CEO Report Card: Q2 in Review
For my Q2 review, I’m focusing on what I’ve previously identified as the six core functions of a CEO. While it’s difficult to view yourself objectively, I’ve done my best to evaluate my performance over the past quarter. As I reviewed the six core functions, I was struck by how spot-on I believe this conceptualization to be. Going forward, I will allocate my time more deliberately to ensure that I’m able to provide the leadership required by my role.
Develop the Vision and Strategy
The CEO is responsible for developing a compelling vision and establishing a strategy that will accomplish the vision. The CEO must keep the leadership team aligned behind the vision and assist in developing strategic initiatives that push the Company into uncharted territory.
2020 Glidepath: For the first time we developed a comprehensive, written, strategic plan for the future. While the 2020 Glidepath is still a bit aspirational, it does conceptualize the plethora of projects that we intend to accomplish. Last year we implemented EOS which helps us stay aligned with an overarching vision; however, I think that’s just the beginning of co-creating a vision and executing a strategy. Much of my time is spent thinking about how each project relates to one another and the 2020 Glidepath helps share that conceptualization. It’s important to me that we consciously co-create the strategy, and taking the time to write a detailed, point-by-point plan should help us stay aligned. This document should help the leadership team (and then everyone in the organization) see the big picture so that we can choose our projects wisely to increase operational synergies.
Where to Improve
Communicating the Vision: I tend to gloss over major projects, initiatives, and I assume that everyone on the team knows what is in my head. We have a lot of major changes coming and I am planning on spending more time on the front end of projects clearly communicating, in writing, what success looks like.
Start with Why: Simon Sinek’s book helped me think through strategic initiatives in a “why-how-what” framework, which forced me to take a step back to consider how well each initiative fits with our mission. Too often I’ve failed to communicate why certain projects are a priority which reduces alignment. This framework has now been adopted on the front end of projects -- e.g., a project manager will define “why” the project is important, “how” it will be completed, and finally “what” must be accomplished.
Build the Culture
The CEO actively sets the standards for the Company and actively manages the culture. Through quarterly training, the CEO ensures that all members of the team are aligned with the Company’s values and vision.
Conscious Leadership Groups: During Q2 I started the first “conscious leadership” group and it’s been a big hit. Our conscious leadership group meets once a week and discusses a chapter from the book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. In addition to discussing the book, we look for real world examples of how to apply the principles of conscious leadership and we process the issues we’re facing. This has been a lot of fun for me and it adds a lot of value to those who participate.
Leaning into our Values: As a leadership team, we have started leaning into what it means to be a values-based, mission-driven organization. I am thrilled to see our values being shared during formal and informal mentorship and supervision meetings, and we are starting to give feedback based on our values (i.e. Nick, I need to be transparent with you, I think you’re taking on too many projects and it feels like you’re overextending yourself. Ryan, you have been involved with marketing projects that are far outside your position’s scope -- I am very impressed with the amount of growth that I’ve seen.)
Culture Survey: At the end of Q2 we sent out the first ever Green Hill Culture Survey, which polled the entire team on questions related to our values, our culture, and individual satisfaction.
Culture Deck: After listening to the podcast “Land of the Giants”, I looked into Netflix’s “Culture Deck” and decided to take that idea and develop a Green Hill Culture Deck. That was presented to the leadership team and it will be the focus of the first Q3 company-wide values, vision, and culture training. The culture deck, coupled with a few other documents, serves as a foundation for welcoming someone into our organization and for providing ongoing training on what it means to live up to our values.
Where to Improve
Morale Events: We started the quarter with the best of intentions to host monthly staff get-togethers; however, the pandemic caught us a little off guard. Our team is broken down into a few departments that can become siloed if we’re not careful and I think we all hunkered down in those silos for the better part of the quarter. Leaning into cross-departmental unity is going to be a big focus over the coming months.
Accountability & Transparency: Leaning into our values of accountability and transparency as a leadership team. We're at an exciting point in our evolution as a team -- we're well staffed, trained, and equipped to tackle our key initiatives. Now everyone is craving an extra layer of accountability, myself included. This quarter, I need to be patient and play a role in moving projects forward without adding additional projects haphazardly (which I have a tendency to do). Additionally, leaning into our value of "transparency" means that we all need to communicate directly when we're overwhelmed, stressed, or just need some additional support.
Develop and Own the Brand and Marketing
The CEO is responsible for developing and representing the Company’s brand, which is the externalization of its culture. The CEO works with the leadership team to grow the Company’s standing and to develop a positive reputation in the broader community.
Digital Marketing: Q2 marked the beginning of Green Hill’s digital marketing and content creation initiatives. While this was a quantum leap forward, I was notoriously absent throughout much of the content planning and creation process. We’re now posting consistently on social media and creating original content for our blog -- no small feat when you haven’t had someone dedicated to marketing since inception. Q3 will mark the first time we’ve brought on a team member to focus exclusively on representing Green Hill in a marketing capacity -- more to follow under HR.
Email Marketing: In addition to the digital marketing, we began sending two monthly updates -- one for our clients and their families, and one for our contacts in the field. As far as the family update goes, we've received a ton of positive feedback; however, we're still working through kinks on the monthly newsletter to the field.
Where to Improve
Content Creation: I need to be more involved in the content creation process. Our goal is to focus on education over sales and as such, we want to produce thoughtful, timely content that will stand the test of time. To me, there is nothing worse than clicking on a company’s blog only to realize that it’s been ghostwritten and only serves as a tool for SEO. Green Hill is not a gimmicky organization and thus our content must be intentional. The content engine is now going, but I need to provide more direction throughout the process.
Brand as Culture: Moving forward, my goal is to eliminate any gap (actual or perceived) between our internal culture and our brand. We are creating a ton of internal content that can be adapted to serve as marketing collateral: staff presentations, culture and values trainings, client resources, etc. This is all very meaningful content but the missing piece has been the coordination between the marketing and operations, which I’m excited to address.
Internal Marketing: To reduce the gap between culture and brand, I am focusing on internal marketing to create alignment behind our key initiatives. As I mentioned above, communicating the vision in a tangible way has never been my strong suit. I am reframing this vision-alignment problem as a marketing problem -- I’ve got to create compelling content that aligns our team behind the key objectives and do a good job connecting that to more individuals’ why. As a values-based, mission-driven organization dedicated to “empowering individuals to live with profound purpose” there need not be any daylight between our goals for staff development, client services, and our brand.
Make Decisions Well
The CEO ensures that thoughtful choices are made in a timely manner. The company should run well without constant stops and starts as decisions are either: (a) not made or (b) must be sent to the top for review.
Covid-19 Response: We have managed and continue to manage our response based on our mission and values. So far, we've been lucky that no team members have contracted the novel coronavirus and we haven't had too many client scares. That said, when one person in our outpatient program tested positive, we responded quickly and effectively. Transparency is the name of the game, and I couldn't be more proud of the team's response.
Office Expansion Patience: Finding new office space has been a rollercoaster. We have completely maxed out our capacity at our current office and we've even had to lease administrative offices in adjacent buildings. Being new to commercial real estate, I had no idea it could be such a game of cat and mouse once you identified property. We pulled the plug on what we considered a "stretch" office (more space than needed) that didn't meet certain important criteria, such as parking and ease of access from the highway. That was in late February. Now that decision looks quite wise and we're in the position to purchase a "forever home." It is not easy for me to be patient; however, the mental model of inversion (what mistakes must you avoid to reach your goal) has been extremely helpful. We have refined our vision for the new office and we've honed in on the ideal location. Slowly but surely, I'm learning that patience is a virtue.
Medical Company: I didn't think it would be so difficult to add a medical director under the Green Hill banner, but alas, due to the corporate practice of medicine laws in North Carolina, it's been an involved process. While we could have taken short cuts, we went through the process of hiring an attorney (the only attorney on the North Carolina Medical Board) to do it the right way. We've now established Green Hill PLLC, which allows us to provide medical services in addition to therapy.
Where to Improve
Look for Big Decisions: Ultimately, it's my responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the company at large. Too often, I get stuck in "doing mode" where I'm just looking for projects to sink my teeth into instead of taking a step back to evaluate whether or not there is a decision to make. For example, we've spent countless hours trying to build our our marketing program and when I finally took a step back and discussed the opportunity cost of not adding someone dedicated to marketing, I realized that hiring was a no-brainer. It feels good to be needed but if I'm doing my job really well, I should make myself obsolete.
Provide Proper Human Resources
The CEO ensures that team members have the necessary skills, experience, and values. The CEO works with the leadership team to help them develop their skills and perform to their fullest potential.
Strategic Staffing: To start Q3, we're adding four new team members and three of them will be taking roles that didn't formerly exist. We're bringing on (1) a medical director, (2) a full-time marketer, (3) an administrative assistant, and (4) a program facilitator -- additional front-line staff. It's been more than one year since we went outside our existing network to find new team members -- this tells me that our culture is strong and our team is leveraging their existing networks. Hiring additional staff is never a sure thing, but I'm optimistic that we're staffing up in an efficient manner for the projected growth in Q3.
Training & Culture: My focus has shifted from managing projects to managing the context in which all work occurs. Between developing a "culture deck," conducting one-on-one meetings with the leadership team weekly, and starting a conscious leadership working group, I believe that I'm helping establish cultural norms that will pay dividends in the future.
Where to Improve
Opportunity Cost Evaluation: For the longest time, I avoided investing in marketing. There is a part of me that says, "just focus on delivering the most value and the marketing will take care of itself," however, I shouldn't try and completely buck the norm. Marketing, especially in the healthcare space, has a sleazy connotation to me but that's my own idealism getting in the way of reality. So I realized that without having someone dedicated to marketing, that was going to fall on me which meant that I couldn't spend enough time on strategic, innovative projects that increase value across the spectrum of stakeholders: clients, team members, and the field at large. We realized that the opportunity cost of not bringing on someone dedicated to administrative support and another person dedicated to marketing far outweighed the benefit.
The CEO is responsible for the Company’s financial performance. The CEO works with the leadership team to identify quarterly strategic initiatives that build value in addition to profit. The initiatives are tied to the mission, values, and strategy of the company and help ensure superior performance.
Staying in the Black: Generally speaking, surviving the first wave of the pandemic without dipping into the red was a big success. We were able to slash some discretionary spending and maintain our entire staff though we did see a decline in revenues for two of the three months in Q2. I don't like measuring my performance based solely on financials but if those aren't in order, the entire enterprise is put in jeopardy. Q2 also marked the beginning of a monthly finance meeting which includes our CFO, COO, and myself. This time last year went through our roughest patch (-30% margins) and we were able to navigate a dip in revenue largely due to the outpatient line of service we launched November 2019.
Enterprise Value: Only one our major enterprise-value-increasing projects (adding a medical line of service) were concluded in Q2 but we've laid the groundwork for a tremendous Q3. Between in-network contracts with the big four insurance providers, new office space, and a plan to develop a plethora of proprietary intellectual property, I believe we're playing the long game extremely well.
Where to Improve
Balance Short-term & Long-term: I have a tendency to take an extremely long view of things, which is great unless short-term issues can threaten the long-term vision. It's going to be important to develop a framework on how to allocate my time between strategic, long-term projects and the tactical "stuff" that keeps the lights on (such as relationship based marketing). The cost of bouncing frequently between visionary projects and day-to-day operations is stress for me and whiplash for the company. Smoothing out the peaks and valleys between manic workcycles will go a long way in addressing the short-term vs. long-term initiatives.
If you’re interested in learning more about the six core functions of a CEO, check out this blog post and be sure to look at the resources listed under each function. The books and articles listed in that post have been instrumental in my personal evolution as a leader and any success I may have can be attributed to my tribe of mentors and my collection of books.