I have stopped using the words “leader” and “leadership” these days because unfortunately, the words have jumped the shark. In 10 minutes of catching up on Twitter yesterday, I saw the words used for everyone from Dr. Fauci to Dr. Oz.
The same goes for the word “executive.” Have you ever thought about what a Chief Executive Officer really does? It’s obvious what the CFO, CTO, and CMO do in their roles, but CEO?
I like Simon Sinek’s suggestion that we stop using CEO and start using CVO: Chief Vision Officer. That’s my responsibility, in good times and bad.
Turning this vision into reality throughout the company is not easy. When challenges arise – either internally or externally – they disrupt business continuity, test your resolve, and stress your emotional intelligence. But if your business is built on a solid vision, supported by very clear values that you live and breathe into every aspect of the company, you have a strong framework to tackle any challenging decisions that arise. These values empower your team to make important decisions quickly and without the need for consensus.
Give a damn.
One of our first employees, Roberta Ozan, brought this value to the fabric of our company. Her father always told her, “You can’t teach give a damn.” And how true that is.
Our people work to carry this spirit throughout everything we do at Level Legal. It’s not something I can do for anyone or force on anyone. We go to great pains to hire for this value because if it’s missing, then we will unfortunately suffer the consequences very quickly.
Another way of saying this value is that we look for people who are intrinsically motivated. I cannot stress that enough.
One thing I can do for our employees right now to show that I give a damn is to help them feel as safe as possible. As a project-based company, the nature of our work experiences peaks and valleys. But adding a pandemic into the mix creates way more than a valley to endure – it becomes a matter of survival for some. So, to try and ease their burden a bit, Level Legal is committed to covering all wages and benefits for our employees through the end of this crisis. Thankfully, we have plenty of work right now, but even if that changes, we are all in this together for the long game.
Respect is one of those words that can also exist in a meaningless vacuum if you are not careful to demonstrate it in concrete, tangible ways.
Respect is not simply being polite – or deferential to your manager. In fact, it can the very opposite. Respect is having the freedom and confidence to speak up in any situation that will lead to the betterment of the other person, the client, or the company. And just as important, respect is being comfortable to admit, “I don’t know the answer” when necessary.
Businesses that thrive through chaos are built upon these authentic relationships within strong frameworks. I try to live this out by being honest and transparent with our team and clients.
One way we demonstrated this recently was the decision to transition to our remote workforce plan long before the city of Dallas enacted a shelter in place order. We were not clairvoyant, but as a company we had already undergone the necessary infrastructure changes over the previous year to ensure that if needed our team could work remotely. The safety of our team and their family members is paramount. Schools were out, childcare was not available, and our employees were trying their very best to juggle home and work. The least the company could do is to help ease them into their new normal.
Get it done right.
When we first wrote our values, this one was actually just “Get it done.” But a client once told us, “You guys not only get it done, I can count on you to get it done right.” That stuck with us, and this value evolved to what it is now.
How do you get something right – like working efficiently with no disruption to our clients in the middle of a global pandemic – when there is no playbook to follow?
I’ve always looked for team members who are smarter or more talented than I am – and give them the resources and runway they need to make it happen. Like Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
And that’s what we did. It took extraordinary measures to make this transition, and we are still learning new ways of improving every day.
There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to meeting the challenges that come our way. But we rely on our core values to guide us, regardless of the circumstances.
As the lead steward of the Level Legal vision, it is important that we all embody our vision and values in every action and decision that we make. That commitment is who we are to our clients and each other.
Joey Seeber is CEO of Level Legal, a leading provider of eDiscovery and legal solutions, delivering data-driven legal services across compliance, privacy, investigations, and litigation to law firms and Fortune 1000 companies.