It’s no secret that being a Chief of Staff is an incredibly demanding role with a lot of responsibility. But what isn’t talked about as much is the loneliness that comes with it. As the lynchpin, barometer, and values-meter for your organization, you are expected to keep up a certain standard and maintain confidentiality in all conversations. While this level of responsibility can be rewarding, it can also be isolating. Here’s what every Executive Assistant should know before they take on this role and of course, some ways I think you can be better prepared for it should you take the role on.
The Role Of Confidentiality
As Chief of Staff, you will be privy to even more confidential information than before and from many different sources. You will have to stay true to your word and never break confidence in any way or form. In order to do this successfully, it helps if you have an innate sense for knowing when something needs to be kept confidential and when it doesn’t. This creates a certain level of isolation because even if you wanted to share something with someone else, you simply can't. Keep those lips zipped!
One way to address these issues is to build a strong support system, both within and outside of the workplace. This could include finding a mentor or coach who has experience in a similar role, or building relationships with other leaders in your industry who can provide guidance and support. Additionally, making an effort to connect with your colleagues on a personal level can help combat feelings of loneliness, albeit, they won't quite 'get' what might be locked away in your mind.
The Role Of A Sounding Board
You are also expected to act as a sounding board for people who need advice or guidance on certain matters. This can be both rewarding and challenging because while it is nice to give back in such an important way, there is a certain amount of pressure that comes with being put in this position as well.
You may come across a situation where you need to give advice on and area you're not confident in. A way to deal with the uncertainty of giving advice is to focus on being transparent and honest about your own limitations, while providing the best information you have at that moment and make sure to give a clear and realistic perspective. It's also important to stay informed and educated about the topics you're giving advice on, so you can feel more confident in your recommendations.
The Role Of A Leader
As Chief of Staff, you are expected to take on a leadership role within the organization—which can often mean making tough decisions without fully understanding all the implications beforehand or having the full support from those around you. While leadership roles can often be very fulfilling and rewarding, they can also create feelings of loneliness since there may not always be someone who understands exactly what it takes to make tough decisions like these—especially when those decisions could potentially have far-reaching consequences for everyone involved. And, as a leader, you may face a wide range of challenges, depending on the specific needs of your organization.
Some common realities that you may face:
Balancing competing priorities
You may be responsible for supporting multiple departments or teams, each with their own goals and priorities. Balancing these competing demands can be difficult, and you may need to develop strong prioritization and time management skills in order to be effective. How do you prepare for this? You build a strong foundation of knowledge and skills - Develop a strong understanding of the industry and organization you're working in, as well as the specific responsibilities you'll have. Seek out opportunities to learn about relevant topics, such as project management, leadership, and communication.
You may need to mediate disputes between different departments or teams, or between employees. This can be challenging, as it requires strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to remain neutral and impartial. This isn't easy ladies and gentlemen, lean on your support system where you need, they will be able to guide you through these tricky waters.
Adapting to change
I've learnt a whole boat load from my start up environment on this one! Start-ups are highly dynamic environments and change is inevitable. You will likely be expected to adapt to changing circumstances quickly, and to be able to come up with creative solutions to unexpected problems. My top tip here is that you be open to new ideas and be ready to adapt to changing circumstances. Be proactive in identifying potential problems and have a plan of action.
Communication and relationship building
You will be working with multiple internal and external stakeholders and communication is key. Building strong relationships with employees, other departments and external partners is essential to the success of your role.
Constantly learning and evolving
As a Chief of Staff, you will likely be responsible for staying informed about the latest developments and trends in your industry, as well as in your own company. In addition, you will need to be able to anticipate the future needs of your organization and make strategic recommendations accordingly. In order to make quick decisions and solve problems effectively, practice different problem-solving techniques and decision-making processes.
Dealing with stress and pressure
And finally, the role of a Chief of Staff is demanding and can be stressful. You will have to be able to handle pressure and multiple tasks at the same time and make quick decisions. So, learn how to manage stress and pressure. Develop a self-care routine to help manage stress and pressure. This could include activities such as exercise, meditation, or journaling, or if you're like me, eat an unhealthy amount of Wotsits and write (maybe blog 😉) about your experiences, and talk about them with your support system.
Being a Chief of Staff comes with unique sets of challenges that are both rewarding and trying at times; however one thing that most people don't think about is how lonely it can get sometimes too! From having confidential conversations all day long and acting as the sounding board for people who need advice or guidance on certain matters - but not being able to share anything -to taking on leadership roles within your organization, you'll have your hands full! If you're considering taking on such an important role then make sure that loneliness factor is taken into account too! Being prepared for this reality will help ensure your success in the role.
You got this, and whatever else comes your way ✨