CEO Talent Champion:Sheryl Palmer, Taylor Morrison

An interview on the importance of kindness and community

This video and the following Q&A do not depict the entire interview.

Executive leaders can improve talent outcomes by learning how Taylor Morrison fosters a culture of kindness and transparency and plays an active role in the community it serves.

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Q&A With Sheryl Palmer

Sheryl Palmer is the chairman and CEO of Taylor Morrison, a U.S. homebuilder and developer. She has led Taylor Morrison into the top ranks of the nation’s largest public homebuilders, following the company’s IPO in 2013. She serves as chairman of the Building Talent Foundation, is on the board of directors of Interface Inc., and is an executive committee member of the Joint Center for Housing Studies Policy Advisory Board.


Considering the events and challenges of the past few years, I realized it’s about understanding the whole person of individual team members across the organization, because all those things that have happened have been internalized very differently by each team member. And so, being most concerned about their overall mental health and well-being, we really personalize those needs for each of our employees across the organization.

We have a people-first culture. You can talk the talk, but if you don’t walk it, it doesn’t matter. A people-first mentality has to come from the bottom and the top, and you meet in the middle. I believe our workforce has a tremendous appreciation that we care; but that doesn’t mean we can’t make hard decisions. It doesn’t mean that we’re all squishy.

We introduced a mantra in the organization, right before COVID. It was about improving our communication for both our internal customers and our external customers. And that mantra was, “Love the customer.” This is the construction industry, and the “love” word isn’t used very much. This is a very antiquated, “old boy” industry and we haven’t seen a lot of change. Talking about loving each other and loving our customers was a really big shift. What that really was about was making sure that our communication allowed for us to love each other and our customers. And, you know, this is our employees’ company. They’re entitled to know what’s going on.


You have to be present to win. I have genuine care for the organization. I have been here 17 years. I think back 10 years ago, I probably knew every person, their name, maybe even their spouse and their children’s names. As we’ve grown to thousands of team members, that’s not possible. But what is possible is that I retain the connection with the organization. Sometimes that connection is because I just get out to the field on weekends or over the holidays. It’s about just shaking our builders’ hands because they’re not home with their families. All that shows care, and sometimes they just want to talk and be recognized. So where do I spend my time? If people are our most important asset, I need to make sure that I’m spending a disproportionate amount of my time on succession and team member growth.

At the end of the day, I run a public company, I’m responsible for delivering results. So, I spend a lot of time there first. But I really do believe in our mantra that it is people, process and then systems. If I get the people right, then we can make sure our processes are right, because they’ll navigate those processes. We’ll make sure we have the technological support and that equals great financial results.

It is important to me, but what’s more important is how important it is to our team members.

HomeAid America is something that resonates with most of our teams across the country. We build homes, we build shelter, one of the greatest problems in our country today is our homelessness problem and our team members embrace being part of that solution. It’s not because I asked them to be. It’s because of the concept of purpose and feeling good about what you do. We build communities. If we’re not out making a difference in our community, I’m not sure how we could be in the business we are. The level of participation and the amount of time that our team members spend giving back to their community is tremendous.


I like to think that the relationship with the board is similar to the relationship with the organization, and that’s one of full transparency. I have four times a year to tap into the knowledge of a very talented, experienced group, and I use it well. Some companies will do succession planning and the board will get an update once a year on team and succession. It’s actually every single quarter for us. We leave the last 60 minutes to two hours to talk about talent. It’s the talent at the most senior level, it is talent initiatives, it’s about what are the things that we can do to differentiate ourselves, and do our teams have what they need? Our board is very interested and it’s not a one-way dialogue. I’m very fortunate that I have a board that’s very participatory in these discussions and they come from different backgrounds with different ideas, and I think it’s a really important differentiator for our company.

I had the benefit of some great leaders in my career, and you learn the good and the bad and I never appreciated being treated disrespectfully. I’ve never appreciated being ignored, or being told that my ideas didn’t matter, so why would I do that to anybody else?

We have a rule in our company, and you may laugh, but it’s real and I think every team member in the organization knows it. It’s the “no asshole rule.” And once again, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have very difficult decisions, and we can have some of those harder discussions. But there’s always a way to do it. And to me, that’s just human kindness, and we should all be kind.

There’s no perfect answer. I think in the environment we’ve been through, communication was the key to success. I’m not saying you ignore the financial results and you take care of the people, but your people always have to feel like they’re making an impact in your organization. You have to have the open-door policy where everyone can talk about anything. I think, at the end of the day, everyone knows that we’re in that boat together. You know, there’s a little bit of that “hero mentality” people want to do well for an organization, and they want to go solve their problems. And I respect that we have a lot of strong aggressive team members, which is awesome. But at the same time, everybody also knows that we’re a team and we win or lose together. And I think if you have all that alignment in your attitudes and everybody focused on the right things, you can integrate the two.

Don’t believe anything you heard. Go and learn yourself. Take the time to understand your organization. Don’t come in with preconceptions. I think about the roles I’ve had over my career and if I listened to the things the predecessor had told me, I would have probably made bad decisions early on.

So, take the time, get to know your executive team, get to know management, connect with the entire organization, learn from them, create an environment of collaboration. Surround yourself with people that know a whole lot more than you do, and all of those functional disciplines.

And then lead the way.

Another piece of advice I’d give is don’t ever forget where you came from. I have to relate with my superintendents, my staff and my accountants. I might spend more time with my executive team, but the time that I can make an impact on the organization is the time when I dive deep into the organization. When I hear that people come from other companies and they worked there for seven years and they’ve never met the CEO, they’ve met me three times in two years. I’m not happy about that. We are supposed to create a vision and lead the organization. If the organization doesn’t know you, how do you do that?

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