How do you CEO? / Kate Morris @ Glow Capital Partners
A learning journey of how startup CEOs work.
Over the past 6 six months, I've interviewed 10 CEOs to learn how to do my job better.
It was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my own professional development and I hated the idea of keeping all the insights to myself. They all kindly agreed to share our candid conversations so that we can all learn from each other.
I’ll be posting the conversations every Monday and a summary of my own insights at the end of the series.
If you want to come along the CEO journey - hit subscribe 💥
#3 Kate Morris / Co-Founder @ Glow Capital Partners
How do you CEO?
The most important job is to set the path.
Create the vision.
Set the direction.
Where are we going and why are we going there?
Everything I do flows from there.
My style is quite loose.
Some CEOs (especially founder CEOs) have trouble giving up control, I didn’t.
My job is to keep reminding my team where we are going.
When you get good people on board, you then let them go after the vision.
The other part that is important are guardrails of how to get there.
That’s your values framework.
This should not be created by the CEO by themselves but by the whole company.
Especially, what the things are that we won’t do. Your values define that.
How do you communicate the vision?
It is the way that you talk to the team.
The way you construct the goals and measure success.
What are the things that you celebrate?
For me, it is a lot about the way I talk about the company outside of the company on social media, press, and podcasts. Unexpectedly, that makes a very big impact on the team.
It is easy to say everyone knows what we’re doing.
But people don’t know.
You need to keep reminding everyone.
Always keep stirring conversations back to basics and principles.
This happens even at the board level.
You need to keep reminding your board why we’re here.
How do you set strategy?
The biggest part of the strategy is deciding what you’re not going to do.
It starts top-down.
What would success look like in 5-10 years' time?
So what do we need to do in the next 3 years?
And so what do we need to do in the next year?
Translate where you want to get to and what the metrics should look like.
Some people are cut out for strategy and some are not.
In the beginning, it is just yourself / your cofounders.
If you don’t have a co-founder, is there somebody in your business (1-2 people) who can challenge you and get the most out of you?
It is good to get your team involved, but not everybody is a blue sky thinker. There are a lot of people who go straight to the practicalities of execution and resourcing, and therefore find long-range strategic thinking difficult.
My approach is to start the conversation with leadership once I know what direction to point them in.
A fully bottom-up strategy-setting approach with the whole team takes much longer.
I have seen others do it this way but it doesn’t work for me.
How do you communicate the strategy?
I do it in a forum-style approach by presenting it to the team.
I start from the top with the vision.
The leadership team hopefully has done the “how”.
The leadership Team takes the narrative down to their departments.
What does that mean to us?
What are we responsible for us?
What dependencies do we have?
We align accountability on the leadership level with monthly reviews.
Then have a quarterly cadence to constantly refocus the team around goals.
An additional mechanism is our Monday morning all-hands where we highlight the important milestones.
How do you set goals?
We’ve never implemented OKRs.
The framework I use is strategic initiative and KPIs.
We split them down into departments, so they know what to do and how they are contributing to the company goals. Some of the stuff is not easily broken down or measured.
You have to accept imperfection.
This type of goal setting is a collaborative process with the team members.
Here are the company KPIs and what should yours be?
Our company goals are a set of 3-5 goals.
The key is to not have too many.
So they might be things like:
Customer satisfaction / retention
Brand awareness - for example through focus groups and surveys
If we miss any of the goals, we know it.
How do you communicate sensitive information?
I haven’t had to do this a lot.
Everyone will find out about it anyway.
So it is better that they find out about it from you.
The sensitivity is around how much info you need to give.
The more you can share the better.
In the absence of info, people will always make stories.
Tell the team what they need to know, whilst respecting there will be differences in opinion. Share what you can be transparent about.
As much as that is possible, have open and honest communication.
As CEO even though you might be upset, be a grown-up, and have the conversation.
The role of a CEO is very similar to parenting.
Your team is screaming “Help me feel safe”.
Metaphorically, hug them and tell them everything is ok.
Where are we at right now?
I understand that you feel upset and frightened - let’s talk about that.
But look at the vision and the work we are doing matters.
We have no shortage of great people here, and we are all here to support each other.
There is no point pretending it is not happening.
It is a situation that is unpleasant for everybody, nobody wants this, so let’s use this as something productive.
This is where your values come to light - how do we behave as a company?
Get ahead of any negative behaviour and set the tone through your values.
What tip would you have for me as a CEO?
All of your problems are people problems.
The main thing is getting ahead of that and what is acceptable and not acceptable.
What kinda person can work here and can’t work here?
Set the values of what good and bad look like.
Values will give you a framework to have prompt and timely conversations. Values are the one thing that you can always come back to.
This behaviour is not acceptable because it’s not aligned with values.
Here’s how can you change it so we’re all on the same page.
It also allows you to give people more autonomy.
Here is what I want you to achieve and here are your guardrails.
Then, slowly let go of the detail.
I’ve given you structure and I trust that you can achieve it.