Does Marissa Mayer's Choice Limit Yours?

I wasn’t going to weigh in on Marissa Mayer’s choice to take a 2 week maternity leave, because quite frankly, I’m conflicted. I know the choices I’ve made (and continue to make) as a working mom leave some of my friends scratching their heads. “Why would she want to travel like that?” “All this time working on that book can’t be good for her kids.”  Sometimes they say it, sometimes I just see it in their eyes, or hear it as subtext to their question, “oh where are you off to this week?”

So I’m a bit in the camp of “who are we to judge?” But then again moms and dads at Yahoo and elsewhere will watch her actions more than her policies and take notes about what it takes to get ahead. Just as my team (then) and you (now) watch mine.

But when I got this note from an LGL tribe member I realized the topic was worth bringing to our community for insights. And that avoiding the subject because of my own discomfort was weak. #notconfidentorhumble

Hope you’re doing well. I was very sorry to hear of the passing of your mother. I lost my father earlier this year.

My purpose for getting in touch is because there seems to be a pretty good buzz going on regarding women and executive roles lately with Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer’s announcement to take only 14 days off after the birth of her twins. I could not think of a better person to ask about this. Not that I’m planning for children but there very well could be a number of young women who are on the fast track to executive leadership, yet also desire to have a family. Ultimately, it’s not anyone’s place to judge this woman, but there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that her decisions will influence potentially thousands of young women’s future career pathing.

What I found interesting about the article I have referenced below is that there is no mention of the role her husband plays / will play in their family unit.

How Marissa Mayer’s Maternity Choice Effects Young Women

What say you?

So I offer you my initial response, and then a bit more. I’d love for you to weigh in.

My Initial Quick Response

I’m sorry to hear about your father. It’s hard.

Wow. That’s a great article. I agree with what’s said there. It’s also really audacious to assume everything is going to go perfectly well and that nothing will change.

I did come back a bit early from my maternity leave due to some crazy circumstances at work (I had planned to take 3 months and took 2), but quite frankly, I’m not the hangout with a baby all day type 😉 I’ve made choices that I know make other mothers cringe, like the kind of travel I’ve done at various points in my career. So I think it really has a lot to do with personal choice. In my case, I have a very supportive husband who really does his share of the parenting. I know many female execs for whom the dad is the stay at home parent.

For me it’s about seasons.   If I can pull it off time wise.  I might try to get this out on the blog for our LGL community to weigh in. See Seasons, Messy, and Doing the Best You Can

After deeper consideration

It was a debate my mom and I had for years often resorting to tears on both sides. She had some regrets of time she took off to raise kids, and yet gave me a good bit of grief early on about my choices. We agreed on one aspect of this topic–raising kids is a vitally important job which moms and dads need to take seriously. We had different approaches.  In her final months as she reflected on her life for a video at her church she shared, “I look back at my life and I’m so grateful that my children are all significant human beings raising other significant human beings.”

It’s true. Her sacrifice made a huge difference in who we became and are becoming. On the surface I did it radically differently. My sister took a middle road. I feel confident that both of us carried forward the investment legacy the best we could muster and are supporting one another in the process.

I’m probably channelling mom, here (I hope so). Part of me worries for Marissa, that she may later regret what she’s missed. One thing I do know is that the life YOU build you live with. Corporations, are well… not people. You might just sacrifice a lot to find out something out of your control screws up your plan.

What I do know from both my mother and my experiences is that you reap what you sow. Not just for women but for any human investing in other human beings. Whether you are working to invest as a parent, friend, volunteer, or leader your focus and effort matters. If you’re going to go the high-intensity-career route, you DO need a pit crew. Not mentioning who’s helping to me seems like a miss.

P.S. My Dad (a HUGE player in our pit crew)  and Sebastian hung out while Marcus and I travelled to Oregon on a well-needed reconnect and for this shoot. Investing in your relationship is such an important part of being a healthy parenting team.

P.S.S. I know my posting has been spotty this week. I apologize. I had the final edits due to the AMACOM editor book converge with the timing of my trip to Oregon to film my multi-media course (can’t wait to show you the previews!) AND a last minute keynote on the 7 roles of a highly engaging manager (which was a blast) thrown in.. and yes the husband reconnecting.  It’s been quite a wonderful and busy week. Namaste.

karin hurt training
Here’s a little postcard. If you’re a parent-leader and have not downloaded my free Parent’s Guide to Leadershipkarinandmarcus, I offer more perspective.

Namaste.

Stack Ranking Performance Management Systems

My boss’ voice was visibly shaken on the other end of the phone. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “We have too many ‘leadings’ this year. You won’t be able to rate your top performer leading, or give her the extra pay.”

“What?” I was shocked. This woman had a hell of year. Plus, I had only submitted one name at that level. “How can that be?, I questioned, still stunned.

“Well you see, I’ve rated you as leading and that counts in the same bucket. It’s either you or her.

“Then let it be her, I responded.” This was unfair but if it was going to be unfair, let it be for me, not her. I’ll have another shot next year.

“No way. It’s done. The forms are submitted. You need to stop arguing. We’ll find another way to ensure she’s recognized.

Scenarios such as this play out in companies every day. Stack ranking performance management systems force leaders to choose between top performers, leaving a wake of frustration and disappointment.

Why More Companies Should Follow Microsoft

Last week the world echoed with virtual high-fives as Microsoft announced the abolishment of their stack ranking performance management system. Marissa Mayer received equally intense grief as Yahoo put one in place. It’s estimated that 30% of Fortune 500 companies still use stack ranking.

I’ve written before about making the best of such systems, inspiring a vision that motivates sacrifice, defining “extraordinary” as behaviors as well as results, involving the team in the evaluation. If you’re stuck in such a system, you must work it well to keep your team highly motivated. I’ve been there, done these things. But this is duck tape on a broken system.

Stack ranking is most destructive when you’ve:

  • attracted a team of rock stars
  • built extraordinary teamwork
  • managed out your lowest performers throughout the year (such systems can actually encourage holding on to poor performers until review time)
  • been given a stack rank curve to achieve at a micro-level
  • accomplished groundbreaking results

The strongest leaders with the strongest results are the victims of such systems.

And so I encourage our LGL community to share their perspectives and stories. Let’s make a timely ruckus. If this resonates, please share your story or opinion. Make up a name if you wish; just enrich the conversation, either way. 

PS: If you know others who would be enriched from, or enrich this community, please encourage them to subscribe. Every day we grow more interesting thanks to each of you.

A greata lternative to the stack rank: The Crowd Sourced Performance Review (download a free chapter).