What is the value of leadership training for a business?

For Roaring Fork Valley-based real estate management firm, The Romero Group, leadership is more than a tidy corporate slogan; it’s built into company culture through its internal leadership team, made up of employees up and down the organization. Key to their success has been the firm’s ongoing relationship with RFL — a relationship that began more than 20 years ago (long before The Romero Group existed!) when two of its founders, Jim Korpela and Dwayne Romero, went through the Academy program. When Korpela and Romero along with Shawn Gleason (RFL Academy 2011 alum and current RFL Board of Directors member) started The Romero Group in 2016, they brought their relationship with RFL to the company, encouraging – and paying for — employees to participate. Today, half of TRG’s 26-member leadership team are RFL Academy alums or current participants. We chatted with three RFL alums from the The Romero Group to learn more about the role RFL has played in their personal and professional lives and how leadership training has been instrumental in fostering a positive company culture. 

Shawn Gleason— Chief Financial Officer, RFL Academy 2011

On how The Romero Group encourages employees to apply to RFL Academy:

We start talking about RFL with our employees in springtime and start having them think about participating. We’ll come up with a list of 3 or 4 employees to reach out to and if those individuals are interested, we’ll nominate them for RFL Academy and the company will underwrite their tuition fees. We also give them time away from work to complete the program – they don’t need to take vacation time. We treat it as if they’re still working that day.

On the impact of RFL:

Going through the Academy back in 2010-2011 was also the time when my wife was pregnant with our first child. It really helped me be more understanding and to grow into a more compassionate person, better able to support my wife. I think it changed how I approached marriage and what our partnership looked like. After I completed the program, I subsequently joined the financial advisory board for Snowmass Village and became more involved in my community.”

RFL has had huge impact on how I interact with my employees. It sparked my interest in leadership and social dynamics and how people communicate and perceive one another. I’ve gone on to read a lot more books about that and really investigate that for myself and what that look like in my relationships with other people.

Hank Hays —Senior Property Manager, RFL Academy 2021

On the benefit of RFL:

As an employee, I think it made me take stock of myself and realize communication is key and working as a team is an important part of what we do here at The Romero Group. As a person, in my relationship with my family and with my kids, it made me stop and take stock before reacting in certain situations — especially when they’re stressful.

The other day at work, I received a bad email and I decided to give myself 24 hours to think about it and respond in the appropriate way instead of lashing out and saying, you know, “how dare you send this email!”

Carol Ott—Human Resources Manager, RFL Academy 2020 

On the value RFL brings to The Romero Group:

As an organization, we’re always interested in attracting and retaining top talent. One thing that’s really important to our employees is having a sense of work with a purpose. It’s important to provide employees with opportunities to develop through extra certifications training, like RFL.

Because we have so many people participate in RFL, when we dialog and use leadership language, everyone is on the same page. Take, something as simple as an agenda — everyone who’s gone through RFL understands the significance of doing an agenda for your group meeting.

On the feedback from RFL participants:

The #1 thing we hear from employees who’ve participated in RFL is it’s not what they expected. They had no idea what they were getting into. I think we’ve had some people who go in with the mindset of “I better do this because I’ve been asked” and I think the program is so much more enriching than they imagine that they shed that attitude after the retreat.

On why the investment in RFL is worth it:

We’ve had 18 people who’ve gone through RFL Academy and of that group, I can think of only one who has left the company (another retired). I think RFL has really helped us retain people in an era of high turnover.