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This article first appeared in Real Estate magazine’s special-edition Women in Real Estate issue. View the entire issue here. 

In this exclusive interview, Quicken Loans® Director of Business Channel Strategy Lauren Gadoua discusses the company’s culture, leadership philosophy, goal-setting strategy, team member development and more.

Paige Tepping: Please provide a brief overview of your history in the industry and how you ended up where you are today.    

Lauren Gadoua: About six years into my career, which predominantly consisted of B2B sales and marketing, I began looking for a new opportunity because I wasn’t feeling challenged enough at my current company. I started at Quicken Loans in 2013 as a marketing strategist helping to make homeowners aware that they could take advantage of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).

Soon after, I was asked to move to the Business Development team as its first dedicated marketing team member working on various B2B efforts. This is where I started working with the real estate agent community and learned about how we assist agents throughout a home purchase. The Business Development Marketing team expanded, and I began leading that team in 2017.

Last year, I moved my team back over to the Quicken Loans Marketing team where we’ve been working under our CMO, Casey Hurbis, to grow the Rocket brand with homebuyers and their agents. My team has more than doubled, and one of our main focuses is Rocket Pro Insight—a tool we launched in October 2020—which gives real estate agents visibility and control in their client’s home loan process.

PT: Can you talk a little bit about the company’s culture, as well as its ISMs, and why it is so important to foster this type of culture? 

LG: First and foremost, our culture is friendly, inclusive and welcoming. Another aspect of our culture that is valuable to me as a team member and a leader is the freedom. We’re encouraged to try new things and to test and measure all of our ideas—and we never see failures as definitive. We learn both from what works and what falls flat, then we go back to the drawing board to keep building better tools and experiences for our clients and real estate partners.

The ISMs, which are 20 ideals and principles Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans founder) started writing more than 20 years ago, define this culture for us and lay out philosophies that guide our decision-making, actions and behaviors.

PT: Is there one particular ISM that stands out most in your mind?

LG: All 20 ISMs work hand in hand, but one that stands out to me is “Obsessed With Finding a Better Way.” Our never-ending mission is to find a better way for every process and everything we touch.

I’ve been in the thick of our real estate engagement strategy for more than five years. That entire time we have been focused on trying new things to give our real estate partners a world-class experience. “Obsessed” is the right word. “Good enough” is never good enough for us, the agents we work with or their clients.

PT: When it comes to the company’s leadership philosophy, what are some of the key components in this area? 

LG: Some of the most important components to our culture and leadership philosophy are approachability, transparency and empowerment.

First of all, team members need to feel comfortable reaching out to leadership. As leaders, it is our duty to provide ongoing guidance to our teams, no matter how busy we are. We cannot be in an “ivory tower,” available by appointment only. In fact, Jay Farner, our CEO, has his cellphone number listed on our company intranet so anyone can get ahold of him if they need to.

It’s also vital to have transparency when communicating with your teams to build upon the trust you’ve established by being there for them. Explaining the “why” behind the task and the impact on the business, being honest about how and why decisions are made, and including team members in the goal-setting process helps the team see why their role is important in the larger picture.

Finally, empowering team members to go and do their jobs shows the team that you have trust in them. It’s our job as leaders to develop our people into superstar executors and future leaders who feel equipped to successfully carry out their projects without constant oversight. On top of that, we need to empower them to be innovative, try new ways to meet the goal and never settle for the status quo.

PT: Why do you believe this type of leadership philosophy has been so successful?   

LG: All of these approaches to leadership help team members feel valued and part of the success of the organization as a whole. When a team member feels that they serve a valued purpose, they’ll feel motivated to continue doing a great job and seek out new opportunities for development. When you start multiplying that effect, and you have a majority of your people reaching higher and striving for improvement, the entire organization will level up.

PT: Setting goals—and achieving them—is critical to a company’s continued success. How does Quicken Loans approach goal setting? 

LG: In 2020, we adopted the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework to set company goals.

Your team’s objective can be an ambitious goal, but your key results must be measurable and time-bound to track your progress. Drilling down, you start to see what projects/tasks/efforts are driving toward moving the needle on that key result. Then, together, those key results will help you meet your objective.

The entire leadership team across all businesses that make up Rocket Companies read “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr in late 2019, so we were all on the same page about how we wanted to set and measure goals.

It takes time, commitment and a lot of refinement to change your goal-setting structure and stick with it, but it’s worth it.

PT: Why has this approach been instrumental in the company’s success?

LG: Focus! The ideas flying around this place are never-ending, and if we tried to do everything, we’d end up accomplishing nothing. OKRs help us map out long-term vision and break out how to get there in quarterly segments.

PT: How are you continuing to develop and empower team members?  

LG: Our approach to leadership development is to integrate development throughout the team member lifecycle. At every age and every stage in our team members’ careers, we have programs that guide them to the next level and continually enable them to progress in their careers—up to and including our most senior leaders.

We encourage development in all team members, whether they have a “leader” title or not. We recognize that every team member can influence those they interact with and, therefore, we view the word “leadership” more broadly than a simple reporting structure.

This is summed up in a quote from our Founder and Chairman, Dan Gilbert: “A leader’s job is not to create more followers. A leader’s job is to create more leaders.”  

The above article is sponsored content. For more information, please visit RocketPro.com/RealEstate.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

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