Elena Donio has been Chief Executive Officer of Axiom Global, Inc. since November 2016. Prior to this role, Donio served as President of Concur Technologies, Inc., from 2014 to 2016. She has also served as a Senior Manager at Deloitte & Touche and as a Senior Consultant at Andersen Consulting (Accenture). She holds BA in Economics from University of California, San Diego.
Axiom is the global leading alternative legal services provider. With over 2,000 employees across three continents, they provide talent and technology to help legal departments adapt to a demanding new era. More than half of the Fortune 100 use Axiom to deliver legal work.
What is the role of a CEO?
Donio’s time is mostly allocated around communication. They have a distributed workforce, 1400 attorneys around the world. They have 15 offices; in addition, many work in home offices, or at client sites. She makes it a practice to think about how to make sure at a leadership level that people understand the organization’s priorities. Donio and other leaders at the company make sure they have listening posts up everywhere, so can hear the vibe.
Axiom has some unique workplace practices including company-wide meetings – called a huddle. They have huddles 5 or 6 times a year. They live stream them across the company, feature interesting things going on in different departments, do fireside chats, and find that the leadership learns from the questions.
The company also hosts trivia nights, happy hours, and pride month. Their offices have open floor plans, lots of orange, great art and books everywhere. But they are not big on huge employee perks. Donio says, “I really believe that the highest performers are people that have really rich and full lives. And so the idea isn’t to reward people to be in and sitting at a desk all day long”.
What is it like being a female CEO?
Donio says she feels that she hit the jackpot at Concur. She was surrounded by people that believed in her. She also had family that encouraged her along the way and it gave her enough courage to take on the challenge.
She also found that at times throughout her career, the people at the top were people she did not want to emulate. They did not have a family or outside life. But there were a few moments in her career that she saw it was possible.
Advice for those lower level employees to broach a work/life balance?
Donio’s advice for lower level employees who want to change their work/life balance is to understand that the managers around you may not have the life experience to create the right kind of environment, so you need to initiate those conversations. Be open and honest with your leaders. The solution may not be as crazy to achieve as you think.
As a manager, sit down and understand what people are trying to solve for. Ask, where do you need to see change in your life? Are you looking for more time for child? More time for self? Do you feel guilty for working so much?
You will find that it is usually more than one thing. Then get tactical. What would be sustainable? Would work from home on Fridays be enough? Saying no to a new project? Get specific. It can be simple pivots and shifts, it doesn’t have to be momentous. Then work with managers to be creative.
What You Will Learn In This Episode:
● Aspects of being a female and CEO
● How to deal with tough situations
● The function of AI in law practice
● Why huge perks aren’t a focus for Axiom
● The story behind the red folder that helped Elena make the decision to move from Concur to Axiom
Link from the episode: