Over 80% of GCs believe it’s important to have a seat at the C-Suite table. But, less than half of CEOs see them as a strategic business partner. Not sure how to leverage yourself as a valuable member? We brought on experts who shared their experiences of integrating into the C-Suite and the issues they faced along the way.
Meet the Presenters:
Lisa Lang, General Counsel, Kentucky State University
Brooke Smarsh, General Counsel, Flow
Adam VanWagner, General Counsel, MoneyLion
Lydia Cheuk, General Counsel, Away
- Leverage relationships with executives early on
- Spot company trends you can bring to the executive team
- Take time to learn the business
- Be concise and direct with your communication
How do you define C-Suite?
Adam, “A strategic hub for the business”
Senior executive-type decision making authority over significant business lines.
Brooke, “We have the C-suite with the C-title, who we also call the executive community”
The executive team meets every day, and the next level committee meets every other week.
Lydia, “We have a team of 7 C-level people”
We meet without our CEO once a week, and we meet with our CEO every week.
What is your value as GC within the C-Suite?
Adam, “I am there to evaluate any legal or regulatory concerns that need to be reviewed”
There to provide background legal oversight- more on an ad hoc basis.
Brooke, “What trends are we seeing living in the legal seat”
It’s important to spot company trends you can bring to the team, and evaluate the priority level.
Lydia, “As a GC you have a 30,000 foot view of the business”
Leverage your relationships. Your workforce and team are the foundation of your success. By leveraging those- it helps move the way for the company.
Lisa, “I have the ability to bring everyone together”
Building those relationships helps promote the flow of the whole team.
How did you learn your business?
Adam, “I made a point of trying to get a holistic picture of the business”
Make an effort to learn the business backwards and forwards- especially the business operations.
Brooke, “Get in there, ask the questions- and dig”
Be as open as possible, and learn the nitty-gritty.
Lydia, “Have a curious mindset”
Knowing your business makes you a much better advisor. Go to meetings you may not necessarily want to.
Lisa, “Have those water-cooler conversations”
They may open issues or frustrations of the company, so you can operate better.
What skills do you need?
Adam, “Learn how to be concise and direct”
Lawyers can be used to digging into the details- learn how to convey things differently.
Brooke, “Many people don’t read more than the first line”
Learn how to read people and motives-as quickly as possible.
Lydia, “You are a business executive first and a legal expert second”
Shift your mindset to being part of the executive team.
Lisa, “Work hard on asking questions better”
I was making assumptions based on things I was sharing. Make sure you are fully versed on what the facts are.
Any advice for anyone coming into the role?
Adam, “Show you are on the ball on what the business is trying to achieve”
Observe the dynamics of the team. Learning the business should be the first order.
Brooke, “Listen intently, don’t offer suggestions at first”
Keep a notebook for the first 90 days, write your ideas down, and look back as you learn the business. Make sure you are all aligned on the risk tolerance.
Lisa, “Have a really collaborative approach”
Take away the law-firm vibe, and come in as a colleague! Build a strong team beneath you.
Did you have any strategies to be added into the executive team?
Brooke, “I made sure the CEO knew I had no ulterior motive, and that I have the back of the CEO”
Build and support the relationship with the CEO as early on as possible.
Did you have to change the relationships with other colleagues when you joined the C-Suite?
Adam, “There definitely was a transitional period”
You represent the business in a different way, and the conversations may have to change. You have to not be as accessible to junior level employees.
Do you have any negative perceptions you had to overcome?
Lydia, “I’ve been really crisp on what our legal team is”
Make sure your team is growing in the same direction as you, and establish that value early on.
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