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Taylor Morrison’s Stephanie McCarty: “You are deserving of every good thing that comes your way”

You are deserving of every good thing that comes your way. So often women feel guilty about their successes or are too afraid to celebrate them. Nonsense! Celebrate your successes. Do not downplay them for others. And when those around you deserve to be celebrated, celebrate them big, too. As a part of our series about […]

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You are deserving of every good thing that comes your way. So often women feel guilty about their successes or are too afraid to celebrate them. Nonsense! Celebrate your successes. Do not downplay them for others. And when those around you deserve to be celebrated, celebrate them big, too.


As a part of our series about strong women leaders, we had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie McCarty.

Stephanie McCarty is chief marketing and communications officer for Taylor Morrison, the nation’s fifth largest homebuilder. In her role, Ms. McCarty leads consumer marketing, executive and employee communications, media and public relations, and crisis and issues management.

Ms. McCarty joined Taylor Morrison as the vice president of corporate communications in 2015, and during her first years she transformed the company culture and nationwide branding position. During her time with the company, she has led Taylor Morrison in becoming the nation’s fifth largest homebuilder through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and to earning notable accolades — like America’s Most Trusted Home Builder by Lifestory Research five years running and a ‘Best Places to Work’ Award by Glassdoor. Ms. McCarty’s forte and the cornerstone of her communications strategy at Taylor Morrison is delivering “corpsumer” (corporate + consumer) communications that enrich emotional connections between team members, customers and consumers.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Taylor Morrison’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheryl Palmer recruited me to join the company as vice president of corporate communications in 2015. At the time, I was a pregnant millennial executive, and couldn’t pass up the offer! Since then, I’ve been able to climb the corporate ladder now serving as chief marketing and communications officer for Taylor Morrison, the nation’s fifth largest homebuilder.

In my role, I lead consumer marketing, executive and employee communications, media and public relations, and crisis and issues management. Upon my arrival to Taylor Morrison, I built a communications team, elevated visibility of key leaders through major media placements, earned trust and credibility from team members through creative communications channels, and increased employee engagement scores around transparent communications.

I also helped lead Taylor Morrison in becoming the nation’s fifth largest homebuilder through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and to earning notable accolades — like America’s Most Trusted® Home Builder by Lifestory Research five years running and a ‘Best Places to Work’ Award by Glassdoor. My forte and the cornerstone of my communications strategy at Taylor Morrison is delivering “corpsumer” (corporate + consumer) communications that enrich emotional connections between team members, customers and consumers.

During my career prior to joining Taylor Morrison, I successfully led communications functions for the University of Phoenix, Insight, ON Semiconductor and McMurry, Inc. I’m an active member in the communications field, receiving a ‘Top Women in Communications’ Award by Ragan, a ‘Top Women in PR’ award from PR News, serving on the board for the International Association of Business Communicators in multiple capacities and guest lecturing for collegiate journalism and mass communication courses. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

At the onset, I led many successful initiatives, including building an entire communications team, merging a MarComm department into one, facilitating three acquisitions in my first nine months at Taylor Morrison, increasing employee engagement scores on transparent communications from 79 percent to 91 percent through diverse strategies and launching a media relations strategy that helped expand operations from 3 billion dollars to 4 billion dollars in less than two years.

But while those were all very proud moments, the most interesting and eye-opening thing I learned was to not assume just because something had successfully worked at the Fortune 500 companies where I had previously worked, it would also work at Taylor Morrison.

Each company has a unique dynamic, structure and culture. Taylor Morrison, now a 6 billion dollar business operating with approximately 3,000 team members, is run more de-centrally than the larger Fortune 500 companies where I had worked. Coming from organizations that employed more than 22,000 employees and operated globally, that was an interesting learning curve for me to acknowledge and overcome.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was 22 years-old working at my first “professional” job at ON Semiconductor. The CEO was in-studio reading off a teleprompter while wearing his glasses. I was standing off to the side with my boss when I yelled, “stop!” I ran over to my CEO, took his glasses off his face, cleaned the lenses, put them back on his face and walked out of the shot.

It seems funny and yet fearless now when I recall that memory! I just did not see this multi-million-dollar, powerful executive who was in front of me. Instead, I saw someone who was communicating a message to his employees with smudged glasses, and it was my job to make him look good. And that is what I do now for Taylor Morrison’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheryl Palmer. I interrupt her if need be, course correct and give her advice.

The lesson I learned at that young age was if I am doing the right thing, I need to be comfortable and confident with my decisions that help others see things differently — even if the actions might cause a sense of uncomfortableness.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am very grateful for Taylor Morrison’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheryl Palmer who, after a two-hour breakfast meeting in 2015, recruited me to join the company as vice president of corporate communications. At the time, I was five months pregnant. I do not know many people who would hire someone who was planning on taking a leave of absence so soon after starting, but I’m lucky to work for another woman and mother herself.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

The best way to relieve stress is to be kind to yourself. Get a good night’s rest. I cannot overemphasize the importance of sleep. Our culture tends to look at resting as a weakness and boasts the concept of going, going, going. That is not sustainable and it’s important to take time to recharge. Making time for ample sleep, eating healthy and trying to incorporate daily physical movement is all good for reducing stress. For me, a 20–30-minute ride on the Peloton is my best stressbuster. Just a little sweat goes a long way!

Also, when prepping for an important meeting, I make time to prepare, but I do not over prepare. Over-preparation increases my nerves. For me, it is best to go with my intuition — to follow my gut — and show up my best.

As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

Having an executive team that mirrors your organization’s customer base is extremely important to be able to accurately position your business. Taylor Morrison serves every demographic, age group and walk of life, so it is only appropriate that our leadership team resemble that. Construction and homebuilding tend to be a male-dominated industry, and we are proud of how organic our women population has grown over the years. Today, women represent more than 40 percent of our executive team.

As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.

We need to become wildly aware of our own unconscious biases. Bringing awareness to unconscious biases is the only way to truly “unlearn” and reapproach each interaction — whether it be personal or professional — with a complete open mind and heart.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

From my seat, a CEO or executive’s sole purpose is to lead and inspire. To rally a group of individuals to follow you in whatever pursuit you are on. Influencing, convincing, persuading, motivating is a never-ending task. And it takes a very particular individual to do it well and authentically. A graduate degree and a title does not make you a leader. Having individuals openly and enthusiastically willing to follow you in an endeavor is true leadership.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

The “myth” is that it is all glamorous with the travel, dinners and high-profile meetings. It is all work, just in different settings. There are many sacrifices made to do your job well in the demanding environment that often comes along.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Unfortunately, there are many. In many instances, working women are also mothers. And in our society, often working mothers are looked at as less than working fathers — especially when it comes to performing at the executive level. You can be a good executive and a good mother. They do not have to be mutually exclusive. There is also a perception that women are soft, or too emotional. But to have the ability to be empathetic is one incredible quality that makes women extraordinary leaders. And lastly, equal pay for equal work. It is a topic that bleeds across all sectors in corporate America.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

Bigger titles really do bring bigger responsibility, but with it also brings more power and influence. The most important power it brings, and responsibility that I do not take lightly, is the impact on others’ livelihoods. Your decisions and actions impact those around you and your teams. It makes every hire, every promotion, every unfortunate layoff, or structure decision more personal. There is an individual and a family’s future your decisions are impacting.

Communicating to various stakeholders on behalf of the department is a significant part of my job. I am constantly connecting dots, creating buy-in, influencing, sharing next steps, re-evaluating what is working, what isn’t and what’s ahead, and constantly reiterating our vision. Most importantly, I am continuing to lead my teams in the right direction for our unified mission that maps back to the company’s goals.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?

I often wonder if leaders are born or made. And I do think it is likely a combination of the two. It takes a high degree of passion and drive to become a successful executive. At the same time, having the curiosity and tenacity to keep going, to keep asking questions, is what propels you even further.

For me, being able to operate in the ‘gray’ is important. Often, I need to entrust my teams for information and couple their input with my own intuition to make the right decision.

I also think that someone striving for an executive role is willing to take pragmatic risks. And while book smarts may help someone land the interview, some of the most crucial skills will include how to understand and interact with others.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

Trust your gut. If you think it is impactful, it probably is. Stop the cycle of self-doubt. Your worst enemy can be yourself. Be the leader you wish you had. Be vulnerable and open. Be true to yourself.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

When I first started with Taylor Morrison, I had the opportunity to lead the company’s annual holiday giving campaign — ‘Build Joy’ — to highlight team members’ intrinsic desire to give back to their local communities. It was a ‘passion project’ of mine that continues on each year.

Four holiday seasons later and Taylor Morrison is still asking its employees, “If you were given 1,000 dollars to ‘Build Joy’ in your community, how would you spend it?” After submissions are reviewed, Taylor Morrison provides 1,000 dollars grants to individuals who are looking to “support local causes near and dear to their hearts.”

This year after nearly 100 heartwarming ideas poured in centered around pandemic relief, 20 were selected and funded by Taylor Morrison. Team members across the country went to work building joy. Additionally, the company elevated its philanthropic efforts this year by making a 60,000 dollars company donation, dispersed between HomeAid and Feeding America.

Here is a glimpse of past Build Joy efforts and a snapshot of the work happening this holiday season:

Tampa is supporting the Friends of Strays Animal Shelter’s Safer at Home program that is helping families affected by the pandemic to keep their pets home instead of having to surrender them.

Charlotte is purchasing materials to build and provide school desks to children learning from home after learning about a child who did their schoolwork from the floor on account of limited resources. The desks will be adorned with decorative materials to make students’ days brighter.

Atlanta is also purchasing materials to build desks for young students attending virtual school and in need of desks at home. Once the desks are built, the team will work with local schools to deliver them to select students’ homes

Las Vegas is working with the local Veteran’s hospital to provide items that bring small but necessary comforts, such as lap blankets and games, given that many patients are unable to see their loved ones right now.

Phoenixis helping to pay outstanding bills for a member of the community who lost her husband to COVID-19 earlier this year. As someone who’s dedicated her life to volunteering and helping others, the division is hoping to help her get back on her feet.

It has been incredibly heartwarming to see this effort come into fruition each year, and to feel the magic of the season as we come together to truly build joy for others in our communities. You can watch the 2020 #BuildJoy video and learn about their inspirational stories here: www.taylormorrison.com/build-joy.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

You are deserving of every good thing that comes your way. So often women feel guilty about their successes or are too afraid to celebrate them. Nonsense! Celebrate your successes. Do not downplay them for others. And when those around you deserve to be celebrated, celebrate them big, too.

Do not skip the negotiating course in college. This is very important when advocating for yourself. It is easier when negotiating for your team members and others. But you are the only person looking out for you. And you need to negotiate as well as your male counterparts.

Give yourself grace along the way. Each season and phase comes with its own transition phase. Some will come more naturally than others.

Discomfort is a good thing — it is not a sign of weakness. When you are the most terrified of something it’s likely because you’re onto something great. Growth is happening.

Not everyone will like you or want to see you succeed. And that is OK. That is just life. Rise above the noise and keep climbing.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

On a national scale, I have been spearheading Taylor Morrison’s Build Joy campaign, among other efforts. For Build Joy, I was able to influence the executive leadership at Taylor Morrison to give back to its communities by donating to those in need in a meaningful way each holiday season. This year, in addition to honoring 20 1,000 dollars grants, we also gave a 60,000 dollars company donation that was dispersed between HomeAid and Feeding America.

As a homebuilder, I think we have a huge responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and showcase, in measurable metrics, how we are driving really sustainable improvements in the communities we build and work in. This is a large focus of mine going into the new year.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait.”

― Natalie Goldberg

To me, in this quote Natalie is asking us to be in love with our own life. To take action. Say what you want to say. Do the thing that you are longing to do. When you go fearlessly in the direction you want to, you build confidence, you build trust in yourself.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Michelle Obama. Goldie Hawn. Arianna Huffington. Kamala Harris. I admire each for their character — they are strong, passionate and inspirational women.

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