Real Estate

7 Ways To Pay It Forward And Mentor A Future Female Leader

Empowered women empower women. Here’s how to work with a less experienced woman in real estate and boost her progress in the profession.

What does good leadership look like in 2022? How can you put your best foot forward where you work, whether you’re managing a team or an entire company? In March, we’ll plumb the topic through Q&As from top-tier industry leaders, contributions from Inman columnists (the leaders in their field) and more. Then we’ll keep the leadership conversation going in person at Inman Disconnect in late March in Palm Springs, California.

Who taught you how to play a sport? Cook a meal? How to dress or do your hair? Who taught you how to drive or how to pack for a trip? For most of us, life has been a series of mentorships, some big and some small, some from teachers, coaches, family members, and friends. As Oprah Winfrey put it, “We are all mentors to people even when we don’t know it.”

To move forward professionally, women need mentors who will help them navigate the sometimes rocky road ahead. If you have experienced success in real estate, whether as an agent, team leader, broker, investor or executive, mentoring can allow you to “reach back as you push forward.”

Ready to take on a mentee? Keep these seven tips in mind to make your mentoring relationship more effective and more meaningful.

Make time for mentoring

According to data analyzed by SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, although most women know that mentoring is essential to professional success, 63 percent of women surveyed had never had a mentor. This is a finding that crops up again and again, attributed to everything from lack of women in existing leadership roles to the number one reason given for not mentoring or being mentored, lack of time.

Because so many women are juggling the demands of their home lives with their professional lives, they may have less time to spend talking with their mentor or taking on the role of a mentor themselves. However, the benefits of mentoring make it a worthwhile priority and one that adds value on both sides of the relationship.

Be sure you have enough bandwidth to be effective

That said, if you’re already overwhelmed with your existing commitments, don’t take on the role of mentor then leave your mentee at loose ends. Mentoring is a commitment and requires time, thought and energy.

If you’re mentoring someone outside of your organization, it may be even more difficult for you to find the time and space on your calendar to be an effective mentor. Take an honest look at your schedule and prioritize your responsibility as a mentor once you’ve agreed to it.

Help her take advantage of opportunities

One of the big takeaways from Sheryl Sandberg’s book on women’s workplace empowerment, Lean In, was that women often decline opportunities when they’re presented because of a fear of failure or not being 100% ready to tackle a new challenge. Now, the COVID she-cession has created even more reasons for women to decline new opportunities as they struggle to balance all of their competing priorities and responsibilities.

Come from a positive place with your mentee and make sure she knows that opportunities for growth are just that – a chance to grow into a new skillset and develop new experiences. Help her to develop the tools she needs along the way rather than feeling like she can’t begin until she has them already.

Work alongside her to show her the ropes

If you have the opportunity to work with your mentee directly – co-listing a property together, developing a marketing strategy, or doing due diligence on an investment property – you’ll give her the practical experience she needs while still providing a cushion of support. This may be the most effective way to mentor: showing, instead of telling.

While you’ll want to make sure that the opportunity is one that is challenging, it should also be achievable. Don’t take on the task of mentoring if you’re already overextended or struggling on that particular project. It may make it difficult to slow down and take advantage of teachable moments when they present themselves.

Put the responsibility in her hands

Similarly, resist the temptation to do all of the hard things for your mentee or to smooth the way too much. If she’s struggling with a problem, provide guidance to help her reach a solution without always pulling a rabbit out of a hat on her behalf. 

You’re there to support and help your mentee, not to do her job for her. Make sure that you leave her room to make her own choices and even to make her own mistakes. After all, we often learn more from our errors than from our successes. If she makes a mistake, help her to evaluate it and make corrections where possible.

Don’t act like you know it all

You may have vast experience to share, but that doesn’t mean that you’re always right. Don’t act like you have never made a mistake or like you have all of the answers. Be relatable, sharing things you’ve done wrong in the past and what you learned from those experiences.

Your mentee needs the space to figure things out and talk things through. If you behave as if you’re perfect, you may shut down the lines of communication she needs in order to share with and learn from you. 

Treat her like an individual

Your mentee’s path is different. She’s probably from a different generation. She may have been raised differently and educated differently. She may be from a different part of the country or a different part of the world. Her journey may look somewhat like yours or it may look vastly different. Don’t expect her to be you. Let her be herself.

Treat your mentee like an individual, tailoring your style and your advice to her unique talents and needs. Understand what makes her tick, what motivates her and what discourages her. Develop a communication style and working relationship that works for both of you and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.

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