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The Mentorship Model; The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

Over the past few months we have discussed some of the underlying problems within the wonderful profession of real estate development. We have also bantered about individual solutions to prepare ourselves (as the next generation) which have ranged from education to understanding the key success traits for our own self-improvement. Hopefully these have been fairly logical. But, if so, then why hasn’t it just naturally happened? Sadly, ‘obvious’ and ‘easy’ don’t always go hand-in-hand.

I would suggest that self-improvement is one of the most difficult things to achieve- especially on our own. Often we are just not equipped to step back and look at ourselves objectively. And, even if we are, we don’t necessarily have the tools to affect the changes that we need. And when it comes to creating a good developer- it really takes a village.

It would be nice if we could learn everything that we need to know from our superiors or the more experienced folks within our firms, but unfortunately, my generation and the one before me has left our profession in shambles. The built world is an uglier, less urbanistically successful place for many of our incursions into it. The reason for this is that (statistically speaking) you likely work for a spreadsheet monkey who was never taught or didn’t embrace the romance of what we do. He can’t teach you because he doesn’t know himself. If you want to be great, you will need to actively seek out the folks who can develop in you, the qualities that you need. SPOILER ALERT: Here comes the ‘M’ word. You need a mentor.

The mentor / mentee relationship can be among the most rewarding that you ever have- if you do it right. But what we need to understand that a mentor is not someone whom we meet with periodically that listens to us and gives us advice. That is a therapist. Mentorship, to be successful, requires three things:

  1. Reciprocity.  A mentor is someone who is as invested in your growth as you are. The mentor’s job is not to give you answers, but to help you find them for yourself. They don’t tell you ‘what’ without showing you ‘why’ and how it’s all connected. A mentor wants to learn from you as well.
  2. Time. Mentorship doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long-term commitment whose depth grows with mutual knowledge and trust.
  3. Intimacy. The mentorship relationship is personal. For both the mentor and the mentee, no subject should be ‘off limits.’ Our successes are as important as our failures. Anecdotes and experiences, the things that make us ‘us’ matter.

Lastly, whether as mentors or mentees, we need to be cognizant of the commitment that we are making from the onset. If we aren’t willing to put in the time, or be fully present in the relationship, then we shouldn’t enter into it. If we are unwilling invest ourselves, declining to be a mentor can be the exact right response.

Personally, I have never had a great mentor, but I hope that one day I will have been one. What about you? Have you had a great mentor? Have you had a crappy one? Thoughts?

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Interesting and relevant topic given the current state of development. I think it is important to note that it is possible to have a useful mentor without the official "mentor" title. I was fortunate to have had a valuable mentor when I was developing apartments in Arizona and Texas.

I would agree with you on points 2&3. It takes time to establish a mentor and it goes beyond just work. My best mentor seemed to take an interest in me and my background outside of work, which eventually created the trust that enabled us to be even more successful at work.

  Brad W.
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"The reason for this is that (statistically speaking) you likely work for a spreadsheet monkey who was never taught or didn’t embrace the romance of what we do."
I almost died laughing when I read this!! Clearly you've met my current employer (or at least his type).

Currently, I work for a development company in Costa Rica who, thanks to the current economic climate, is more involved in the litigation of a 2008-era project-gone-bust than real estate. Still we've manage to at least try and get several projects going.

The "anteproyecto" or "preliminary design" phase is where I find all "the romance of what we do" fly straight out the window faster than you can say "spreadsheet monkey". I think this happens for basically 2 reasons.

On one side, my bosses, who you so aptly described as spreadsheet monkeys, want a "pretty picture to show investors" and they want it yesterday. I usually get all of 24-hours to come up with a design if I'm lucky.

The second thing, perhaps even more disheartening, is that potential investors are even less adept at architecture than my "spreadsheet monkey" superiors! They want a project that is easily quantifiable and structured to produce profit within a predictable time period.

Given this climate, which I think its fairly safe to say is standard practice everywhere, its extremely hard to find the "art" in architecture. So where to find these mentors? The US at least has an institutionalized mentorship requirement in the IDP but many countries, including Costa Rica, don't.

For now I just fall back on scavenging among the overgrown information jungle that is the internet. Know of any good places to blog around?

  David tB
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I asked a former boss to be my mentor (thanks, Maria Lawson). She was very different from me, and I could see from watching her lead that she had skills and expertise that I could greatly benefit from learning.

What has resulted for me is a new way to view interactions; increased knowledge of personal weaknesses and strengths; and how to leverage all of it to achieve a more fulfilling career and life. I also received a better financial package not once, but twice, thanks to her expertise and guidance. To say she is a blessing is an understatement.

But I would have never achieved what I have today if I had not gathered the nerve and asked her to mentor me. I was nervous...but six or so years later, I have a dear friend and increased knowledge thanks to my siezing the moment and asking. Ask! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

A wonderful article. Thank you!

  Krista W.
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Excellent blog information

  Property in jaipur
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Great topic and discussion. Several things come to mind related to this topic. First, someone has to identify and want the mentoring which means having initiative. Employees today seem to be complacent and believe it is leaderships role to mentor and train automatically. Unfortunately there are leaders and supervisors that understand the importance for mentoring and constant training, and others that do not. Second is identifying someone who has leadership characteristics that they can identify with as great leadership traits, then asking them if they are not approached. It also means identifying between a great manager and a great leader, as there are distinct differences between the two. Management is about climbing the ladder of success. Leadership is making sure the ladder is on the right wall.

We need to be constantly identifying and helping those with leadership potential. We need to have give them the time necessary to assist them in reaching new goals.
We need to foster an environment where people don't want to do the job because they have to...but because they want to.
We need to give them clear targets, as they can't hit a target if they can't see it. Tied to this is we need to constantly be changing that target so they are consistently striving to exceed and excel.

I agree we have done a poor job at mentoring and creating new leaders, but do not believe it is specific to our industry. While most of my speaking is in the apartment industry, I find this issue also is with Fortune 500 companies as well. We, however, have an opportunity because of the structure of how our properties and organizations work that may not be as open as in general business to apply and create a mentor/leadership environment.

  Lawrence Berry, CPM
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Hey everyone, thank you for all of the thoughtful comments, observations and anecdotes. I have been struggling a little with the next blog topic, but Lawrence you have inspired me. Krista, I was actually approached by a a young woman who read the blog and discussed with me her difficulties in finding a suitable female mentor. My advice was to find a woman who had a strong work / life balance...perhaps a small business entrepreneur rather than a corporate go-getter. Do you have a perspective on this? David- well its great to hear from former UM Architecture alum and to know that our quandry is not US specific. I do know a lot of really bad developers...and guess that I should stop suggesting that they relocate to Costa Rica:)

Tune in on Thursday all for the next installment- and have a great week.

  Ross Blaising
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Property dealer in Delhi

  property dealer in delhi

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