Working for 30 years through the ups and downs of my career, the news that I was being let go from my role as operations manager could not have come at a worse time: we were still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and my youngest was in her senior year of college. I was also still paying monthly for my car, plus, I turned 50 – going 51.
And just like that, I was job hunting again. This time, the only difference was that I knew more things and had more skills. I was not looking to impress but rather to help.
I applied for a Senior Supervisor position for ARMCO Healthcare. I sent my resume and got a call from recruitment shortly after. I went through the initial phone interview, which led to a selection test at the company’s office. Ultimately, I proceeded through the final interview stage.
It felt awkward having supervisors younger than me conducting the job interview.
Nevertheless, they were surprised that I was willing to accept a lower salary and even not to mind the ‘demotion’ it meant taking a role as Senior Supervisor. I explained the practical reason for applying to this position to the interview panel, and, surprisingly, they referred me to the CEO of the company.
I received an email inviting me to speak with him to present my career path and ambitions. The sender’s name for the email seemed familiar to me. Coincidentally, I met the CEO ten years prior when he was working for a different company. At the time, I had applied for a role there as Senior Operations Manager but was passed over by an internal candidate.
During the meeting, the CEO requested that I meet with his operations leaders to provide feedback on the company’s overall activities.
I gladly engaged with the operations team and shared what I thought would be helpful to keep their employees involved as they executed their duties to meet and exceed their targets.
At this point, my recruitment was not official. I was not considering myself as an employee of the company for the simple reason that I had no idea what my role and duties should be.
“My journey into the role of chief of staff was accidental.”
From a high level, the chief of staff role supports the chief executive officer and other executive officers. I support the CEO with initiatives geared towards improving our leadership team. I facilitated learning sessions on coaching, self-leadership and performance management.
On my initiative, we carried out employee satisfaction surveys to take the pulse of the workforce as we worked towards meeting and exceeding the organisation’s goals. We conducted regular meetings for operations and managed to revive the management committee meetings.
I had no idea what a chief of staff does. I achieved this status because my guiding principle is to help those I work with to grow personally and develop professionally.
As the chief of staff position expands across sectors, many chiefs of staff find their way to their current role through unexpected circumstances. While people often ‘fall into’ the chief of staff profession, they find the role to be personally and professionally fulfilling as they get the chance to make a direct impact in their organisation.
What does a chief of staff do?
Chiefs of staff are crucial to organizational success, reflecting the multifaceted and versatile role that they play.
How to be a great chief of staff
While there may not be a ‘secret ingredient’ to success as a chief of staff, it is worth reviewing some of the wisdom that chiefs of staff have offered in the past.
What does a Deputy Chief of Staff do?
In large organizations, such as the arms of national governments, chiefs of staff often require aides, assistants, or deputies to be effective in their role.