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Motivation and Leadership: A Conversation with Mortgage Branch Manager Elly Gray

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Ameris Bank

Mortgage Branch Manager Elly Gray discusses how motivation, trust and leadership have allowed her and her team to succeed year after year.

Throughout her career, which now spans 30 years, Mortgage Branch Manager Elly Gray has learned quite a few things about effective leadership and how to generate incredible production numbers, for both herself and her team.

Her career began in Southern California, when at 26 years old she became a mortgage assistant. She loved the industry, and eventually owned her own broker shop. Due to decisions within her personal life, Elly moved to Atlanta in 2000 and took two years off from the industry. However, she kept feeling drawn to be back in the business world. So, Elly began interviewing with larger banks and worked for a few. In 2000, she was looking to make a move and fell in love with Fidelity Bank, which became Ameris Bank in 2019, and she says she hasn’t looked back. “It was the best business decision I ever made,” commented Elly.

She joined Fidelity Bank as a loan officer and after three years was asked to try a management position, which she has been in ever since. It has been through her management positions that she has learned the importance of motivation, trust and relational leadership.

When asked what motivates her as a leader, Elly said, “Having people around me feel good about what they’re doing and their contributions to our team. I love when I am able to work as a larger group rather than an individual. I strive to get team buy-in as it makes me feel like I am offering something of worth because other people feel it as well.”

Understanding what motivates her allows her to then discern how to encourage the team members that she manages. Elly said that relying heavily on humor and learning how every individual is motivated and how they like to be recognized. By recognizing her team’s individual goals, she can better support and motivate her team collectively to focus on the end-result.

Elly commented, “I never want the people I manage to say this is ‘my/mine’ and I try not to say that because nothing is mine – I am there to support everyone in the best way I can. There is no individual mindset – it cannot exist if we want to succeed.”

Over a decade of being a manager, Elly revealed that one of the most important things she has learned is that the connections and relationships between herself, her employees and customers is vital to success. She commented that she used to be very transactional, with both work and people in her life, instead of focusing on creating meaningful relationships which in turn results in trust. “I became more intentional in getting to know my team and caring more about their families than the loan process,” Elly said. Once she started implementing this relational strategy, it is now second-nature.

A co-worker once taught her that “when people know you genuinely care about them, they will trust you.” Ever since, Elly has focused on cultivating that trust within her teams, and this has allowed her teams to excel. Additionally, this groundwork of trust allows her to have difficult conversations because her team knows that she ultimately cares more about them and their situation more than she cares about the problem.

Elly is much more competitive in her personal life than at work, and you definitely don’t want to go head-to-head with her on the ping-pong table. However, at work, she recognizes that everyone on her team has different ways of defining success. Understanding her teammate’s ideas of what ‘winning’ looks like to them has helped her determine how best to recognize and congratulate her team members.

“I want people to know that when recognition comes from me, I am being sincere and authentic,” said Elly. “I don’t want them to think ‘oh she says this every month’ or anything along those lines – if it sounds like that, no one will respond to it.” In addition to celebrating her loan officers, Elly makes a conscious effort to also celebrate her support staff and their accomplishments. At the end of the day, she understands that each person plays an integral part to her team, and it is important to genuinely say thank you.

Year over year, Elly and her team continue to be top producers. Even in the year 2020, when COVID-19 affected all industries and the mortgage industry went fully remote, Elly and her team were still top producers. Last year, her team helped more than 2,600 families and individuals purchase or refinance their homes, resulting in over $895 million in closed mortgages, and Elly’s individual production was $43.6 million. This is a testament to her hard work as a manager and her dedication to helping her team succeed.

Thank you, Elly, for your continued commitment and leadership to the Ameris Bank Mortgage Services team!

Reviewed August 1, 2022