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Front Page - Friday, March 25, 2016

Realtors preparing to lead association and community

GCAR 2016 Leadership Academy participant Patti Cole (center) at the kick-off reception, held Feb. 18 at Gallery 1401. Cole joined the Academy in part to prepare to serve in leadership positions at the Association. - (Photo by J. Brian Miles)

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” John F. Kennedy is quoted as saying. As if to prove the late president’s maxim, 20 Realtors are taking their first steps toward becoming effective leaders in their professional Association and their community by participating in the 2016 Leadership Academy at the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors (GCAR).

The inaugural Academy started in February, and is already making a positive impact on its participants. Kevin Womack, who works with RE/MAX Renaissance, says the first session helped him to step outside his comfort zone and interact with other agents. “I’m a sit back and watch what happens kind of person, and it helped me to open up and get to know other people,” he says.

Patti Cole, an agent with Crye-Leike on Signal Mountain, also enjoyed the camaraderie with the other agents. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, we’re working opposite sides of a transaction. I enjoyed getting to know the other participants,” she says. “Not only will that help us in the future, because we won’t just be names on a piece of paper, our clients will benefit because the transaction will go smoother.”

The opening session of the Academy focused on helping the participants discover and nurture the leader that already lies within them. Monica Neubauer, a Realtor with Benchmark Realty in Franklin, Tenn., taught the session, which also provided an introduction to leadership skills.

The next session, to be held in April, will teach participants the history of GCAR and the inner workings of the Association. Carol Seal, the CEO and executive vice president of GCAR, will teach the class.

“We hope the participants gain an appreciation for what GCAR is and how things work, and then become involved with the Association through committee work, which is the starting point for most decisions,” she said. “Should they be appointed as a committee chair or be elected to the Board of Directors, they’ll have a solid foundation for serving in those positions.”

Encouraging more members to run for the Board was one of the motivating factors in launching the Academy, Seal says. “We had good, qualified people running for director positions, but we were recycling a bit,” she says. “So we decided to try to broaden the pool of candidates, not only for the sake of diversity and to gain a fresh perspective but to expand member engagement. The members of a Realtor Associations can perceive it as being a good ol’ boys club, and we wanted to dispel any notion of that being true at GCAR.”

In all, the Leadership Academy will consist of five three-hour sessions held once a month through June. Other upcoming sessions will include one focusing on The Realtor Party. Chris Sexton, director of governmental affairs for the Tennessee Association of Realtors, and Sabrena Turner-Smedley, local Realtor and Hamilton County commissioner, will teach. A panel of people associated with local nonprofits and other professional organizations with ties to real estate, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Homebuilders Association of Greater Chattanooga, will make up the fourth class. The last session will cover how the participants can sharpen their leadership skills. Topics will include spokesperson training, leadership and social media, perfecting the elevator speech, and more.

Participants must also complete two electives that will take them out of the classroom and into the community to attend a public meeting or support a local nonprofit. Each elective is designed to give the participants a view of the wider context in which GCAR exists and possibly inspire ideas for ways in which they could apply their leadership skills in the future.

The Leadership Academy is the fruit of a year of deliberative and thoughtful work by the GCAR Leadership Academy committee, which the Association formed a year ago. Chaired by Realtor Carla Simpson of Real Estate Partners, the committee developed the curriculum, put the selection process in place, and vetted the applicants. The committee spent several months reviewing leadership materials used by other associations around the country, developing new content, and honing the information down to five classes that would accomplish the goals of the Academy.

Seal says the purpose behind the Leadership Academy is to motivate and empower those who want to serve in a local leadership position. Cole joined the Academy for this very reason. But she also wants to become a better Realtor. “All Realtors are leaders,” she says. “People look to us for guidance, and it’s important for us to be prepared.”

Womack also believes he’ll be able to apply the skills he learns beyond GCAR. “This class will be a huge learning experience for me, and will be something I can take not only into my industry but also to my family and into my community,” he says. “For me, the class is not just about becoming a better leader, it’s about growing as an individual.”

Womack hopes to use the skills he learns in the Leadership Academy to become a mentor to new Realtors and to become a successful leader in the Boy Scouts organization. “Real estate is about more than buying and selling homes; it’s about giving back what others have given to us,” he says.

Another Leadership Academy participant, Derek English, is already giving back. He’s active with GCAR’s Governmental Affairs committee, and since he works with several builders in new construction, he’s heavily involved with the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga. But his managing broker at Crye Leike Realtors in Ooltewah, Tenn., Dan Griess, believes the Academy will help English take his service to the next level. “Our company has a culture of being involved with and giving back to the Realtor Association, and Derek seems to be truly interested in giving back to GCAR,” he says. “I could not be more proud of him and his willingness to step up and be a part of this Leadership Academy.”

Simpson says Cole, Womack, and the other participants joined the class for the right reasons. Now it’s up to them to learn and then apply their new skills. Perhaps the most important thing they’ll discover is that a leader isn’t a boss, but a driving force that lends light to a situation.

“The goal of a leader is to successfully steer something from point A to point B, whether it’s a group of people, a product, or a committee,” she says. “Good leaders have the ability to focus on what’s important and never lose sight of the goal, they avoid getting bogged down in minutia, and they can guide people past the stumbling blocks and disagreements. This class will help the participants to develop the skills they’ll need to effectively do these things.”

A certain late president would likely agree.

Leadership Academy committee

Robert Backer (board liaison)

Louise Cowart

William Dickson

Grace Frank

Debra Loomis

Matthew Mucciolo

Gina Sakich

Liz Wilkerson


Leadership Academy participants

Kim Bass

Rachel Bruner

Mary Carlson

Patti Cole

Jennifer Cooper

Louise Cowart

Debbie Derryberry-Styles

Derek English

Grace Frank

Rachael Henderson

Steven Lamar

Debra Loomis

Rolanda Pullen

Geoff Ramsey

Yadi Rosales

Claire Smith

Kevoni Womack

Sherie Westerfield

Ethan White

Liz Wilkerson


To see more photos, pick up a copy of this week's Hamilton County Herald.