CCIM Education

Learning to Lead

What do cooking classes and improv sessions have to do with training effective leaders? Quite a bit, according to CCIM Institute Senior Instructor Walt Clements, CCIM, who facilitated a program of 15 activities to help this year’s Jay W. Levine Leadership Development Academy class master the art of being a leader.

“Listening skills, collaboration techniques, and creative problem solving” are necessary skills for volunteer leaders, says Clements, especially for those who take on the Institute’s chapter, regional, and national leadership positions.

Started in 2003 by Executive Vice President Susan J. Groeneveld, CCIM, the Leadership Development Academy is named in honor of Jay W. Levine, CCIM, the Institute’s first president and its second designee, who was instrumental in the Institute’s creation and growth. Every year, CCIMs who complete the application process — detailing their CCIM volunteer activity — vie for a position in the nine-month program. This year’s 16 participants average 16 years of commercial real estate experience and have a strong history of CCIM leadership involvement: Six have served as CCIM regional vice presidents and 14 as chapter presidents.

The Institute’s 2014 executive leadership team — President Karl Landreneau, CCIM, President Elect Mark Macek, CCIM, and First Vice President Steven Moreira, CCIM, are all graduates of the JWL Academy. ”I went into the program thinking that I was going to learn about the CCIM Institute and came out of it realizing that I had also learned a great deal about myself,” says Macek.

And the 2014 participants agree. “JWL has definitely helped me better identify my style of leadership,” says D’Etta Casto-DeLeon, CCIM, of Houston.

“The greatest overall benefit is that I will come out of this better,” says Glynnis Fisher Levitt, CCIM, of Birmingham, Ala. “A better committee member, a better professional, a better leader, a better thinker, a better person.”

And that’s the idea, Clements says, to make CCIMs more effective leaders in their communities and businesses, as well as in Institute positions. “Encouraging CCIMs to be more engaged as leaders in their communities — for example, on local planning commissions and city councils — elevates the awareness and visibility of the CCIM designation and contributes to the greater good,” he says.

In June, the JWL class of 2014 came to Institute headquarters in Chicago for their third live session, two days of face-to-face activities that honed their creative problem-solving skills. Academy participants shared their thoughts on the exercises and activities, providing insights applicable to all CCIMs.

Improv Tools

In the first session, an improv trainer had participants on their feet, ad-libbing dialogue and scenes with each other. “One of the invaluable improv lessons was learning to fully listen before responding,” says Roman Petra, CCIM, of Orlando, Fla.“Often we assume what will be said and make statements without first hearing the other person out.”

“There really is no right or wrong in improv,” adds Wolf Baschung, CCIM, of Los Angeles. “The situation is completely open and fluid, and you have to work with what others are doing, no matter what.”

Participants learned to use the phrase, “Yes, and…,” to avoid making judgments, says Lydia Bennett, CCIM, of Bellingham, Wash. “Listening actively with no judgment and accepting everyone’s suggestions as good ideas creates a much more powerful outcome,” she says.

Mind Mapping

“The mind mapping exercise augments the brainstorming step of the CCIM Negotiations Model,” says Clements. “Each of four groups had to complete a comprehensive mind map, addressing their specific assignment.”

“The technique was very interesting,” saysSue Earnest, CCIM, of Brentwood, Tenn. “Our thoughts can be as endless as we are willing to let them be, and we, as individuals, choose to stop the thinking. As a leader, allowing your team to continue on with the thought process, building each idea off of the previous thought, can open the door to many creative and great opportunities, but with purpose.”

“Mind mapping techniques allowed us to build a clear picture and ideas around a central idea. It’s a great way to organize a thought process,” says Ellen Hsu, CCIM, of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Cooking Class

The second day ended at a local cooking school where three teams of six competed to cook the best dinner. “I was at first very hesitant about this class event because I do not really cook!” says Bobbi Miracle, CCIM, of Las Vegas. “However, once we all got in the kitchen together we had a great time.”

“This class was amazing,” says K. “Teya” Moore, Esq., CCIM, of Bowie, Md. “Some around the table deferred to allow others a chance to shine and demonstrate their cooking skills — a good lesson to learn and apply in many ways under different circumstances.”


Along with these live sessions, the participants are in contact virtually with their assigned partners, through webinars, Google Hangout sessions, and group final projects. For the final projects, the participants were divided in groups of four. The project topics include CCIM knowledge base, networking for business enhancement, education strategies, and mentoring opportunities for CCIMs. The projects “will add tremendous value to the Institute,” says Clements.

Like most CCIM experiences, the Leadership Development Academy provides numerous takeaways to participants.

The most powerful message? “A leader is a consensus of a team,” concludes Gary Hunter, CCIM, of Seattle.

“We learned that we need to trust and count on each other and win as a team,” says J. Max Hamid, CCIM, of Germantown, Tenn. “This feeling of support and trust energizes us as we look forward to serving the Institute.”


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