Chief of Staff Spotlight: Joy Murphy
What is a Chief of Staff and what do they do? There are none better to ask than the Chiefs themselves. In this series, we talk with current and former Chiefs of Staff about their role as well as their personal motivations and secrets to performing it well.
Name: Joy Murphy
Location: Chicago, IL
Former Title: Senior Advisor / Performance Sales Manager
Former Employer: Gallup
Former Industry: Consulting, Professional Services
Years at Gallup: 2006-2015; Years in position: 2012-2015
Tell us a little about your responsibilities in your position.
My role focused on general management responsibilities for Gallup’s government division, which included NGOs and nonprofits as well as federal and global government agencies. My duties focused on systems, process, and people related to government requirements and Gallup’s internal best practices and standards. To put it bluntly, I helped make the Gallup clay fit into the government mold. It was a lot of creating processes, then guiding those processes and auditing them. If something wasn’t working, figuring out what we needed to do to tweak the process or get the right people involved. The ultimate goal was to make sure our team of sales consultants and support staff were able to remain compliant in our capture and elevating the standards of our offerings to meet more government requirements. I also helped elevate our own capabilities from a human capital standpoint. We held bi-weekly meetings with the whole division for general updates. I would set the agenda and prep the Director of the division to lead it. I partnered with other staff to ensure these meetings were productive. I collaborated with various teams, budgeting, preparing reports and metrics for C-level team on sales pipeline and general news/updates.
As a “right hand” to the director, I knew the way things operated within our division and was able to set in motion various activities and efforts. The director would state what we needed to do based on his direction from company leadership, then I would take it from there, working with others and including him as needed. I knew ‘the game’ of government contracting and internal process well, having also reported to the COO at our Omaha operational headquarters. I could identify what resources we needed to leverage, how things worked, explain process, and did quality reviews for him and his team. I became a natural advisor and confidante to him. I would keep an eye on, and lead, the planning and coordination with him on various meetings and events.
How much of your role was ownership of your own portfolio versus serving as the 'right hand?'
I always felt like my role was split between three things fairly equally: first, helping the director as a ‘right hand’ or ‘second set of eyes and ears’; second, managing a team of my own director reports and indirects; and third, being an individual contributor for proposals and sales.
How did you find the opportunity?
I started at Gallup through an internship program where I received a scholarship during my senior year at Creighton University. I did onboarding and training at their interviewing center. I was offered a full-time position working directly with the COO, and in some ways, served as her pseudo-COS. I was a project manager for her philanthropic activities and special projects.
Then, a new manager in DC identified me as someone they wanted to work with. I was sent out there to serve in a special projects capacity during a major transition within the government division. I slowly learned and gained experience in DC, I traveled to Abu Dhabi for 6 months on a contract. Then when a new leader was promoted to be the head of the government division, I proposed to him a capacity where we would work together. It was mainly about making him more efficient with his job by taking the lead on many activities within his office and the division. I took on the projects that were not high priority or that he did not need to do.
Why do you think you, specifically, were identified for the opportunity?
I think a lot of it was my relationships. I had built strong advocacy with other managers. The manager who asked me to relocate also had exposure to my work. I had that “whatever you need me to do” attitude and could deal with ambiguity. I cannot say enough about the relationships, though.
What was the most challenging part of your job?
There were so many unique scenarios and situations, particularly around people—from personal circumstances to conflicts with teams. There are so many small nuances with people. At the end of my tenure, I developed a strong ability and ease at working with the unexpected.
Give us one piece of advice/lesson you’ve learned from your experience in the role.
There are no quick fixes. Every situation is unique. The most obvious reason or solution is usually the right one. I believe in that, but I also think that once you have identified the obvious reason, it is not always so clear how to solve it. Learning patience to find these solutions took a long time for me.
What helped you establish trust and rapport with the Director? What was the key to a great fit with an executive?
I think my experience having relationships with others was helpful. It is a family-owned company. Whatever I did, I took the mindset to do it well. I became the “go-to” for others and it created indispensability. I was also present. I was there. I tried to enter conversations fully attentive and I would speak up to provide my opinion. I was in the office or available after hours, ‘a text away’ anytime and whenever work needed to get done.
Was the role successful for you?
Yes, it was a success. It was always, for me, wanting to reach revenue goals for the division. I knew revenue was a problem going in and I wanted us to be the best and more competitive within our company. I loved so much when we would win a new contract, and the team servicing the client would be so excited about it. We all had hard days, but we did good work. It was very cool to see and hear people creating new opportunities. I cared a lot about people feeling secure at work, no surprises. I would take on the shock so other people could do their job. You have to create an environment where everyone has clear expectation.
Looking back, would you change anything about your time in the COS role?
I think it’s hard to say because there are situational things I regret. Even when an experience did not always go my way, on the hard days, I know I needed to feel that pain to grow in the long-term.