Class Dismissed: A Team-Building Program to Generate Next-Generation Leaders for the Mortgage Industry Proved an Enriching Experience for This 2008 Participant. the Group Tackled Writing Mock Party Platforms for the Presidential-Nominating Conventions. Now It's Time to Take It into the Real World

Article excerpt

In January 2008, I was asked by the managing partner of my law firm to review a brochure about the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA's) Future Leaders Program. The letter and brochure described an executive leadership development program that promised to deliver a comprehensive curriculum for selected middle-and senior-level executives who have shown leadership interests and abilities. I was asked if I might want to apply. It was clear the program would take a significant commitment--but I was intrigued nonetheless. * Participants in Future Leaders have an opportunity to enhance their skills through three hands-on sessions geared at 1) political activism; 2) business analysis and problem-solving; and 3) experiential learning through collaboration, networking and peer-group interaction. * In addition, participants must become actively involved in a project centered on an economic-development issue for a particular city experiencing urban development/economic change or a political challenge. Or, for the class of 2008, creating party platforms during a presidential election year for both the Democratic and Republican conventions on issues related to the mortgage industry.

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Applying for the Future Leaders Program involved filling out a one-page application, submitting a current resume and having the chief executive officer of my company send in a letter of recommendation--a much less intimidating process than applying for college or law school. After completing the application process, I was selected as a member of the 2008 class. My class, one of the smallest in the history of the program, had 19 members--15 men and four women. Texas, my home state, had the strongest showing in the group.

We arrived for our first group session a few days before MBA's National Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 16 and 17, where we would meet with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. We settled into our first meeting at the Washington Court Hotel--a full day of leadership training and discussion, with the proverbial icebreaker-type of activities. Some of us groaned, but in the end we were laughing and getting to know one another.

Paul Green, MBA's senior vice president of corporate relations, and Leah Logan, associate vice president of membership, asked the group to share three stories about things we had done, accomplished or experienced--two of which were true and one that wasn't. As the group tried to identify each person's false story, we learned memorable tidbits about fellow participants: One had danced on stage with The Pointer Sisters, one had successfully completed two marathons, one had been baptized in Hitler's office and another had majored in dance in college. In a program that requires working as a team, this game cemented some camaraderie among a group of people that began the session as mere acquaintances.

Jeff Arnold, chief operating officer of McMonigle Financial Group, Newport Beach, California, now uses this icebreaker technique when teaching fraud-prevention courses to police departments in Southern California. As he begins the first day of the four-day course, Arnold talks about that icebreaking exercise from the first day of our Future Leaders program and how it works.

Jeff Gentry, vice president of Kroll Factual Data, Love-land, Colorado, and a 2008 Future Leaders participant, summed up how he felt when he embarked on the Future Leaders Program: "I really didn't know what to expect when I signed up for the program, but if I had any expectations whatsoever, they were completely blown out of the water."

The impetus of the program

Thirteen years ago Ron McCord, CMB, then MBA's chairman and president of American Mortgage and Investment Company, Oklahoma City, took a program operating in Oklahoma and brought it to the national level. The idea was to help create strong participation in the national trade association and increase industry participation in the political arena. …