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CEO of Corcoran Group

Pamela Liebman is the CEO of Corcoran Group, the largest residential real estate firm in New York City. Pam has had a fabulous career with Corcoran, where she spent over 20 years. She is a mom of two daughters who are now 8 and 12 years old. Read Pam’s interview to learn how she balances a demanding job with finding time for her family, how being a mom has made her a better manager, and why she does not feel guilty being a working mom.

Can you tell us a little bit about your job – what does it entail, how long have you been in this industry and position?

I joined Corcoran when I was 23 years old. At the time, Corcoran had only 30 employees. Now, Corcoran is the largest real estate company in New York. We have offices in Florida, the Hamptons, and New York. As the leader of the company I’m in charge of the strategic direction of our business, constantly working on being better at what we do. We are very service-driven and focus on our clients and brokers. My mission is to always have an incredible working environment for our employees. I always say that we’re Avis, not Hertz. We never want to be complacent, always want to be improving. Stay fresh, hire great people, never be complacent. This is what I focus on.

Can you briefly describe your usual day?

My days vary and I don’t really stick to a strict schedule. I usually try to work out in the morning and then have breakfast with my younger daughter. She goes to school at 8:30 am. My older daughter is very self-sufficient. She leaves for the bus stop after my younger daughter. At 8:30 am I get in the car and commute to work. But my work day starts as soon as I get in the car – I have finished seven or eight calls by the time I get to the office. My day at the office is filled with meetings, calls, more meetings. My assistants keep me very organized and I rely on them a lot.

Typically, I don’t leave my office before 6 or 6:30 pm. Often I’m in the office until 7 pm. My kids come home from school at 3 and 3:30 pm. They go to sleep by 10 pm, so I usually try to see them in the evening, but because I have to entertain clients frequently, I don’t get to see my kids as often as I’d like. One or two nights a week I am out at night with clients and miss seeing my kids. But I work from home on Fridays and I am here when the kids get home from school. Friday night is family night for us and we all spend it together. Weekends are for my family – I never go into the office.

What is your childcare arrangement and how happy are you with it?

Both of my kids go to public school. We have a housekeeper who takes them to school and who is here when they come home. I had the same housekeeper for twelve years and it’s been immensely helpful to have someone I can trust fully with my children. A year ago we hired another housekeeper who is great and I couldn’t do what I do without her help. My life is unbelievably easier because I have this kind of help and I know how fortunate we are.

What does your husband do? How do you split up your responsibilities at home?

My husband is a chiropractor. It’s great because his practice is only ten minutes from our house and his hours are a bit more flexible than mine. He usually keeps morning and afternoon hours and has limited hours on Fridays. He gets home earlier than I do, and on nights when I am out, he is here with the kids. He is a very active dad and very involved, which is wonderful.

What is, for you, the most challenging aspect of being a professional mom?

For me, the most challenging aspect is being there, being where you are, being focused on whatever you are doing at the time. When I’m with my children, I can’t have work thoughts distracting me. This is difficult, but I really try to focus on what I am doing with them. When I’m in the middle of a meeting and my kids are calling me, I almost always pick up the phone. They know to only call my cell phone if it’s necessary, otherwise, they call me at the office and if I am busy, I finish what I am doing and call them back right away.

What compromises have you had to make personally and professionally since becoming a mom? Did having children affecting your career path?

I don’t feel like I had to make any sacrifices. Not really. In fact, I think becoming a mom has made me a much better boss – nicer, more compassionate, more understanding. Kids teach you to compromise and I think this has positively affected me at work. Becoming a mom has made me a more compassionate leader and a little bit softer and sympathetic to the issues that employees have.

Who/what has been most helpful to you as you’ve navigated through your career as a mom? Where do you go for support/advice to help you?

I am a member of the Young Presidents Organization and I think it’s a great, really valuable organization. They have forums with monthly meetings where a lot of personal and professional info is shared. I’ve found these meetings very helpful and have learned a lot from the other members. I also have been fortunate to work alongside some very smart women at Corcoran and they’ve been very helpful to me over the years.

Professional moms know that the way to keep our sanity is by not being perfect at everything. What are some things you are not perfect about?

I don’t stop and smell the roses enough. On vacation I try to relax. But in general, I am always doing something, running from one place to another, rushing. My husband meditates and I’d really like to do more of that in my life. I used to get massages every week, but that went out window because I never had any time. So now I schedule time for me, even if it’s just a half-hour here or there.

I recently tore my ACL skiing and had to have surgery. For a few weeks I walked around on crutches or a cane, and this really slowed me down. I couldn’t work so many hours or run around as much. I realized that during that time I was more relaxed and got rid of a lot of stress. So maybe it was a sign that I need to find a way to slow down a little and find some time for myself.

One thing that you have or do that makes your busy life easier: My husband. He is so incredibly helpful and makes my life as an executive unbelievably easier.

One thing that would make your life easier : Less traffic.

If money wasn’t an issue, would you still choose to work? Why?

Absolutely. I’m not sure if I would do exactly what I do today, but I would work. I am on the board of a foundation for cancer research now, and if I didn’t work full time I’d probably spend more time with things like that.

Do you feel a lot of guilt as a professional mom? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

I don’t feel guilty. I can’t allow myself to. I do the best I can, and as long as I know that I’m really, really trying, I am fine. Anything important that my kids need me for, I am there. I’ve never missed a play, a tennis tournament, or an important doctor’s appointment. I know that on nights when I can’t be there with them that I am working, not partying somewhere. As long as I try hard to do my best, I don’t feel guilty.

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