How do you CEO? / Alex Birch @ XY Sense
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.
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#7 Alex Birch / CEO @ XY Sense
How do you CEO?
Humility is important for a leader.
You get more respect that way.
It is about being confident but not arrogant.
I was a doer, creator now I’m an editor.
I’m now always self-observing.
I’m editing more than creating.
It is not my job to be creating.
Sometimes I have to do it, BUT I then declare explicitly that I’m creating.
My job is to give clear direction, a path and then make sure there is no ambiguity.
It is important for the team to have ownership over decisions.
If your team comes up with the idea then they will have the max buy-in.
I compare the job to a game of chess where you have to think of multiple moves in advance.
So many times you have to deal with unforeseen things.
You can’t think of the team as Us vs Them.
You have to anticipate how the team feels a couple of steps in advance like a game of chess.
How do you set strategy?
You have to align all cofounders in the direction.
If you’re not aligned, then you’ll end up with slightly different messaging which will have an impact on the company.
Keep the message succinct.
We have our company strategy on one page.
Everyone knows exactly what we’re focusing on.
The Strategy on One Page includes:
Where we play
Where we don’t play
How to win
Our goals are along the lines of:
We need to scale
We need to be global
We need to upgrade processes and support
X new customers
Team engagement of >90%
We’re also specific on where we’re not playing.
Other nearby verticals
Callout for specific countries / territories
How do you communicate the strategy?
I give a monthly on organisational goals.
The update is about each goal and how we’re tracking.
We have clear sales targets with a POP (Plan on a Page).
We have a weekly All-Hands where we call out projects which are interesting to the team. I try to not always present t All-Hands and give the teams ownership.
How do you set goals?
Each department has a POP (Plan on a Page).
We set them quarterly, and realign when things change.
How do you do meetings?
We are growing internationally with new team members in the States.
We just had a whole-team on-site which was really valuable and great energy for the team. It is really important especially when many are remote.
The leadership team meets fortnightly.
It is usually focusing on our quarterly plans and any issues arising.
Offsites are for strategy.
How do you communicate sensitive information?
We try to tackle it respectfully, fairly and as transparently as possible.
Our lowest Culture Amp score is for “When it is clear that someone is not delivering in their role we do something about it” We like to treat people with respect and provide early frank feedback one-on-one, which is not something you’ll share with the team.
Especially anyone on probation, give them direct and candid feedback and then a performance plan.
If it doesn’t work you have to do something about it.
Have the conversations respectfully but no fire should come as a surprise.
What CEO tip would you have for me?
Set up an environment where people can thrive.
Ensure communication for strategy and direction is clear and concise, and you continually refer back to it.
Consider others’ viewpoints in your communication strategy.