This month’s FM Spotlight is Michelle Reynolds, Senior Real Estate Director at Robert Half. Michelle oversees the delivery of more than 100 real-estate projects, annually. Her daily activities include leading real estate design and direction in the Americas as well as developing and maintaining space design, construction, and furniture standards. This also includes workplace strategy: delivering work environments that represent the company in a branded fashion and facilitates the ability to hire and retain valuable talent.
“Michelle Reynolds is a consummate professional and carries a wealth of experience in corporate real estate and strategic planning. That foundation will serve Michelle well as she embarks on her next chapter: leading Robert Half’s real estate design direction and project delivery teams throughout North America. In her new role, she will develop consistency and clarity of our workspace standards to achieve alignment with the Robert Half and Protiviti purpose, brand and culture. Michelle’s dedication to bettering herself, her team members and colleagues is inspiring and admirable.” – Trish Johnson, VP Real Estate & Workplace Services
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“In my sophomore and junior years of college, I was one of 23 young women who founded a chapter of our national sorority on our campus. It took a tremendous amount of coordination and collaboration (and many, many hours of philanthropic and other important volunteer work) to seek out a national sorority that would come to our campus, meet us and want to ‘attach’ their good names to ours. We also needed to successfully influence the other national sorority chapters on campus to approve our mission. Looking back, it was an incredible learning experience in how to work as a team toward a common goal.”
How did you get into the Facilities/Real Estate field?
“In the early ‘90s, I started as a consultant assigned to the facilities department of Chase Manhattan Bank as a Project Administrator. Shortly after arriving, I was introduced to Chase’s corporate real estate team. The dynamics of the team drew me in – they really enjoyed supporting their stakeholders’ strategic real estate needs, as well as one another. I approached the head of the Corporate Real Estate department about transferring over, so I could learn the ropes and he agreed. He became a mentor and friend. Most of the industry relationships I have built are due to his introductions from those early career days.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“One of my recent assignments was relocating our Boston office and, aside from the standard due diligence and real estate protocols, it required stakeholder approval of a design that was a departure from our typical layouts. After multiple meetings, the design was approved; however, that was when the real work began. We implemented a change management program that was instrumental in bringing the employees along on our journey to a new, innovative design and workplace that enabled and empowered our employees to do their best work. That consistent communication and transparency led to the project’s ultimate success.”
What is your greatest success story?
“In a previous company, there was an opportunity to train and mentor young professionals in presenting projects to senior leadership. It was a chance to ‘learn how to lead,’ and it really resonated with me. From then until now, that opportunity led me from being an individual contributor to leading individual contributors and to ultimately leading managers of teams. To be able to help develop others in our industry, and see them thrive and advance, is an indescribable feeling.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“Technological advances are so rapid, we continually look for ways to (i) incorporate those advances in our designs, and (ii) seek out best practices and lessons learned from other firms for ideas and inspiration. Gone are the days of static office space!”
What learning experience would you pass on to future FM’s?
“Learning about yourself, your strengths and where there is opportunity to improve are as equally important as learning the necessary skill sets to do your job well. Never neglect an opportunity to receive feedback, as difficult as it may be to ask for it. Self-awareness is one of the strongest attributes of a successful leader.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary