034- Creating Meaning & Purpose at Work with Claire Lew of KnowYourCompany.com
Today, we have Claire Lew. She’s the CEO of Know Your Company which is a software tool that helps CEO’s overcome growing pains. When companies grow, the CEO’s feel like they're losing touch of the company’s employees. Know Your Company helps CEO’s get the insights that they're looking for and create an open and honest environment for employees to be heard when the company grows and becomes too much to handle for the CEO alone. They have over 15,000 members in 25 different countries.
Apart from that, she sits on the board for the Chicago Coalition For The Homeless which is an organization that advocates for eradication of homelessness in Chicago. She also sits on a board that promotes art and entrepreneurship. They have a fund that helps fund budding entrepreneurs.
HOW CLAIRE GOT HER START
Claire has been an introvert all her life and the thought of being a CEO of a software company had never crossed her mind. She’d hoped to work in international politics or at the UN. In college, she studied organizational change which is a study of how people work together in groups. This study highly influenced her decision to learn how people work in groups. After graduating, Claire and a few of her friends decided to start their first company together, The Starter League. It was a beginner-focused school for people interested in learning coding in which she worked for only one and a half years.
She picked up another job which she absolutely ended up hating because the work environment wasn't exactly engaging. Every time she had an idea or feedback about the working environment or the business as a whole, no one paid attention. After a year and a half, she ended up quitting and focused on creating a company where employees could freely share their ideas and feedback.
Her idea came to life and she first created a consulting company to help CEOs get to know their company better. Luckily, the first client was from a big company, BaseCamp. Jason, the CEO, was amazed by the idea and hired Claire to be their consultant. Things worked out really well between the two and the Know Your Company idea later came to mind. It was such a huge company with its own ideas that they decided to make it a separate company with Claire as the CEO.
BEING A FIRST-TIME CEO
Just like any person who’d be given such a huge position at a young age, Claire was afraid. 24 years old at the time, she was simply overwhelmed with the task to run a whole company as the CEO. Know Your Company was associated with top companies such as Airbnb, Kickstarter, etc., and this gave her a case of imposter syndrome. She was always worried about what other people thought of her but all this changed when a woman in one of the networking events for high-profile women founders told her to stop selling herself short. This was such a defining moment in her career because she was able to see her true worth.
DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP SKILLS
Claire first developed her leadership quality from her personal vision of how leadership and positive work environment can exist. In college, she read The 5th Discipline by Peter Sangi. It pointed out that running a successful organization is an idea of personal mastery, which is about knowing exactly what you want and its truth and then focusing to make your vision work.
Claire has a philosophy where she makes sure the environment of the company is something she would be comfortable being in first. Secondly, they check on the data they’ve collected over the past 3 years while working with CEOs and noticing what the biggest blind spots and common missteps in companies are and then creating their company’s environment with the best value. Her leadership qualities come from gut, intuition and personal belief, but it's also informed by data and observation. Claire’s grandfather has been a huge influence in the way she feels and thinks about leadership because to her, he really exemplifies courage, humility, honesty, and unwavering commitment to serving things bigger than himself.
You can always develop your leadership skills by looking for examples that are working really well. Always spend time with people you admire. You get to learn a lot of skills but it’s also important to offer value and not just be draining them of information. Be a leader at the moment, regardless of your title because leadership isn’t about title.
HOW TO MAKE A COMPANY FULFILLING
Having meaningful work is the top thing that motivates employees. This means it has to be something that they care about or the impact has to be something that they feel is worthwhile. If it's not meaningful, then they won't stick around with it for very long. Also, honesty and how things are communicated in an organization is very important.
They recently launched The Watercooler which is an online community for leaders who are looking to become better. The concept has really resonated with people and the topics have been amazing. They’re excited to see the future of this company because people are extensively looking to be better leaders.
Claire also Writes on Medium and Inc.com