Donna Peeples was the Chief Customer Officer at AIG — obviously a large company. Now she holds the same role at Pypestream, an enterprise mobile messaging platform. Pypestream is a much smaller company than AIG, currently existing in startup mode. But according to Donna, her role — and the steps she progresses through — are/were the same in both contexts. The biggest differences between “enterprise” and “startup” from a CCO perspective are the scale of the work and the need to protect an established legacy and culture in the enterprise example. Other than that, much of CCO work — especially in the early going — is similar regardless of company size.
In these notes, I’ll run through a little bit about Donna (next section), then walk you through many of her ideas (section that follows). These will be detailed notes, but still admittedly in bullet point format. It’s only about a 25-minute interview, so if you have time en route to a holiday happy hour, I’d definitely give it a full listen. You’ll learn a lot, because Donna has seen almost everything you can see in this line of work.
Here is Donna’s LinkedIn. From there:
Donna Peeples is an accomplished senior executive with extensive P&L responsibility and verifiable results in a variety of industries and global markets. Peeples is a versatile strategist who combines her keen market sense and strong orientation in top line growth and negotiations with her experience, entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen to transform innovative ideas into profits. A master communicator, Peeples works to define business objectives and articulate the corporate vision in a way that inspires imagination and compels action throughout the organization. Whether managing cost, influencing the top line or creating vibrant and productive partnerships, her focus is on blending business strategy with creativity – touching the heart and moving the mind – the result is: true paradigm shifts, sustainable change and the achievement of overall business objectives.
What sets Donna apart is that she has charted her path by rising through a variety of leadership, operational and revenue generating roles in highly regulated and uniquely challenging industries. Time and again, in financial services, energy as well as original equipment manufacturing, Donna has introduced category changing thinking while guiding purposeful and adaptable practices with positive results for customers and profitable returns for her companies.
What Are The Four Steps For New CCOs?
This is a little bit of shorthand from our conversation on the above audio player:
- Assess. This is tied to the first 30 days of the role.
- Establishing an understanding within the organization of the role and its value
- Engaging peers to understand their interpretation of the work. Here take care to know the undercurrents that exist culturally and understand any agendas or priorities.
- Assess the capabilities within the organization to determine the scale of the work ahead.
- Create a roadmap with simple initial wins.
- Make sure the CCO has a seat at the C-Suite table.
- Report out findings to the C-Suite by identifying opportunities and challenges and show them a plan to improve them.
- Define roles and responsibilities
- Plan. This is within the first 60-90 days of the role. This takes you to the end of the first quarter.
- Establish baseline metrics for defining performance
- Work across the enterprise to work the proposed plan
- Create a network of ambassadors and champions within the organization
- Unite the senior leadership team on goals and metrics, guiding principles and tenets of the business
- Establish listening with employees and customers
- Establish alignment on the collaboration and improvement process
- Build the first budget
- Build. 90 days and beyond.
- Clarify vision and communicate
- Identify initial priorities
- Get quick wins – usually attached to cost reduction by improving customer experience efficiency
- Identify how to package wins and engage the organization
- Create recognition for the work
- Focus on key areas that create appreciation for the work – earn the right to continue
- Execute. This is consistent, ongoing, and needs to be iterated.
- Implementation of improvement efforts
- Metrics measurement improvement
- Employee improvement and employee experience
- Embed methodology for cross company improvement efforts
- Leadership engagement
- Accountability and governance in place
My Pay-It Forward Question
I ask all my guests this question at the end: “What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN?” In other words, when you’re coming up the ranks … what should you know to make it easier? All my guests are fairly established in this work, so the run of answers across almost 30 episodes has been amazing. Here’s what Donna said:
- Never underestimate the importance of understanding how to navigate the politics of change
- Get a seat at the C-Suite table
- Understand often competing agendas and metrics
- Know your numbers – connect the work to growth
- Identify and garner ally relationships
- Anticipate reactions to the work as it crosses boundaries.
- Unite the silos – you can’t tear them down
- Mitigate risk – create internal heroes
- Give credit to others — make people stars
I liked all of these, but especially the last two. Remember that this work is as much about building up employees as driving customer growth. Your personal metrics may be tied to customer growth, but building up your internal stars is absolutely crucial here too.
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