This was my first opportunity to attend CREW’s annual Women of Influence event and I will certainly plan to keep it on my calendar.

While not a CREW member, I enjoy two or three lunches a year and always take away some nuggets. This session over-delivered.

I was impressed with Cori Palmer’s (Mortenson) moderating. The panel was well prepared, and they all were very comfortable with each other. It made for a fun and conversational discussion around how each of the three panelists found their way to a position of influence in the Seattle commercial real estate world. They were Renee Cheng – UW College of Built Environments, Susan Wagner – Microsoft, and Maria Barrientos – barrientos RYAN.

My primary takeaways:
– There are many pathways to success – don’t get hung up on finding the “right one”.
– Diverse teams managed well outperform homogeneous groups – there is a reason to focus on social equity in the built environment.
– Build culture. “Aspire to culture”, never arrive.
– Collaborate with the best talent you can find.
– Women make great project managers.
– Create magnets or “attractors” to help draw talent and facilitate collaboration.
– Leadership isn’t a position / title, it’s the ability to recognize all the strengths around the table and to draw them out.
– Sponsorship and mentorship are different. Be sure to be clear about the relationship you are in and the expectations of your commitments.
– Communicate your blind spots to your team and give them permission to help you see the whole picture.
– Conflict isn’t bad. Don’t suppress conflict – continue curiously to explore the why.

There is a chart on my wall that I received from one of my favorite local leaders, Marty Kooistra. It outlines the four leadership types necessary to make high quality decisions – Issue Knowers, Innovators/Problem Solvers, Resource Controllers, and Integrators/Networkers. I thought the three panelists each represented the attributes of all four types. One of the best hours I’ve spent lately.

For more information about CREW Seattle, visit