I was excited to be selected to receive a scholarship from CREW Detroit to attend the 2017 CREW Network Leadership Summit in Toronto. I knew if I could get over my social anxiety about walking into a room of women that I didn’t know who seem completely together professionally and the top leaders in their field, I would learn a thing or two. The Summit delivered above and beyond my expectations and I would encourage every CREW member (regardless of age, length of membership, professional experience, leadership level and/or degree of social anxiety) to attend one of these summits. It’s an investment in yourself—not just your career.
The summit was a jam-packed day and a half of learning opportunities that started with a Best Practices Session. I always love these because it is a great opportunity to reinforce what the chapter is doing right and learn about other successful chapter programs that are happening around the country:
- New Mexico and Dallas have very successful, year-round CREW Careers programs that are making a difference in the lives of the young women and are helping to change the face of commercial real estate.
- Dallas has an Emerging Leaders program that is helping to bridge the gap between seasoned, veteran members and women who are just starting out in their careers.
- Arizona has a Legacy Committee in which the past presidents have been charged with running the chapter’s mentor program.
- Las Vegas is focusing on member value and chapter membership has increased 44%. They also go into the business community and say, “You need to pay for your female employees to join CREW and you also need to sponsor us.”
- New Mexico has a “leave a card/take a card” program in which members leave their business cards in a fish bowl at an event’s registration table and then pick one out as they leave and promise to take that person out to lunch.
As a nondelegate attendee at the summit, i.e., someone along just to learn, the Leadership Meeting I attended next was a very casual Q&A session led by the new CREW Network CEO Wendy Mann. The room was packed and she was truly pleased with the overwhelming number of first-time attendees that were also nondelegates. She was funny, charming, engaging, helpful and couldn’t emphasize enough that we were there to network and encouraged everyone to be open and confident in meeting new people. That was a message that was repeated often over the day and a half and resonated with me—as an organization geared toward networking and professional development, CREW doesn’t just talk the talk.
Friday’s development training session was led by Cheryl Cran, a future of work and change leadership expert, who talked about authentic leadership skills. I was shocked to learn that my workplace people, i.e., Gen Xers, are the smallest generational group in the work force. At only 16%, and right in between the Baby Boomers and Millennials, this is one of the key reasons that leadership changes are happening in the workplace. The other one is technology. Together, these two workplace features are forcing a complete mindset flip about leadership—today, leadership is shared and true leaders, i.e. great leaders, empower those around them to have the same level of leadership. A culture of shared leadership is one in which:
- Everyone is a leader.
- Resources, knowledge and success is openly shared.
- Everyone is involved in creativity and innovation.
- Roles and responsibilities evolve/rotate.
- Accountability is the key—self and mutual.
- Real-time creative solutions are in place.
- Performance is reviewed on real-time activities.
- Coaching is embedded in the culture.
- Recognition is shared.
- Everyone is rewarded for his or her impact on overall results of the company.
The last session of the day was a classic example of me having to engage with others via role playing (groan, eye rolling) and then being thrust even further outside of my comfort zone (double groan and a cringe) by having to publicly practice a “skill” at which the word “skill” very loosely describes my ability. The second development training session was all about negotiation.
After listening to the presentation by George A. Pincus, a lawyer in the real estate department of Stearns Weaver Miller, our tables were split into two groups—3 grandchildren who are considering selling the 1,500 acres of farmland that’s been in the family for generations and the regional developer that is interested in buying the land. Each side obviously had differing objectives, some completely contrary to the other, and it got a little intense. Honestly, there were a few moments when I felt like I was in the room at a real negotiation. Social anxiety at my ineptitude with negotiating aside, it was an interesting opportunity to try a few new skills and see how I could incorporate them into my professional and work practice. It was also great to see a handful of really strong and competent women doing exactly what they do every day.
Overall, it was a whirlwind time with so many new people to meet, so much to learn and so many opportunities to practice what I was learning—not to mention that we were in downtown Toronto and close to so much that the city has to offer. But probably the biggest take away for me was the realization of the enormity of CREW Network and the abundance of resources and opportunities available to me as a member. And what meant the most, was leaving with the feeling that when I got back to the office, I could reach out to anyone that I had met, or not met, at the summit and my question/inquiry would be welcome. You don’t see that a lot these days and I’m grateful for CREW’s refreshing approach in that regard. I’ll be back for one of the 2018 summits.