“Co-presidents? How can that work when there needs to be one decision maker!” Naturally, as status-quo challengers, Danielle Lewis and Michelle Johnston prove, “Says who?”
People often wonder how this “co-president” thing at Brand Labs came about. In early 2020, before the pandemic hit the United States, Kevin Harman, owner of Brand Labs, approached Danielle about stepping into the president role. At that time, Danielle was a new mother of her first child and still adjusting to the working-mom life, and the thought of adding more responsibility and pressure to her plate, knowing she wanted to be able to spend her nights and weekends with her son and family, did not sound like a favorable opportunity.
Another thing that weighed on Danielle’s mind was having to take a step back from her passion of playing an active role in helping businesses position themselves to be competitive in the marketplace. With all the responsibility expected of a president, she wasn’t very excited about the thought of the more “operational” aspects of the role, but she did know someone who was. Loves it, in fact – Michelle Johnston!
Michelle has the same zeal for the operational side of what Brand Labs does as Danielle has for helping businesses. Knowing Michelle had the same work ethic and passion for putting employees first, Danielle approached her with the unconventional idea of taking on the president role together, not fully knowing how these roles would play out in real life there being no blueprint for such a strategy. To Danielle’s surprise, Michelle was completely on board with the vision and couldn’t wait to get started! PHEW!
Fast forward to today… Nearly a year into it, Danielle and Michelle are still successfully leading Brand Labs as the pair of presidents! As is expected when navigating uncharted waters, there was a lot of learning, fine tuning and adjusting of roles along the way, especially in the ever-changing COVID-19 world, and the arrangement has been smooth sailing.
Are co-presidents right for you or your company?
Here are the Top 5 things Danielle and Michelle learned from their experience:
Find the “Yin to your Yang”
You have to put your ego aside and recognize/accept you can’t be great at everything! Understanding your core strengths and what fuels your passion are critical. Once you identify those areas, find someone with opposing core strengths while keeping in mind that your opposite excels where you do not – compliment, not compete. Before you know it, the perfect president duo! 🙂
Create an Aligned Vision
After you’ve found your reciprocal, you’ll want to ensure each of you are aligned with the vision of the company. You’ll likely have different ways to approach things (it’s your opposite, after all) so the goal/vision of where you’re headed should be rigidly aligned. You will need to have a strong united front for your teams and clients to ensure you’re speaking the same language to anyone you interact with. Figure out what you want to do – your why and how – together. Keep in mind, your roles will evolve as your business evolves. We never stop learning as humans and tend to get better the more we do something. Don’t be afraid to evolve, grow and change.
Collaboration is Key!
Collaboration is one of the values at Brand Labs for a very important reason. We strongly believe “We’re better when we work together.” This not only applies to our employees and the way we interact with our clients, but it is of utmost importance as co-presidents. It’s important to continuously collaborate with one another to ensure you and your teams have the best outcomes possible – especially in this new world where everything is virtual/remote. Just know how to recognize when a decision needs to be made so progress isn’t hindered!
Open and Honest Communication
Mindfulness is another one of the core values at Brand Labs. Mindfulness to us means “Communicate respectfully without judgement.” As co-presidents, it’s so important to create an environment with your team that allows for transparent communication so you avoid the feeling of having to walk on eggshells or that it’s “not your place to say something.” We love to share ideas with each other. Because of the different perspectives each of us brings, this often results in better, more well-rounded ideas or immediately saying, “Yep, not a good idea anymore!” when they aren’t. Having open and honest communication is also a way to share and receive feedback without judgement. Again, no one is perfect and there’s always room to grow!
As mentioned in the first tip, you have to put your ego aside to be successful. As a leader to your team, both employees and those on your leadership team, you have to make decisions with them in mind, involving them in the process when appropriate. Your team is the heartbeat of everything you do. When employees feel respected, heard, valued, challenged and given the opportunity to grow, the most beautiful collaboration occurs and a team dedicated to your success takes shape.