Headspace's COO Was Just Promoted To CEO After Only 6 Months At the Company. Here's How She Did It
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If you’ve ever watched an episode of HBO’s Succession, you’re familiar with the idea that a company’s executive suite can be rife with challenges, office politics and complex transition plans. Years on the job before movement happens is the norm, and a study from the Korn Ferry Institute found that the average tenure of a C-suite executive is over five years.
This usual bureaucracy makes Headspace’s recent promotion of CeCe Morken from president and chief operating officer to chief executive officer even more impressive. The former EVP and general manager at Intuit came on with Headspace in April of this year and has already been promoted to CEO effective January 1, as current CEO and co-founder Rich Pierson and co-founder Andy Puddicombe become co-executive chairmen of the board.
Headspace was already collecting steam in recent years. The company has a $12.99 monthly subscription, $215 million in funding, $100 million in annual revenue and over 62 million overall users, according to a figure from earlier this year. For many, Headspace has become an essential tool for managing mental health during extended stay-at-home directives.
Not all companies experiencing meteoric growth this year have been able to keep up with demand and rise to the occasion. Headspace has – and here are three points about Morken’s leadership that explain why.
Understand every department’s needs
Upon arriving at Headspace earlier this year after her 13 years at Intuit, Morken conducted an all-important listening tour. Reading about her process reminded me of a book that should be on every starry-eyed employee’s bookshelf: Your First 100 Days In A New Executive Job by Robert Hargrove.
Hargrove’s classic lays out the keys to successful executive transition and positive leadership perception. Because a new executive or general manager is most vulnerable in their first 100 days on the job, winning the approval and allegiance of different department heads from the beginning is critical.
In addition to connecting with different departments and stakeholders, Hargrove also suggests prioritizing “catalytic breakthrough projects”. These are quick wins you can execute that will win you credibility and reputation far faster than a grand vision that will become a slog to execute. Identify and deliver quick wins that actually matter.
Stack your B2B pipeline
Headspace is closing in on 3 million paid subscriptions by the end of the year, which is no easy feat. But the bigger fish swimming around in the water are corporate partnerships, and in a recent interview with Forbes Morken signaled a strong pipeline for future B2B sales.
Morken noted that “CEOs now view their employees’ mental health as being an important part of their responsibility,” and recent data backs this statement up. A survey from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions found that 53 percent of employers had invested in programs to better emotionally equip employees in 2020.
Companies are actively seeking tools and resources to better round out employees’ compensation packages while also respecting privacy with regard to mental health and wellbeing. B2B market conditions for Headspace could not be more optimal right now.
Embrace cutting-edge technology
If it feels like content algorithm recommendations are getting better and better all the time, they are, and Headspace wants to use AI to recommend you the right audio pack at the right moment. Location tracking data could, for example, identify when you’re at an airport and suggest Headspace’s fear of flying content to you prior to take-off.
Morken commented to Forbes that the company isn’t quite at this level of precision yet, but that it’s something they’re striving to work toward using AI and machine learning technology.
It’s an obvious next move: Customization is a hot marketing trend and will eventually become so mainstream it will feel abnormal for a company not to tailor its experience to the individual customer.
In promoting Morken, Headspace founders told her “We’re really comfortable with where you’re taking things.” That really says something for an executive who’s been on board for six months. Instill trust, bring solutions to the table and you might be met with new and unexpected opportunities sooner than you think.