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Lessons In Leadership: Interview with CEO Global Network Member Marcia Mayhew, President & CEO, Mayhew Inc.

July 18th, 2017

Founded in 1982, Mayhew is a private Canadian company that specializes in office interior design and consulting. Mayhew also provides comprehensive facility management services as well as furniture and office products. Over the past 5 years alone, Mayhew has designed and furnished over 22 million square feet of space, moved more than 300,00 people, and supplied and installed over 100,000 workstations.

What is one characteristic that you think every leader should possess?

I think one characteristic that every leader should possess is humility. We cannot achieve higher, go faster, drive further, and be better if we rest on our laurels and don’t take advantage of every opportunity to be more than who we are. I truly believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To that end, I try to hire the best and diversify our capabilities so that we can use our talent to our competitive advantage.

What is the one biggest mistake you think a leader can make?

The one biggest mistake a leader can make is discouraging calculated risk-taking. As leaders, we need to encourage failing often, cheap, and fast!

What is the greatest leadership challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

The greatest leadership challenge I have faced is leading our team through a massive corporate restructuring over the past two years. We essentially changed everything—from our business model, to partners, to people, to approach—yet I needed to continue to inspire, encourage, support, and remain calm throughout. All this, while having two children and finding a life balance! Needless to say, it has been a difficult challenge; but with an exceptional team around me, and a wonderful partner at home, I am making it work.

Are there any unique challenges to running a successful family business?

Yes, there are many unique challenges to running a successful family business! Every family is different in how they interact—both personally and professionally—so there is no standard protocol or “right way” to operate. My best piece of advice for any family in business together is to set up channels for honest, candid, and open feedback and collaboration … and try to leave any work issues at the office.  Easier said than done!  But at Mayhew we do our best to make it work, because family comes first. Always.

How have changing demographics affected office design?

Changing demographics have affected office design in a big way. Just as consumer preferences evolve, so do the preferences of CEOs and employees. CEOs do not necessarily want the big corner office anymore, preferring to collaborate in real-time among their team members.  Employees want open concept and touch down spaces that allow then to team up, as well as the mobility to work any time, in any place.

What are some of the current trends and challenges in office design?

One current trend in office design is height adjustable desks, because sitting is the new smoking! These height adjustable desks allow work to be performed standing (as well as sitting) to promote health and wellness in the office.

Another trend is open office design. The focus has shifted to benching, but the challenge for designers is how to also accommodate quiet spaces in these open concept floor plans.

The key—and challenge—for any company is to design based on the particular vision, mission and work styles of their people. Not every company has, needs, or wants Google’s hyper-collaborative style office.

What is the best business book that you have read and why?

The best business book that I have read is Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. The author explains how to achieve positive change through meaningful, clear, and powerful communication. I use this excellent reference daily—it is a masterful guide, especially as we were going through our transition!

Can you name someone who has had significant impact on you as a leader? How did this person impact your ability to lead others?

Besides my parents, Mark and Christine Mayhew—who built the business I run today from the ground up—the trailblazer who has had a significant impact on me as a leader is my CEO Global Network Group Leader, Jim Greenwood. Jim has provided invaluable counsel and advice ever since I met him, but in particular, through Mayhew’s recent transition. Jim has been my mentor, coach, and sounding board when I have needed an objective, experienced, and third party point of view. I admire Jim’s passionate and inspiring leadership style and try to emulate that in my day-to-day leadership of others.

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