Courtney McKlveen | Crain's San Francisco

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Courtney McKlveen

Background:  

Courtney McKlveen is head of U.S. field sales at Oath, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications that encompasses the company’s digital content divisions, including AOL and Yahoo. The subsidiary has dual headquarters in New York City and Sunnyvale, California.

The Mistake

My mistake was believing I could be in two places at once as a working mom.

It was about two and a half years ago, and I was working for Yahoo. One day, I had to head home from work to relieve my babysitter.

Then something just blew up. An email came in about a customer-delivery issue. Something didn't launch, and a client was angry.

And I felt like I was literally, physically, being pulled between walking out the door, down the stairs to my car — and going back to my desk to pop open my computer again.

It was a dilemma: I knew we needed to respond immediately, and I wanted to support my team every step of the way, but I also knew I couldn't be in both places at the same time.

I've always believed that addressing what the client needs and providing a fast solution is the key to a great sales team, so I struggled with the decision.

I wanted to be there at work. Yet if I didn't go, I wouldn't be fulfilling my commitment to someone else whom I very much respect: my daughter’s sitter. She had to leave because she teaches yoga, and that's important for her. 

So not only was it about me respecting my team, it was also about respect of my family and another person and their schedule.

I learned to trust and empower my team.

The Lesson

The lesson I learned was to trust and empower my team.

I realized that I didn't actually need to be there in person to be supportive of my team and set them up to handle next steps for our customer. If I spent the extra five minutes directing the team, in reality, they could take on the project themselves. That meant I could be there as back-up and also be there for my daughter.

Plus, they realized I understood and respected the demands of being a parent, which opened up a whole new level of communication across our team.

An important part of this is setting expectations. I have things that are negotiable and things that are non-negotiable.

One non-negotiable issue with me is having dinner with my daughter. So, when I make it home, I put my phone down and spend 45 minutes or an hour with her. Everyone on my team knows that's non-negotiable, and I'm just not reachable during that time.

I also learned that once you make a decision — whether professional or personal — you must commit to it and move on.

Courtney McKlveen is on Twitter at @clmcklveen.

Photo courtesy of Oath

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