Silicon Valley Legend Unveils Her Best Operating Advice
EP 83 of The Logan Bartlett Show: Untold stories from tech's inner circle
This week’s episode is with Claire Hughes Johnson, one of Silicon Valley’s top operating legends. Claire joined Google at 1,800 employees and left at 57,000 to help scale Stripe from 160 employees to over 7,000 (serving as COO for 7 years).
Claire dives into her core operating principles and shares enlightening stories from her journey at each company.
✉️ Episode Memo
High performing teams have an environment where members are comfortable sharing ideas and unafraid to speak up to power, regardless of status. To cultivate this environment, leaders can encourage team members to express their views on a decision before presenting their own thoughts. Additionally, having every person write their opinions or ideas in their own doc before anyone shares can lead to a more diverse exchange of ideas.
Why startups should keep titles light:
Claire compares giving out high level titles at a young company is a little bit like eating junk food. It feels really good at first, but you might regret it later because few team members remain fit for executive roles as the company scales.
For example, instead of naming a CMO from the start, using a title like “marketing lead” gives you the flexibility to either promote the employee or adjust roles to bring in a different CMO later. This approach prevents unnecessary conflicts and avoids making employees feel demoted, which often drives talented individuals to leave a company.
On leadership vs management:
“Management is a lot about moving people through time and space to accomplishments, whereas leadership is making people pretty uncomfortable.” Managers keep people accountable to expectations. Great leaders set visions that don’t always seem achievable (even in their own minds) then push their teams outside of their comfort zones to figure things out. Through this journey, Claire emphasizes leaders need to deeply understand what motivates each person on their team. Start the motivation conversation by asking questions like…
What are you trying to learn about yourself?
Why did you choose your first job out of college?
What are you trying to accomplish?
The chaos leaders need to embrace:
If fixing things quickly and making everything perfect motivates you, then being a leader at a startup is going to be uncomfortable. Since everything will probably be broken all the time, you must learn to thrive under discomfort and imperfection. Claire reminds us that being a leader means disappointing people, whether it’s your customers, your schedule, or outsiders.
⭐ Highlight: Should you delay or speed up your launch?
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