Before a crowded room of more than 60 NAIOP Developing Leader (DL) Forum members and NAIOP Washington State DLs, four dynamic DLs from across the nation participated in an interactive panel discussion as part of an exclusive workshop, “Your Leadership Style Defined,” at the association’s 2014 National Forums Symposium in Seattle earlier this year. All four spoke candidly about their own career advancement and leadership experiences.
Following the session, Development magazine touched base with Brian Gates, portfolio manager with H.G. Fenton Company in San Diego; Jimmy Love, managing principal with Distribution Realty Group (DRG) in Chicago; Kate Nolan Bryden, principal and project manager with AMK Partners LLC in Baltimore, Maryland; and Gabe Philibert, assistant vice president with US Bank in Minneapolis. Each of these DLs brings a unique, diverse background to a conversation exploring challenges and opportunities in career advancement as well as strategies that have helped them gain leadership experience.
Development: How can young professionals gain leadership experience?
Bryden says she uses “three strategies with a common thread: participation. Professionally, I volunteer to take on additional tasks for our clients to gain a better understanding of the full range of a project or issue,” she comments. “Within professional organizations, I get involved on committees to see and learn from different leadership styles. Finally,” she adds, “I am very involved with philanthropy work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Now, as a board member, I have the opportunity to learn from and lead within a group of other successful leaders from around the state.”
Bryden also credits her participation on a DL National Forum with exposing her to peers from around the country, industry best practices and new concepts, strategies and trends that have not yet been applied in her market. “The single best experience I’ve had within NAIOP as a Developing Leader has been my participation on a Forum,” she concludes.
That simple one-word approach — participation — also has helped Philibert advance within the corporate ranks of one of the nation’s largest financial institutions and 29-year-old Love launch his own business.
“Two simple strategies worked for me,” says Philibert. “First, I raised my hand and second, I got things done.” He cites his experience serving as the DL chairman and on the DL board of NAIOP Minnesota as critical elements that have provided him with opportunities and access to decision makers.
“Unlike most facets of real estate, leadership cannot be taught,” comments Love. “The only way to find out if you can swim is to jump in the water.” One of three DLs currently engaged in business ventures with other members of the DL III National Forum, Love credits his NAIOP experience for providing him with access to other young professionals: energetic and active thinkers early in their careers and without a complacent bone in their bodies. “If I could buy stock in the DL III Forum, I would double down on it,” Love adds.
Gates advises fellow young professionals to “practice self-leadership and clearly communicate the skills you want to acquire to your senior leadership, ask for added responsibilities and make your mark by volunteering to lead efforts outside of your key responsibility areas.” In 2012, Gates served as chairman of NAIOP San Diego’s DL program. That experience, in addition to his service as chairman of other NAIOP chapter committees, has helped him “become more effective at leading a group of high-performing professionals” as well as to grow within his organization.
Development: What can employers do to retain young talent?
The key to answering this question, notes Philibert, is not only in “knowing what young professionals are looking for” but in going the extra step and “providing the opportunity to be successful.” He encourages employers to remember one basic tenet: “train your people to want to leave, or empower your people to want to stay.”
Love advises employers to “be a mentor and a facilitator, not a roadblock,” especially when it comes to working with talented employees who have the drive to go out on their own. As he plans to expand his firm and open offices in cities beyond the Midwest, Love looks forward to the day when he can fill that role as mentor. “I hope a young person leaves DRG someday to create the next big industrial REIT or billion-dollar fund. I’d like to be an investor.”
“Employers need to give young professionals opportunities for promotion and, especially with young professionals less than 10 years out of school, a path to advancement,” asserts Bryden. “Financial help with graduate education and affording employees opportunities to represent their company in professional organizations and at philanthropic events also give young professionals the sense that a company is investing in them and has a plan for them,” she adds.
Development: How can young professionals position themselves to handle change as the industry continues to evolve?
“Windows of opportunity don’t stay open for long,” cautions Love. He advises other young professionals to put themselves in “the right position” to “see what’s around the corner and find a way to capitalize on it.”
Gates says that his team “is focused on speaking with as many business owners as we can to gauge industry trends and better understand how they prefer to work, in order to identify which properties are set up for continued success.” He adds that “building a core competency around understanding our customers will keep us looking in the right direction.”
Philibert reminds young professionals to “ask questions and try to stay connected to the people (and resources) that help keep you informed and prepared for changes as they occur. That is one of the reasons I continue to participate in the NAIOP National Forums,” he adds. “There are very few programs,” Gates concludes, that give young professionals “access to some of the top talent in our industry, from all over the country. We may not be 100 percent prepared for the changes that occur, but we’re putting ourselves in a pretty good position to be better prepared than the next person.”
Join a DL Forum in 2015
Are you a young commercial real estate industry professional and NAIOP member in good standing? Consider joining a DL Forum next year. NAIOP’s Developing Leaders Forums offer NAIOP members who are 35 years of age and under — and have at least four years of commercial real estate industry experience — a unique opportunity to advance their careers by gaining insights from and networking with seasoned commercial real estate professionals and peers over a two-year period.
The program provides participants with insights into what it takes to be a standout leader at their organizations and NAIOP, and how to put their careers on the fast track for advancement. Interested? For more information, contact Bennett Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.