When you ask most accomplished business professionals how they achieved success, many will say they had a mentor who helped guide them throughout their professional journey. The benefits of mentoring are many and they vary based on the commitment of both mentor and protégé, along with the structure of the mentoring program.
In 2014, CREW Northern Virginia set out to develop a program that would provide its members with a structured mentorship program that took both mentor and protégé on a path of self-discovery while enhancing their leadership skills and presence. The goal was to close the gap for women in leadership positions within the commercial real estate industry.
CREW Northern Virginia Connecting Future Leaders (CFL) program is a year-long, structured program in which mentors and protégés are paired using data from their individual DISC & EQi assessments and career paths. The mentors and protégés attend eight sessions facilitated by Joan Fletcher, Professional Certified Coach. Fletcher uses a specific, proven system with each pair to set individual goals through coaching at the beginning and the end of the program. Each person sets one or two specific, professional goals; identifies potential obstacles to attaining their goal; and notes the baseline percentage of the goal. At the close of the program, participants revisit their goal attainment and present this information at the graduation ceremony.
CFL program participants also join CREW Northern Virgina's Legacy Project, hosted annually to identify and solve an issue in the commercial real estate Industry. A recent workshop was held to inspire young girls to pursue a career in architecture or engineering–as we know, there are not enough females in the industry. The four-hour workshop centered around GoldieBlox, developed by a Stanford Engineer who identified the same issue in STEM. The girls participated in several hands-on activities and learned various engineering concepts (pulley, lever, etc).
GoldieBlox is the award-winning children’s multimedia company disrupting the pink aisle in toy stores globally and challenging gender stereotypes with the world’s first girl engineer character. Through the integration of storytelling and STEM principles, GoldieBlox creates toys that empower girls to build their confidence, dreams and ultimately, their futures.
The CFL program has a profound impact on the participants. Common goal themes include improving self-regard and confidence in the workplace; building strong business relationships; and learning how to communicate and network effectively. One participant wanted to identify her leadership style and feel prepared and confident to start in her new management role. Her percentage to goal attainment over the course of the program increased from 10% to 85%. Another woman wanted to increase her life balance. She felt she was at 40% of her goal at the beginning of the program, and moved to 75% attained by the end of the program.
“Participating in the Connecting Future Leaders mentorship program was a rewarding opportunity that enriched my professional development by helping me identify and polish personal growth areas with support and inspiration from both my mentor and the workshops,” said Tara Fisher, 2016 program graduate. “In the year following my CFL graduation, I was given many opportunities that required me to step outside of my comfort zone; however, I felt more confident taking on those challenges than I would have been prior to being a protégé, and I ultimately had the most successful year of my career. I received a promotion, I was elected to the CREW Northern Virginia Board of Directors, and I was honored with our chapter’s Rising Star Award.”
CREW Network’s 2016 white paper, Closing the Gap - Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate, highlights many of the barriers for women in commercial real estate. Women in CFL tap into the knowledge and experience of others to learn the tools to negotiate a raise, achieve promotions, and network with other women in the commercial real estate industry to overcome many of those hurdles. A recent survey of CREW Northern Virginia CFL graduates reported that more than 23% received a raise or promotion because of the skills and knowledge attained in the program. An incredible 88% of participants are still in touch with their mentor or protégé, which demonstrates the long-term benefits and connections established in the program.
Because of the impact and success of CREW Northern Virginia's Connecting Future Leaders program, the chapter has elevated the program to include sister chapters CREW Washington DC and CREW Maryland Suburban.
If you are looking for a proven way to close the gap in the commercial real estate industry while connecting newer members and the more seasoned professionals in your chapter, a structured mentoring program is a great avenue to reach this goal!
Megan O’Hara Pawlowski is Senior Vice President of Markets Property Management and Venue Engineering for JLL. She oversees multiple property management teams, leads the Engineering Department at Capital One Arena and Kettler IcePlex, and co-leads JLL’s Venue Engineering National Practice Group. Pawlowski is the immediate past-president of CREW Northern Virginia and previously served on the Board of Directors as Director of Professional Development. She is Co-Developer and Founder of the CREW Northern Virginia Connecting Future Leaders Program and has been a member of CREW Northern Virginia since 2011.
Joan Fletcher is a highly-regarded executive leadership coach and president of Winning Ways, Inc. She has more than 30 years of experience developing passionate leaders. Fletcher holds the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential through the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is a certified Leadership Coach through Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program. She is Co-Developer and Founder of the CREW Northern Virginia Connecting Future Leaders Program and is currently Program Moderator for the fifth class of Connecting Future Leaders. She joined CREW Northern Virginia in 2013.