137: Leaders with Heart Lead with Integrity

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Tara Healy, VP of Compliance at Cherry Creek Mortgage about her leadership style, a time when she was not an empathetic and responsive leader, and some great tips for recognition and getting through this pandemic with our teams.

Key takeaways:

  • As leaders, we must be people of integrity.
  • Ask yourself whether you are congruent with who you say you are.
  • Are you creating safe environments for others to be themselves at work?
  • Do you recognize your people in the ways they receive it as such?
Hope you don’t miss this pearl of an episode. Listen and learn!

Tara Healy currently is Vice President of Compliance for Cherry Creek Mortgage Co., Inc. She is a well-respected mortgage professional with 20 years of experience and with specialized skills in the areas of Origination, Operations Management, and Compliance.

A true advocate for the mortgage banking industry, Tara serves as the youngest President of Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association (CMLA), a member of the CMLA Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Committee, past Chair of the CMLA Education and Events Committee, and a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues & Regulatory Compliance Committee. 

Tara was awarded the prestigious Certified Mortgage Banker designation in 2018. She is only one of 11 women in Colorado to have this designation.

Leadership and Styles

It truly is a journey and it’s a fun one. Honestly, I talk about retiring just on the hard days, but I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.

I don’t think there’s actually one leadership style. My style varies depending on what we’re trying to accomplish, who the person is if it’s a one on one, and if there’s a certain goal we’re trying to kick off and implement. Over the years, I’ve come to learn that there’s not a one size fits all. I’ve learned that watching how it went well and how it didn’t go so well with other leaders.

Helping people is what drives me the most. – Tara Healy #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Leading with Integrity

Integrity is doing something when no one’s watching—doing the right thing when no one is watching you. That sounds really silly, but it’s true. 

When I lead, I would say one of my leadership styles is I’m very honest. If I’ve messed up, you’re going to hear it from me. I’m going to own it and I’m going to apologize for it. I’m going to try to make amends. Leading with integrity—hearing people, understanding people, expressing empathy and just doing the right thing—is not easy, in all honesty.

It also means having difficult conversations oftentimes, which is saying what needs to be said. It doesn’t mean you have to be nasty or mean, but it’s having difficult conversations because they need to be had.

This is where it gets a little bit interesting from an executive perspective, because you’re trying to tell your executives, the people that you report to, something very difficult to say like telling them they’re wrong.

It doesn’t always go down well. So, over the years, you learn how to craft that message and get to the same result. That’s been something I’ve struggled with in the beginning, and I’m still here.

You're always a work in progress. It's never done. – Tara Healy #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetBusiness is personal. – Tara Healy #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Water Cooler Meetings

We have 30-minute water cooler meetings even before COVID. We don’t talk about work. We just talk about what’s going on. It’d be the one of the things you would do on a Friday in the office, where you’d walk around and talk to people. But you can’t do that right now, so that’s our Friday water core message during Zoom calls.

I have a stack of thank you notes by my desk. When I see something, I write them in and I just send them out. It’s a small little touch because it’s personal. Over the years, I was told to keep business and personal separate.

But I’ll be honest with you, I think business is personal. You’re dealing with people and it becomes personal. Recognizing people for their talents, their time, or their treasures, is a great thing.

Give yourself some grace. – Tara Healy #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetBe patient with yourself. – Tara Healy #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

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Why Caring Leaders Are Artists in Disguise

When it came to writing my upcoming book, I kept circling back to one phrase in particular: “caring leadership is more art than science.” Why art? When we think of art, we think of creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and resourcefulness. Art challenges, motivates, and excites us, and even pushes us out of our comfort zones at times. I would argue many—if not, all—of those qualities apply to caring leadership, as well.

But how else do leaders embody the artist spirit, and why is that mindset even useful to us?

In perhaps a roundabout way, reconceptualizing leaders as artists can help us lead in more generative and transformative ways. By expanding our definition of leadership beyond a results-oriented framework, we can empower our teams in a more personal and imaginative manner. Below I outline a few parallels between leaders and artists, and why it may be worthwhile to keep them in mind.

  • Leadership and art are deeply personal and subjective practices. The beautiful thing about art is that there’s no one right way to do it; it’s completely individual. In that same vein, caring leadership is not a cookie-cutter approach, simply because not everyone exhibits care in the same way. Just as we might think of Monet or Picasso as artists with different styles, each leader finds personal inspiration to lead in their own unique way. I myself gained many of my key leadership skills, such as empathy, growing up as the product of an interracial and interfaith marriage. Whatever your sources of inspiration, the real art form is exhibiting your own special pastiche of them all.
  • Leaders and artists alike must use a diversity of tools and strategies to get the job done. If you’ve ever seen an artist’s studio, you know how varied and abundant their materials are. Sometimes they need this type of pencil versus that type of brush, or this hue of paint versus that shade of charcoal. Likewise, the effective leader leverages different strategies for different problems. You might employ conflict resolution skills one day, project management strategies the next, or active listening another day, or perhaps all three simultaneously. As a caring leader, it’s your job to become comfortable harnessing your own capacities.
  • Both leadership and art is a daily, perpetual journey—not a destination. Leonardo Da Vinci is often quoted as saying, “art is never finished, only abandoned.” Being a caring leader requires consistent practice and growth. Just as artists sketch or write on a regular basis, the more you practice caring leadership, the easier it will get. Some argue effective leadership is proven with increased profits, but I argue that a leader’s responsibilities extend beyond the realm of quantifiable metrics. Caring leaders are tasked with inspiring others to bring out the best in themselves. Sure, you can get a sense of this through engagement surveys and performance reviews, but if a leader makes a truly profound impact, it’s near impossible to measure. Remember: a masterpiece isn’t determined by its price tag.

In closing, I’d remind you that art is for anyone & everyone, and the same goes for leadership. If you value technique and skill as much as heart and integrity, you’ll find there’s plenty of room for your own style of leadership wherever you choose to let it flourish. Thinking of your leadership style as an art form hopefully mitigates the fear of stepping up in your own right. I believe a single stroke can change our lives forever; you need only find the courage to pick up a brush.