Kate Burns has a sign in her office:
“If everything matters, nothing matters”.
As the General Counsel of Moo, she is relentlessly focused on keeping her team aligned with an ever-changing business. We asked her to share perspectives on how she keeps her team focused on what matters most.
Here are five key takeaways Kate Burns shared:
1. Live in the House
When you move into a new house, you think “everything is wrong here.” You have dozens and dozens of ideas to change and improve. Six months later, life takes over and the house remains unchanged. You realize some of your ideas weren’t so good after all and you find a host of problems hiding in the shadows.
The same thing happens when you join a new company. Take your full 90 days to understand the why behind how things are being done. Listen, don’t solve or prioritize problems and fixes until you first “live in the house.”
2. Turn over the stones
A new GC will turn over many stones in the business. The trick is to know which ones should be turned straight back over. Test your ideas, interrogate your own judgement and assess the business’s appetite for change. This will help you build trust as you assess risk.
3. Don’t give primary legal advice
This might sound strange. As a GC, you should rely more on your judgement that you have acquired over the years than your legal expertise. Don’t just answer easier legal questions. As a leader in the business, you may have to prioritize the stuff that may not seem immediately legal.
Also, do not waste internal resources on stuff you should not be doing. A practical example is outsourcing routine work to ALSPs. This will free up time for your team to learn about the business, network and build relationships.
4. Tell stories!
Make it a point to do good old PR for your department and what your department does. People may perceive legal work as dry and the legal department as the “Department of No”. With storytelling, people can relate and will know when and how to engage legal and be more receptive to legal becoming involved at an earlier stage. Use data to back up your stories, for example, how many contracts you’re processing per month. Share examples of how legal enables business.
5. Choose when to fight!
When you feel strongly about something, stand your ground. Leverage the trust you’ve built and your understanding of business issues. Explain why it matters to the business in commercial terms. If you build a reputation of saying yes more often than no, you are more likely to be taken seriously when it matters.
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