Mentoring: What IS It?

It is hard to be a member of any company or organization and elude the notion of mentoring.

It is hard to be a member of any company or organization and elude the notion of mentoring.  Not being a fan of labels, I question what it means to be a mentor in these times.  For many of us, we have clung to our jobs for dear life over the last several years and not only not hired young people, but seen colleagues go.  In the real estate business especially, only now are we desperately looking for young hires.  As such, a fresh wave of training and development is upon us.  Millenials, however, don’t necessarily want long term mentoring relationships.  Instead, with the world at their fingertips, they want quick and short bursts of advice, informal soundbites from their “personal board of advisors”.  So, how will we mentor these new hires?

As a longstanding member of the Orlando Chapter of CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women), I can look to that experience for what it means to be a mentor.  While we have always undertaken to provide leadership to young women and men in our organization, this year we have launched a new initiative for the formation of a Future Leaders group.  I am proud to have been asked to spearhead this effort.

The mission statement for the Future Leaders group emphasizes training and development through principles of education, empowerment and example.  The word “mentor” does not appear.  Over the years, when we have issued a call for those who wish to have or be a mentor, few sign up.  Mentoring then is not something that can be forced; it requires chemistry between people.  So, how will CREW handle mentoring for the Future Leaders?  Education, Empowerment and Example.


CREW holds an annual event for college women called UCREW.  CREW members within each discipline making up the real estate industry explain what we do, followed by a “workshop” of a high profile project to demonstrate to the young women how each trade within the real estate business would approach its role in such project.  In addition, starting this year, we will hold an educational session called “Anatomy of a Deal” at which the more seasoned among us will break down a real estate deal for our younger CREW members.  CREW offers a student membership and we have a growing roster from the local colleges and universities.  We endeavor to provide internship and job shadow opportunities throughout the year for our student members.


Just as energy, exuberance and enthusiasm are not possessed only by the young, knowledge, wisdom and resourcefulness are not possessed only by the old.  In fact, these “digital natives” have as much to teach us as we have to teach them.  By focusing on their strengths, we acknowledge the contributions that they make.  That, in addition to social and teambuilding events, will foster their sense of their own standing and importance within CREW and within the real estate industry.  It’s what I call “reciprocal mentoring”.  By way of example, I recently sought the assistance of my friends at Cushman & Wakefield to prepare a report for a client.  Margery Johnson is an experienced veteran.  Her associate, Andrew Slowick, is relatively new to the business.  Margery and Andy (both CREW members) contributed to the project in equal measure.  Clearly, Margery brought her knowledge of the market to the endeavor, but Andy contributed equally with his facility with the resources available in this modern world, a subject about which some of us are playing catch up.  I can see that “reciprocal mentoring” is working well on their team.


For the last several years, new members to CREW are encouraged to join a committee.  Old and young work side by side.  In addition, we conduct a monthly Mentor Lunch within a small group at which a seasoned leader shares his or her principles of success.  Again, however, chemistry is everything when it comes to mentoring.  At my Mentor Lunch, one girl sat quietly, one asked a few questions and one wrote down everything I said.  The last of the three now views me as a mentor and we have become friends as well.  That friendship, I submit, is the basis for what I define as mentorship.

So, when you look behind the label, mentoring is about the growth we all experience when we share our knowledge and the friendships we make in doing so.  While the exchange of knowledge and wisdom, and the resulting development of our young people, comes through education, empowerment and example, chemistry between people makes for the best mentoring relationships.  If you want to find or be a good mentor, in addition to all other qualities, find someone you like.


Vicki-Berman1Vicki L. Berman is a shareholder in the Orlando office of Dean Mead, a full-service statewide law firm, and specializes in commercial real estate. For more information about Dean Mead, go to DeanMead.com or call (407) 841-1200.







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