyíre doing is solving technical issues for you, they’re just another IT provider, and there are many of these. To maximize your chances for a successful implementation, your MBI provider should have experience with more than just software installation. The need a solid track record of helping move entire user communities from traditional mortgage analytics to MBI, which is not something just any provider can do.

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What Is Diversity?

I grew up with the belief that my entire family, except for my maternal grandfather, was German. My Dad’s family told stories of growing up with the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions. This meant seven sweets and seven sours for holiday dinners, cooking for Sunday on Saturday and farming in Lancaster County which is where the family settled when they arrived in the 1730’s. Even though we lived in Western Pennsylvania, all the relatives lived in southeastern Pennsylvania, the home of the Amish with towns named Intercourse and Blue Balls.

On my mother’s side we heard family tales of the trip over from Germany and the illness that took many of the lives of the family. The story goes that anyone with my grandmother’s maiden name was related since all the others had died on the trip over. I even have pictures taken in the early 20th century of the entire clan. My grandfather on the other hand was English and very proud of it.

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So when I sent away for the DNA kit to find out my genetic heritage I truly expected that it would come back saying 75% German and 25% English. Boy was I in for a surprise.   The test did find that I am primarily from Western Europe and Great Britain as expected. But the shockers came when it revealed that I am 2% North African and 1% Mid-Eastern. In addition I have Italian/Greek genes and Spanish genes. Basically if you look at a map of the Holy Roman Empire at its heights, I am representative of all of it.

So this got me to thinking. Have I been answering the Government Monitoring information incorrectly? I always listed “White” and “Female”, but should I have said African-American or Asian-American? Would I have been eligible for more opportunities if I had? Did my children miss out on scholarships or special events and classes because I failed to categorize their race properly?

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And that leads me to another question, what percentage of African genes does a person need to be considered African American? Do I have a high enough percentage of Mid-Eastern blood flowing through my veins to be considered Asian-American and become eligible for a Su-Su partnership? And of those who call themselves African-American or Asian-American how can we be sure they actually are? For example, many African-Americans are descended from children fathered by whites. One only has to read about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Henning to understand that. So should everyone have this test done in order to ensure that our “fairness” is fair? Should we set percentage standards to be eligible to be considered non-white?

Now don’t take me wrong. I am a very strong advocate of Fair Lending Programs, but I do worry that we may have gone off the deep end just a bit. Let’s look at the HMDA data. There is a general outcry that African-Americans are denied at twice the rate of whites and just looking at the data on the surface, that appears to be true. However, what if we took out that factor, or counted anyone with African genes (like me) as African- American? What if we said that anyone with the DNA of Western Europe, no matter how much, could no longer be considered African-American, and apply this same standard to Asian-American’s as well. After all there are a lot of Asians with white and black fathers (Think Tiger Woods). What would the HMDA results be then?

The reality is that much of the HMDA data is just plain bad. Many people refuse to complete the Government Monitoring Information at all, which is their choice, and with the advent of internet applications they don’t even have to provide it. In addition, some lenders still haven’t figured how to compile the data they do have correctly or may even manufacture the data just to satisfy the regulatory requirement. Filing bad data was never the intention of Fair Lending or HMDA. I think it would be much more productive to take a deep dive into why loans are denied. What attributes or issues are common among them? Why do some lenders have a very high percentage of withdrawn loans rather than denials? And probably most important, who does discriminate and on what basis. The tools are available today to do this type of study, but who among us will take on the challenge to validate or destroy all of these preconceived notions that we cling to. Let’s not all raise our hands at once. But if there is someone brave enough to do so, let me know. I will be happy to join the battle. I’m sure somewhere in my very diverse gene pool is a great warrior waiting to get into the struggle.

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Three Reasons Why Focus Matters In Leadership

I frequently write and speak about the essential qualities leaders need to develop in themselves in order to succeed in work and in life. As a consultant and coach, I guide people in the mortgage industry on their personal characteristics as much as I do their business acumen in the industry. Before you become a better leader, you’ve got to become a better person. But, there is one skill I often emphasize that is absolutely vital for success both personally and professionally–and that is the ability to focus.

It has been said that success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration–that those who accomplish things are simply those who work hard. While I think that’s true, I think focus is the very foundation of hard work. Hard work is simply focus in motion. If you can’t maintain the discipline to concentrate on a problem and see it through to its solution, you will never get anything done. If, on the other hand, you can develop the ability to screen out distractions and home in on the task you are engaged in until it’s complete, you can accomplish wonders. Here are three reasons why focus matters in leadership.

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First, developing the ability to focus can make your more effective. It will help you get the right things done. As a leader in the industry, you are going to be inundated with all sorts of things that could monopolize your time. You are going to have people who want to meet with you, products and services you’ll need to consider using, industry news and information you will need to review, and business decisions you’ll need to think through. Maintaining a sense of focus will help you prioritize, do what matters most, delegate what you can, and disregard what isn’t important for accomplishing your goals. If you want to accomplish the things that matter most, you need to have the ability to focus on them.

Secondly, strengthening your sense of focus can make you more efficient. It will help you get things done right. When you are working on an issue, you will no doubt face countless interruptions. If you don’t have a strong sense of focus, you will let yourself get sidetracked and the issue will take much longer to resolve. If, however, you can focus on the task you are working on without letting interruptions distract you, you’ll be able to finish it in much less time. Moreover, you’ll probably do a much better job, because you will have been concentrating thoroughly on what you were doing. Focus helps you do your work better.

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Finally, maintaining an aura of focus can set the appropriate example for your team. The workplace can easily disintegrate into a flurry of water cooler conversations, with people simply checking their watches and waiting for five o’clock. Distraction is the enemy of productivity. If your people see that you are focusing on your work, they will be inspired to focus on theirs. As the leader, people will follow your example. What kind of example are you setting? Are you focusing on your work? The ability to focus can be a game changer, not just for you, but for everyone on your team–bringing success to your company and new life to the industry.

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