You Probably Can’t Hire Stripe’s First COO But Soon You’ll Be Able To Read Her Book

Claire Hughes Johnson Joined Stripe in 2014 After a Decade at Google. Her Management Tips Are Legendary. Now They’re Published.

Imposter syndrome manifests itself in different ways. In my early career, it was primarily feeling that I *did* belong in the room (but just barely), and then trying to prove this to others around me. Eventually I relaxed a bit and got to just enjoy learning from my smart colleagues versus seeking approval. And what I found out was that some of them were really, really good at what they do. Claire Hughes Johnson belongs solidly in that cohort.

We overlapped at Google where she was a VP on the business side of the house but more notably she left the Plex in 2014 to join Stripe as COO when it was just a few years old. Claire got to experience, and played a large part in, Stripe’s proverbial rocketship, blossoming into thousands of employees, generating billions of dollars in revenue and valuation. While at the company — and especially once she departed — Claire became one of the people I always hoped to add to a cap table or startup board. There were just very few people who had the practical experience and framework-driven thinking she could bring.

But the truth is that human Claire can’t possibly scale to all the wonderful companies and teams that called on her. So instead she wrote a book, coming out March 7th, and available for pre-order nowScaling People: Tactics for Management and Company Building promises to be one of the best reads in 2023.

Probably the best preview can be found in an interview she did with Elad Gil for his own book the High Growth Handbook (also a must have). For example:

On her viral ‘Working With Claire’ guide

I think that founders should write a guide to working with them. It would be one of the pieces I’m describing, to clarify the founder’s role: “What do I want to be involved in? When do I want to hear from you? What are my preferred communication modes? What makes me impatient? Don’t surprise me with X.” That’s super powerful. Because the problem is, people learn it in the moment, and by then it’s too late.

On decision-making, and consensus

When I’m leading through a tough decision, I try to say, at the outset, “I want all of your opinions, but I’m going to be the one who ultimately makes the decision.” Or in some cases, I will say, “I don’t know if I’m the right decision- maker. I need help exploring what the decision vectors are, and I need all of your help. And then I will let you know how we’re going to make the decision once we’ve talked about it.” If you don’t give people that guidance, which is I think a common mistake, you’re likely to run into trouble.

On the value of ‘founding documents’

Then the other thing you have is your operating principles or your values or whatever vocabulary you choose. You need to codify a set of principles and behaviors and then cohere to them, culturally. And those founding documents shouldn’t change very often. We refresh those operating principles every year, but they don’t change that meaningfully. I don’t think founding documents should change frequently.

I cannot wait for Claire’s book and predict it’ll become the next Radical Candor, Principles, Build, etc for the tech community. Congrats CHJ!