Women Of The C-Suite: “Teams of any size gravitate to women who can be authentic and approachable” With Sheryl Palmer

For me, I have a very “shoes off” leadership style. Literally. I hate wearing shoes and you can often find me kicking them off under a…

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For me, I have a very “shoes off” leadership style. Literally. I hate wearing shoes and you can often find me kicking them off under a table at the office. As silly as that sounds that’s just who I am, and the second I have to change who I am to do my job will be the day I really don’t want to do it anymore. And I think teams of any size gravitate to women who can be authentic and approachable.

I had the pleasure to interview Sheryl Palmer the CEO of Taylor Morrison, one of the largest home building companies in the United States

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was born in Los Angeles but grew up moving around quite a bit due to my mother’s career as a fashion designer. Early on I was motivated to make my own money, which lead me to get a job at McDonald’s at 15. I worked my way up the ranks, and, by 20 years old, was promoted to marketing manager for San Diego. It was after this job that I had my first taste of homebuilding, and I’ve always liked to tease that I fell into it. I never really envisioned myself working in this industry — in fact, I was studying to become a special education teacher — but I quickly learned that homebuilding either gets in your blood or it doesn’t. And, for me, it did. I left my marketing manager position at McDonald’s for a marketing position with a homebuilder in Phoenix and continued working for a few different builders early on in my career, which helped me really learn the ins-and-outs of new home construction. While admittedly unplanned, I wouldn’t change a thing about my career path. It has been all about taking chances, following my heart and opening myself up to new experiences — and always being a little sweaty palmed about it.

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?

When I first started working in homebuilding I didn’t know how to read construction drawings. I was new to the industry and had just become a sales manager — and 30 years ago homebuilding was even more male-dominated than it is today. There was probably a 10-foot wall between my department in sales and the construction department; they simply didn’t talk to one another.

Ultimately, however, I was able to show some vulnerability and acknowledge what I didn’t know and asked a VP of Construction to teach me how to read construction drawings. And he did. We’d meet 2–3 times a week in his construction trailer early in the morning and he’d teach me, and I’d teach him about the sales side of the business. And you know what happened? We had two teams that were better and learning from each other, and slowly that 10-foot wall got chipped away. The power of teamwork became so obvious to me. There were so many teachings in that time for me beyond simply learning how to read construction drawings.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

If you asked this question of any Taylor Morrison team member, I think they would all tell you it’s our people. We have won a few awards that are great testaments to our people, like our “Best Places to Work for in 2018” Award from Glassdoor, and being named America’s Most Trusted Home Builder by Life Story Research for three years running (the only homebuilder to do so). What I love about earning both of these awards so closely together is become I believe the former begets the latter. When you get the employee experience right, you’ll get the customer experience right.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Many homebuilders are tackling the technology side of the business — the smart homes pre-wired with Amazon Alexa, among other things. But at the beginning of the year I asked Taylor Morrison team members to focus on reinvigorating the customer experience. It’s sad to say, but the bar for customer experience in the homebuilding industry is so low and it absolutely shouldn’t be. When you think about it, building your dream home should be the ultimate retail experience — and it’s a retail experience with one of the longest lead times. I want Taylor Morrison to ‘disrupt’ our industry’s status quo of delivering mediocre customer experiences throughout the building process and beyond.

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

We encourage our team members to be the CEOs of their own careers. It’s a sentiment that I hope inspires my team to know no bounds when it comes to their career progression. My advice would be to inspire your team, not limit in their abilities based on their respective position in the business.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

For me, I have a very “shoes off” leadership style. Literally. I hate wearing shoes and you can often find me kicking them off under a table at the office. As silly as that sounds that’s just who I am, and the second I have to change who I am to do my job will be the day I really don’t want to do it anymore. And I think teams of any size gravitate to women who can be authentic and approachable.

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?

My parents have been great mentors to me. My mom was a fashion designer and my dad was a successful businessman. I grew up moving around a lot because of my mom’s career choice. It taught me to be flexible, because when moving at a young age you have to reinvent yourself, and you have to be social. It really taught me about understanding all different types of people, how to get along, and how to make the best out of any situation. Their roles were also somewhat reversed in our household, which taught me about values, as well as managing and balancing a family and a career.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Just as I’ve surrounded myself with amazing mentors throughout my career, I also care deeply about ‘paying it forward’ and sharing the leadership lessons I’ve learned with others. It’s why I’ve taken to blogging on LinkedIn. At Taylor Morrison, I also try to make sure we have gender equality — whether that’s through putting women in leadership roles, regular pay audits to ensure the same level of pay is apparent across job level and experience, regardless of gender, or mentoring young women to pursue their passions and believe they can be successful. Another prime example of this is our board of directors. Taylor Morrison has the first, and only, majority-female board among public homebuilders, and is one of the very few publicly-traded companies to have achieved this level of visibility.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, just the most passionate and hardworking.

2. Be curious and capable of learning.

3. It’s OK to be vulnerable as a leader — have the confidence to be exactly who you are and show up to work as you.

4. I have always worn rose-colored glasses when it comes to appreciating people for who they are. I would challenge anyone to own the responsibility to understand the people and personalities you work with.

5. Go after what gives you a fire in the belly. Be a bit sweaty palmed about your passions in life.

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

Last year we began an annual, company-wide campaign known as Build Joy. It was based on a simple question: “If you were given $1,000 to build joy in your community, how would you spend it?” We received hundreds of ideas from our team members and decided to back 10 with the funds needed to bring the ideas to life. From surprising families by covering daycare expenses, to funding children’s hospice care, to providing food and blankets for homeless populations, and helping individual families get back on their feet after disasters, we wanted to capture Taylor Morrison team members’ intrinsic desire to give back and allow them to do so right in the very own communities.

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

“Surround yourself with talent better than you.”

I credit my success to having the humility and confidence to identify what I don’t know. My career is absolutely the result of having had great teams, confidants and mentors in my life. I’ve never feared looking bad by surrounding myself with the best talent, the best intellect and the best go-getters. Instead, I’ve had the privilege of learning from those people.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on LinkedIn. I’ve even published a few blog posts around topics near and dear to my heart, like mentorship and women in leadership.

Originally published at medium.com

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