The Next Big Question


Episode 10
Hosted by: Drew Lazzara and Liz Ramey

Kelly Ann Doherty

Chief People & Communications Officer

Mr. Cooper

Prior to joining Mr. Cooper, Kelly Ann served in leadership positions at NationStar Mortgage and Elevate. Kelly Ann was an essential part of the cultural transformation at Mr. Cooper, articulating their vision and values.

How Do Organizations Decide on Their True Values?


NOVEMBER 16, 2020

This week, Kelly Ann Doherty of Mr. Cooper joins us on The Next Big Question to discuss cultural transformation. As Chief People & Communications Officer of the mortgage company, Kelly Ann shares her experience in transforming the name, company values, communications, and culture. She shares her insights on why patience is crucial and what results they have realized as a result of their transformation.

/

Drew Lazzara (00:13):

Welcome to The Next Big Question, a weekly podcast with senior business leaders, sharing their vision for tomorrow, brought to you by Evanta, a Gartner company.

Liz Ramey (00:23):

Each episode features a conversation with C-suite executives about the future of their roles, organizations, and industries.

Drew Lazzara (00:32):

My name is Drew Lazzara.

Liz Ramey (00:33):

And I'm Liz Ramey. We're your cohosts. So Drew, what's The Next Big Question?

Drew Lazzara (00:40):

Well, Liz, this week we're asking, how do large organizations decide on their true values. To help us tackle this question is Kelly Ann Doherty, Executive Vice President and Chief People and Communications Officer for Mr. Cooper Group. Prior to joining Mr. Cooper, Kelly Ann served in leadership positions at Nation Star Mortgage and Elevate. Throughout her career, Kelly Ann has been, above all else, a communicator of values. So when Mr. Cooper embarked on a cultural transformation, she was an essential part of articulating what mattered most to the business, their employees, and their customers. In our conversation this week, Kelly Ann discusses the factors that motivated the transformation, how the organization determined what their true values are, and the importance of standing by what you believe, even if there are negative consequences. 

Before we sit down with Kelly Ann, we want to take a moment to thank you for listening. To make sure you don't miss out on the next Next Big Question, please take a moment to subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen. Please rate and review the show so we can continue to grow and improve. Thanks very much and enjoy.

Drew Lazzara (01:57):

Kelly Ann Doherty, welcome to The Next Big Question. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Kelly Ann Doherty (02:01):

Thank you for having me. I'm delighted to be here today.

Liz Ramey (02:04):

Kelly Ann, we are so delighted for you to be here, as well. And, before we get into some of these really big questions, I'm learning about, you know, this cultural transformation and some of the things that you have guided in the last few years within your organization. We want to also talk to you a little bit about your personal self and get to know you a bit. Is that okay?

Kelly Ann Doherty (02:27):

Absolutely.

Liz Ramey (02:28):

Well, let's start. I'm going to jump down to one of my favorite questions, and that is, if you had a book or a movie or even a band, that you recommend the most often, what would that be?

Kelly Ann Doherty (02:43):

I love this question so much, and I'm going to talk about a book and a band because I am a sports watcher. I am not much of a movie watcher. So if I were to give you a movie recommendation, it would probably be useless. I'm known for my fantasy football, aficionado type of, um, type of view, especially as it relates to sports. So no movies, but book, actually I'll reference one, that's more recent, and that's called Insights by Tasha Urich. And it's really all about how self-awareness is now the new meta skill and how leaders really need to be able to apply that in transforming their own leadership style, but also transforming businesses. So if you haven't checked that out, I'd really encourage you to do that. I think it's a really compelling read for anybody who's looking to really grow as a leader. 

And outside of my recent book choice, my favorite book probably of all time is A Prayer for Owen Meany. And it's just one that really sits with me, and I've actually re-read it a couple of times. And if you haven't read it, I really encourage you to do so because it's a powerful story. So those are my two books. And then as far as musicians go, it's not really, a band, but a mentality. I have a ritual in the morning, which is a little bit embarrassing to admit, but I'll go ahead and do that because you know anything about me, you know, that I'm pretty unapologetically myself. And that's - I dance for 20 minutes by myself in the morning. I find that that really sets the tone for my day. It really makes me happy. And so I really enjoy dance music. Anything that feels really positive and makes you want to move is the type of music that I want to listen to. And it really does. It's just about a state of mind. 

Drew Lazzara (04:24):

Well, there's a whole podcast in that answer right there. Uh, so many questions.

Liz Ramey (04:32):

I absolutely love -- you know, some people wake up, and they meditate and you're just getting your meditation and good vibes through dancing. And that's just fantastic.

Drew Lazzara (04:41):

And John Irving is one of my favorite authors. So, you know, A Prayer for Owen Meany is a great recommendation for anyone.

Liz Ramey (04:47):

And I love that. I'm also a big fantasy football fan, and this is my 12th year of being the commissioner of my all girls league. So we'll have to talk offline.

Kelly Ann Doherty (04:59):

Absolutely. See, we could do a whole podcast about that, too.

Liz Ramey (05:03):

Exactly. I love it. I love it. Well, great. Well, Kelly Ann, that was so much fun. I do have a couple other questions and even though I feel like we're really getting to know you here just off of one question. You know, if you were to look back in your life and say, 30, 40 years from now, what would you like to be known for?

Kelly Ann Doherty (05:27):

You know, I think that at the end of the day, what I want to be known for is just that I was somebody that made a difference. Whether that was in one life, a thousand lives or a million lives, somebody who did something to make a difference to make that one person's life better. And I think that there's a few ways that you can go about doing that. But for me, it'll always be in some fearlessness, fearlessness in terms of challenging what is normal, and having the courage to really take that on, and be a voice for people who might not have a voice otherwise. So if even one person says that I made a difference in their lives, I think that I'll feel pretty good about that.

Liz Ramey (06:10):

Kelly Ann, what sets of principles or ideas have kept you motivated during tough times in your career or even in your, even in your personal life? Of course, everybody's looking at 2020 and calling it various names in their own right because it has been pretty tough, but what are some of those principles or ideas that have kept you motivating during this time?

Kelly Ann Doherty (06:32):

You know, 2020 could have, you know, not even a chapter in the book. Um, it could have its own, its own series, but I do think that there several things that have happened through the course of my life and career that have prepared me for this moment. And so, there's a few things. The first really is a lesson or principle that I got from my dad. And that was that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. And I've translated that into, to really meaning that I need to swim outside my lane, challenge myself, and force myself to do the uncomfortable and in all of that, ready yourself for the opportunities that can be really transformative. And this year is a great example of that. In so many different experiences that I've had, I've been able to pull on those whether it was crisis communications and there's certainly been a lot of crisis communications needs, or even taking on the responsibility of the HR organization a few years ago. All of that has culminated in being able to lead through what 2020 has thrown at us. And so that's a really important one for me. And it's always to be mindful of what all of those different experiences can do for you and ultimately leading to a really fruitful career. 

(07:44) The second, I would say also relevant to 2020, was from my very first boss coming out of college. And it's pretty simple. He'd say, "Stiff in the wind." Anytime I would get worked up about something or discouraged by something, he would say, “Stiff in the wind.” And all of that was to me, just a reminder of mental toughness and how important it is to realize that this too shall pass and that you need to stay grounded in your principles and who you are in order to weather any storm. And that's really something that I think about a lot when I'm feeling challenged personally, because, you know, if you're grounded, if your roots are planted and you know who you are, you can really weather just about anything. I really believe that staying true to my own values, staying true to who I am, and owning that, is something that has always been my North, my personal North Star, but I think it's also shown other people that they can do that, too. And that's pretty fun to see when you're actually enabling other people to show up as themselves and feel more confident in who they are.

Drew Lazzara (08:52):

Well, Kelly Ann, that is a perfect segway toward today's conversation because we're here to talk about how organizations can actually discover and stick to who they really are. So, you know, being yourself only at an organizational level. And I think, when a lot of people hear that phrase, it comes back to this idea of – what are some of the pillars of a durable organizational culture that you can always return to,  like you said, those deep roots that are always there, that you can rely on when things change or when things are challenging. And I know in your role, you've played a huge part in guiding a cultural transformation within an organization. So, I wanted to start by having you reflect on that process, what was, what were some of the drivers to your cultural transformation as an organization, and how did you help to lead that process?

Kelly Ann Doherty (09:36):

Sure. So let me first start by just telling people a little bit about who I am and the company that I work for because I work for a company called the Mr. Cooper Group, which is a funny name for who we are, and that's a mortgage servicer and originator. We also have a real estate technology business. We are in fact, the largest non-bank mortgage servicer in the country with almost 4 million customers that we're actively helping with their mortgages every single day. And we have about 10,000 employees. So, when we talk about transformation, we're talking about something that impacts a lot of people as customers and it impacted a lot of people as employees. And my role at the company today is I'm leading all people functions. So, every HR function, the brand function, and communications function rolls up through me. So, this is a pretty important case study in terms of how you guide a company through this type of transformation. When you're talking about somebody with my type of role. And for us, it was about becoming Mr. Cooper. We even changed our name. We changed everything. 

(10:35) About five years ago, we recognized that in order for us to continue growing as a company and solidify our position as a leader, in that moment, but also in the future, we had to fundamentally change the way we thought about our customer and really become advocates for those customers. And that's where Mr. Cooper was born. Mr. Cooper represented that one person that helps you with your mortgage or helps you with your loan. And we wanted every one of our team members to feel that empowerment, to be advocates for those customers. And so we knew that we needed to change the brand, but in order to change the brand, it really needed to start with changing our culture because we believe that happy teams lead to happy customers, and that's good for business. That's one of our mottos. 

So, we really started our transformation, which appeared external to a lot of people from the inside out. We started with our culture. And we did that in a few different ways. One, we set our North Star, we set our purpose – and that was ‘to keep the dream of home ownership alive.’ And everything that we did from that moment on had to find ways to align back to that North Star, because without some guiding principle, one thing that everybody can rally around, you find that transformation can be really challenging to accomplish. And then from there, what behaviors did you want to see out of your people to make that a reality? What behaviors did we want our 10,000 team members to see and act in every day to make keeping the dream of homeownership alive possible? 

(12:10) And that's where we decided to reframe our values. We reframed them to something quite simple and easy for everybody to remember: champions for our customers, cheerleaders for our team, and challengers of convention. And I'm really happy to say that five years later, those core values are foundational in everything that we do. And you could walk down any virtual hall now, not physical, but virtual hall now, and any one of our team members will be able to tell you what our core values are and what we stand for. And that's keeping the dream of homeownership alive. And that to me is really what started our transformation, but it's also why it's been so successful. We made it really tangible and real for our people in a way that they could buy into.

Liz Ramey (12:52):

That's great. And I think it's a, it's a perfect foundation for really understanding where other enterprises can start. You know, I do have a question, though, as far as where this started, right? You said that you knew that for your brand and for the customer, itself, that there needed to be some changes, so you started from the inside out. Did this kind of revelation, I guess, start from the top, was it across the C-suite that decided this, or did just kind of organically come through HR?

Kelly Ann Doherty (13:30):

I think that that's a great question. And it absolutely started from the top. It started with our CEO, Jay Bray, who's been in this industry for decades and is the leader of our company today. And I would also argue, especially coming out of the pandemic, the leader for our industry. And it was really at his leadership and his guidance that we decided we needed to make this fundamental shift and rebrand ourselves and build a different type of culture. And I think it's because he saw what others maybe didn't see at that moment in time. And that's what our customers and the market was going to ultimately demand from us and how we could continue our position, not just as thought leaders, but as business leaders in our space. 

(14:15) The mortgage market is one that is constantly evolving. And he was really, he demonstrated a lot of foresight in deciding that we had to take a different approach to be able to weather those cycles and build up a really balanced business, which is one that has a lot of servicing business that we get from other banks. And then one that has a very strong originations business in which we originate new mortgages for our existing customers. And that's all about the value that we've been able to bring to them as Mr. Cooper. And that was something that didn't exist for us prior to this transformation. So, I really credit a lot of our transformation and the impetus behind that to Jay Bray's vision for who he wanted us to be.

Drew Lazzara (14:58):

Yeah, that's interesting, Kelly Ann – I was going to ask -- if it starts at the top, you'd mentioned earlier that one of the things that was really successful about the values that you instilled in the organization was that you were able to make them tangible for all of your 10,000 employees. So they could always be carrying that vision with them and all that they do. So, when it comes from that senior vision place, and it needs to spread through the entire large organization, what are some of the examples of those tangible ways in which you're tethering people's day-to-day activities with these values? Are there's some examples of the way that you were able to transmit that in a practical way?

Kelly Ann Doherty (15:30):

So that's a great question. And I will say that it absolutely starts at the top, and I think any cultural transformation, any transformation, period, always needs to start from the top. People have to see their leaders embodying and believing in what it is that you're trying to sell in order for them to do the same. And we actually did a lot of work in rolling this new vision, purpose, and values out to our company with a top-down approach. We started with leader orientations to get them bought in, get their feedback, integrate that into our approach, and then eventually rolled it out to the rest of our team members. 

And I think that that is partly why we've had such great success over the past several years as we've been working on this. But it is important that in that process, you make it really tangible for our team members. And that is, in how it shows up, every single day. And that's true in terms of the way that you communicate. Our communication and the way that we talked to our team members had to change. It used to be that when the company was called Nation Star, the communication was very dry. You only saw and heard from the CEO once a quarter. And we changed that to be much more friendly, much more real and more approachable. And I think that that was the first step in telling our people that we wanted to be and act different. And then we started adding our values to our performance management system. So now the people, the way that people are even compensated is tied back to how they show up every day as champions, challengers, and cheerleaders. 

And then if you take that a step further, it also is in how we recognize our team members. Our big cultural awards at the end of the year, our value awards, even some of the special recognitions that we do throughout the year are all grounded and those three core values. So it's the words on the wall, it's in the way that we communicate, it's how team members are managed from a performance perspective, and it's how they're recognized and celebrated for doing a really great job.

Liz Ramey (17:34):

I want to take just a step off of the path for a second and dive a little bit into some of these challenge or tangible things that you were speaking about, but maybe come at it from a different angle as far as challenges. You mentioned that you took a top down approach with really kind of instilling the vision purpose and value. And I just wonder, as far as, you know, mid-level managers and even senior level managers, what were some of the challenges that you had with them really embracing this vision and these values, especially, if they're… if they had changed so much from what their core values were when you were with Nation Star?

Kelly Ann Doherty (18:25):

Yes. So, I'd say there's a couple of big challenges here. One is that you see pretty quickly who are believers and who are not. And there were certainly plenty of skeptics in this process for us. And I think for any company going through something like this, you can't be afraid to make some of those hard decisions, and by hard decisions I mean, if somebody is not on the bus, it's probably time for them to find a new bus. And we had some of that. We had some leadership changes as a result of us wanting to go in a different direction, and that's not disparaging to any of the leaders that left. It just means that they were going to be better suited at a different type of company. And we had to really stay firm in that and not allow for any of the behaviors that weren't aligned to our values, no matter who it was, be a reflection of what, what our leaders showed up as every day. 

So that's, I think, the first challenge -- is just recognizing, and then being comfortable with not everybody coming with you on that journey. And that's a hard thing to do, especially when some very good people, hard workers, just not where you need them to be, to continue this journey forward. And then the next thing that I would say is -- really the patience to see this all the way through. We, as a society, I think generally speaking in the modern era, are impatient. We want change immediate. We want to see the fruits of our labor very quickly. And when you're talking about cultural transformations like this, you have to be willing to spend the years that it takes to make that a reality and really take hold, and take footing within your organizations, because ultimately the proof is in the pudding, right? Team members and leaders for that matter are going to be skeptical of change until they see how that change is showing up as a benefit for them, either in the way that they're working or in the results of the business. 

And to see that type of change just takes time. So I would say continuing to encourage our leaders to be patient with the process, continuing to really stay focused on what it was that we were trying to do, despite the moments in time where it may have been easier to make a different decision. Those are the challenging moments. It's worth it, but you do have to see that it takes time. And for those that weren't willing to stay on the bus with us, and for those that were impatient to see the results, it's a hard journey. 

Drew Lazzara (20:55):

And Kelly Ann, and I would think one of the benefits of investing that amount of time and commitment to a core set of values is that when things get challenging in the future, as we're experiencing through 2020, you have a set of principles to fall back on. You have this support system that is ingrained in the organization that helps you navigate these things. I'm sure it's a tie breaker when you have to make tough decisions, all of that kind of stuff. So I wanted to talk a little bit about how people's expectations of corporate culture have changed in the context of 2020. What we've heard from CHROs and Chief People Officers is that more and more of their employees are looking to them for guidance on a broader and broader set of social, political, even moral issues. And I feel as if that's a lot of burden to put on an organization whose sole purpose is really to turn a profit and connect with customers. So, what have you seen as the biggest changes to the way culture has presented itself during this really turbulent 2020?

Kelly Ann Doherty (21:53):

Well, I would say, first of all, it makes me incredibly grateful that we had invested in this process in advance of 2020, because I think it readied us for the year that we've had. And that's because our team members trust us more. And they've been a part of that journey with us and know that we're really committed to being champions, challengers, and cheerleaders, and it's showed up for us, in every part of, those values have showed up for us in every part of how we've handled this year. 

From a champions for our customers perspective, we've been both on the side in which we've been trying to help people who can't make their mortgage payments. And that's been a real, frankly battle cry for us and our team members in terms of what we need to do to really show up as champions for our customers. You talk about that ultimate purpose of keeping the dream of home ownership alive. It was really easy to talk to our team members, and say, this is when that this is when that purpose is really, really important. This is why we do all of the work that we do. This is why we've been working for the past five years. It was for this moment. And people were really empowered by that – to see that that was the ultimate destination and all of the work that we have been doing. 

(23:11) When you talk about being cheerleaders for our team, the amount of challenges that COVID and the pandemic has placed on us and doing the right thing for our team members has really been able to give us the opportunity as a company to be cheerleaders for our teams, but also encouraged to everybody else to be cheerleaders for each other. And that's been pretty cool. And that's also true in the social justice issues that we've been dealing with. Our team members have really rallied around each other in the face of some really morally tense subjects and challenging things to go over.

(23:41) And then finally in challenging convention -- this whole year as a challenge in terms of convention. And I think what I'll be most excited about is seeing how we take that same attitude and apply it 2021 and beyond, how we learn all the lessons that we've learned from this year and use that to make really key and critical business decisions on everything from the way that we work, to how we continue to invest in the customer experience. 

But to really, to answer your ultimate question is how do companies navigate having to lean into this type of thing? And to me, it's really, I think that companies have almost had to in the absence of unified and federal point of view. And that's true on everything from healthcare to the social justice issues that have become really topical this year. And I think because there's an absence of that one, unified government point of view, companies now are leaning into that. And if you're the type of company that wants to be a safe place for your employees, this is a huge opportunity to not just lead through change, but it's also an opportunity to build on trust with your team members, because if you're showing up for them in the right ways, and you're being the type of company that feels safe to them, regardless of who you are, that's a pretty powerful thing. And that's the type of company that I think can have a lot of staying power for years to come.

Drew Lazzara (25:09):

One thing you mentioned – you were talking earlier about the commitment that it takes to make sure that a value transformation occurs -- so five years is, you know, you can't sneeze at five years, you have to be willing to commit to that. And it seems like to me that if there is this vacuum of kind of personal leadership in people's lives that they're looking to their employer to fill -- that is a lot of responsibility. And do you think it's something that companies should take on, first, and second, do you think that you can give the organization, can you enforce the same commitment that you did to changing your values to standing by those values when it may even mean that a business outcome is compromised? Are you able to commit to that, and is that something maybe an organization should be taking on it at this time?

Kelly Ann Doherty (25:52):

So, I think it really depends on what type of company you want to be ultimately. I think that if you want to be the type of company that puts a lot of value in culture, then it's not really much of a choice. I think that you have to assume that responsibility because your people are looking for that type of guidance, and in the absence of that guidance, you're not able to build on trust. And I think they'll go find that guidance somewhere else. And so it's an awesome responsibility and certainly overwhelming at times, but the payoff can be really significant if you get that right. And I think that one of the ways that I've navigated some of that is in just first of all, never pretending to know an answer that we didn't know the answer to. Because one of the things that this year has presented, especially as it related to the pandemic, was a lot of unknowns. 

(26:41) Just like even today, we don't pretend to know exactly what the future of work will look like, but telling our team members where we're at and that decision making has continued to build on that trust. Sometimes saying that you don't know is more powerful than coming up with an answer that you might not feel a hundred percent confident in. So, we've really leaned into that, like just transparently telling people where we're at. And I’ve found that there's a lot of trust that can come out of that. 

But for us, you know, the payoff and where the rubber hits the road is in those moments where it might have an impact to the business, and staying true to those values and recognizing that there could be a consequence on the backend. That's really when values get pressure tested. And I think a great example of that for a lot of companies this year. And that's certainly true for us has been in the way that we've treated moving everybody to remote work. I think early on there was a lot of concern, and justifiably so, that in a remote environment, we were going to have a lot of negative impacts, including how productive our team members would be. They weren't set up to work from home previous to the pandemic, and we had to do a lot of work to even get them the basics. 

And when you're in an at-home environment, but also playing teacher to your children, caring for an elderly parent, and working, it can be a really hard, hard thing to juggle. And what we found is that by weathering through the initial hiccups of that, and really trusting our team members, just as they had instilled trust in us, we've seen productivity go the opposite direction. We're actually getting more out of our team members because they're seeing more coming from us. And it's finding that balance in those tough moments, and then really sticking to your guns that I think can have some payoffs actually, pay offs that you wouldn't expect. And that's one thing that I hope everybody's learned from 2020, is that what you may believe to have been a true statement two years ago, just doesn't hold true anymore. Be willing to pressure test your own theories, and use your values as a guiding principle. And if you do that, you're going to see your team respond in kind, and that's been the coolest thing about this year. I think for us as a company and for me as a person and as a leader is to see our team members respond like this, in such a positive way.

Liz Ramey (29:00):

Great, I, I was going to say, you know, I'm sure that it's really benefited you for, kind of establishing one of your core principles is challenging convention, right? And so, you've been able to do that in this kind of disrupted year.

Kelly Ann Doherty (29:17):

You know, we said we declared early on, that no matter what, our team was going to come first. We were going to do whatever it took to make sure that our team knew that they, their health and wellness and safety was our priority. And we've stuck to that. And that's true for all of our values, but really focusing on them, and leaning into that, no matter what. It was almost – it was a no brainer for us. It wasn't even like it was a decision. And I think it's because we have seen what doing that in easier times has done for us. I think that's what made it more comfortable for us to lean into that, regardless of what the outcome could have been because it was the right thing to do for our people. 

And I think you've seen a lot of companies take that same approach. And I'm sure that they're, like us, feeling the positive ramifications of that because trust is a two way street. Companies want your people to trust you. But to get that type of trust, you've got to show some trust in them too. And, allowing that work from home, and for us, we could have had our people continue to come into the office. That's an important point. We're a financial services company. We were considered an essential business. We didn't have to move everybody to remote, but it was the right thing to do then, and certainly continues to be the right thing to do. And it will I'm sure fundamentally change the way that we work in the future as well. 

Liz Ramey (30:37):

That's right. So, and that's actually a perfect segue into talking about the future and how companies can prepare for the impact of culture and what's happened in 2020. And it seems like this year has really kind of forced HR leaders to start preparing for larger cultural impacts. But I also want to get to the point as you were speaking about kind of returns on this. So, as we're looking to the future, what would you tell enterprises as they're planning, as organizations are planning for the future, how has culture become more important to employees? And as an HR leader, how can you continuously show the business a return of investing in culture so they can continue doing that and setting their business up for success?

Kelly Ann Doherty (31:37):

Right. So I'll go back to something that I said and that's how important patience is in this transformation, because some of the things that we've seen as a company that have been the really -- the tangible impacts of our cultural transformation are ones that have shown up over time. And one of the great metrics that we've relied on to help demonstrate where we're at is our customer complaints. They're down 90% since we started this transformation. If that's not proof that being champions for our customer isn't worth it – I don't know what it is. And those are the types of things that you see over time, but that you might not see in the moment. 

So what I would say is set those metrics with a view for 18 months, three years, so that you can continue to measure against them and see where you're at and your progress, but also be patient in getting there because change takes time. 

And there's the other ways that we've seen it show up that could be true for other businesses – the winning of significant business. We do some white label servicing for some pretty amazing companies. That's only because of the work that we've put in to be a different type of company. And then as I mentioned early on, our ability to get more of our existing customers to choose us in their refinancing a purchase of the new homes, which is what we call recapture rates, are best in class now. That's not an accident. That's the result of changing fundamentally who we wanted to be as a company and how we wanted our team members to treat our customers. 

And all of that also is reflected in lower turnover. So again, when you start to trust your people, you get that trust back. And in those types of environments, people are more inclined to stay. And if they believe that they're being heard, they believe that they're being trusted, and they believe that they're being valued – that's the type of company that they want to stick at. So, all of those things are ways we've measured it. And I would encourage companies who are thinking about this same type of transformation to give themselves some time, but pick those metrics that are really important to them as a company, and then watch them over time because for us, we've seen the positive benefits of this change come through in a lot of different ways…  because happy team members lead to happy customers and that's just good for business. And that's – I don't think that that's anything that needs to be proven out anymore. I think a lot of companies who've been through types of transformations like that, or other thought leaders in terms of culture, would tell you the same thing.

Drew Lazzara (34:08):

Well, Kelly Ann, you've done a great job of talking about the ways your customer expectations have influenced your value transformation, and then how you spread that through the organization in a durable fashion. But as you're thinking about the future, I'm wondering what you would recommend to other organizations who want to leverage culture as a differentiator in their industries? And I'm curious about that because there's such an emotional component to culture. You're trying to touch and affect people's lives in a really meaningful way. But at the same time, if you're thinking about leveraging something, sometimes that feels like it's a, maybe it could be a crass business decision. So, when you're thinking of utilizing a culture to improve your position within a marketplace, what are some things that you would recommend that companies do as they're rebuilding their cultural identities?

Kelly Ann Doherty (34:51):

Well, I think I'll say patience one more time because it is something that takes a lot of time. And I think that eliminates that crassness that you just talked about because in business terms, it's really hard to stick to your guns on big, big change if you're not seeing immediate results. And this is one of those situations in which it just takes time. So being willing to invest in that time, and invest in that change, is really, really, really critical and then being patient in that process. 

But I would also say that, you know, it doesn't have to be necessarily a change in values or even a brand change, like what we went through. I would start by looking at some of the basics. And that includes the way that you communicate with your team members. A cultural transformation can be as simple as starting to be a lot more transparent about where you're at as a company and the decisions that you're making and why you're making them.

And that communication is well a) it's free, right? Besides having communications resources in house, it's something that you probably already have, and you're already doing. It's just really changing your philosophy around it. And that transparency, which can be hard for companies to do. Companies are used to being a little bit more closed off about big decisions. But I think that the proof is in the experiences that we've had being transparent about it -- really builds trust. And a Great Place to Work as a good example of models that measure this type of thing. Great Place to Work annual survey is called the Great Place to Work Trust Index. Trust being key to that. Trust is so important. 

(36:33) Transparency, communications, and frequently connecting with your team members can make all the difference. And it can be a really good starting place. If you're not sure exactly where you want to take this cultural transformation, but you know you need to start somewhere, start with how you're talking to your people, and then build from that. Communication seems to be what could probably solve all of the world's problems. And so start there in solving your own internal problems. And then I think slowly over time, you'll see that those benefits will really reap themselves because people just ultimately at the end of the day -- it's like anything. We just want to know. We just want to know where we're at. We want to know where we stand, and we want to know how we play a part in the success of a company. 

And communications is really the way that you start with that. So that's what I would tell a lot of companies is – start with communication. Start there and see if you can gain any momentum. And if the momentum is there, and that can be evident in surveys, it can be evident in turnover, it could be evident in focus groups – then you even start to build on that and take it a step further with new values, if that's appropriate to you, or new business practices, either in the way that you performance manage or in the way that you communicate with your customers. But either way, transparency and trust, I think more than anything are what will lead to a successful evolution as a company culture, if that's something that you're interested in.

For us, it's been worth it a thousand times over, and I would even argue our work is not yet done. But having that mentality about the journey, and about continuing to push ourselves forward, challenge our own conventions, so to speak, I think is why we've been able to weather 2020 as well as we've been able to weather it. And it makes me really excited for what 2021 in the future can hold for us. 

Drew Lazzara (38:30):

It’s refreshing to hear that trust and transparency, communication, those are unto themselves really durable values. And it seems like those have been tested this year in a lot of different organizations. And I think if you keep coming back to those, it seems simplistic, it seems almost obvious, but those are the ones that endure the most. So I think that's a really important lesson to have affirmed through a very unusual year. And Kelly Ann, before we let you go, we always like to end the show with two questions, about the future. One is a big question from our previous guest, who was Tom South, and he's the CIO for Northern Trust, a financial services company in Chicago. And he was asking about this kind of unusual year. His question was, do you believe that leaders are more anxious for things to go back to normal, or more anxious for the possibility that they might never go back to normal?

Kelly Ann Doherty (39:18):

You know, I think I'll answer that from the perspective of our leaders. I think that we're, and maybe anxious is not the right word, we're more excited for the possibility that things will never go back to normal. And what I mean by that is that we're anxious and excited to determine what that next normal looks like for us. I think that there's a common acceptance that things will never go back to the way that they used to be. And we're not nervous about that. We're excited for that. It's really about how we define what that looks like and how we make that a reality for our team members. 

2020 has been such an incredibly challenging year for so many reasons, but in that challenge has been the opportunity to rethink the way that we work and behave as a business. And for leaders at our company who really embraced that challenger of convention mentality, this has provided such an incredible and exciting opportunity for us to lead into that change and potentially become even more of a differentiator in terms of culture because of what we're able to build using our team members feedback and trust in our team members along the way.

Liz Ramey (40:25):

Kelly Ann, that's fantastic. And so, it's our turn to kind of turn things over to you to ask about your next big question. What would you pose to an executive about what they're thinking about the future, and what would you like them to kind of talk about?

Kelly Ann Doherty (40:46):

So, you may accuse me of being a bit of a prisoner of the moment, but for those that are listening, we're actually recording this the day after the election. And at this moment in time, we do not know who the next president will be. And so, my question really is for companies, what role will they play in the governing of our communities, our states, and our federal government? I think we've seen companies really lean in to spaces that they were never comfortable leaning into before. And with this election, top of mind for me now, I do wonder what companies will feel like they have an obligation to do moving into the future. So that would probably be my next big question. Where do we go from here? And what role will companies play in the big questions that typically were managed by governments in the past?

Drew Lazzara (41:39):

Well, Kelly Ann, that is a huge question, and I am eager to ask our next guest. It'll be fun to really put them on the spot there.

Kelly Ann Doherty (41:48):

Yeah. Hopefully you give them a little bit of heads up -- advance notice because that's one that I think we're grappling with, and I'll be really interested to hear what others are thinking. It's… my dad, I use quotes from my dad all the time, but he says with great power comes great responsibility, and companies have such power today. But that also carries with it a lot of responsibility. And I think people are now really holding us accountable to that. And you can choose to look at that as an awesome opportunity or something to be fearful of. And I think that we at Mr. Cooper Group are looking at that as an awesome opportunity.

Liz Ramey (42:22):

That's great. I tell my son that all the time. I think we read that first in a Spider-Man comic. Well, Kelly Ann, I'll leave you with another quote from your favorite book, A Prayer for Owen Meany. And that's, "If you care about something, you have to protect it. If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it." And I think that really encompasses what we talked about today, your personal principles, as well as the principles that you have established at Mr. Cooper. So, thank you so much for being our guest.

Kelly Ann Doherty (42:56):

Thank you so much. You know, I had never really connected my personal views with that really amazing – one of my favorite quotes from that book. So perhaps there was that connective connectivity that I didn't even realize was there before. So thank you for calling that out, and thank you for having me. I loved this conversation and I, as you can tell, I'm really passionate about what we've built at our company.

Drew Lazzara (43:16):

Well, thanks again, Kelly Ann. We really appreciate it. 

Kelly Ann Doherty (43:20):

Thank you.

Liz Ramey (43:21):

Thank you, again, for listening to The Next Big Question. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen. Rate and review the show so that we can continue to grow and improve. You can also visit Evanta.com to explore more content and learn about how your peers are tackling questions and challenges every day. Connect, learn, and grow with Evanta, a Gartner company.


Connect with your community