Chief of Staff Spotlight: Hallie Warner
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 interview current and former Chiefs of Staff about their role as well as their personal motivations and secrets to performing it well.
Name: Hallie Warner
Title: Chief of Staff
Employer: Adam Hergenrother Companies
Industry: Real Estate
Years in position: 2013-present
Tell us a little about your responsibilities in this position.
I work side-by-side with the Founder and CEO, Adam Hergenrother, to assess current organizational needs, initiate change, and execute special projects. I also work closely with leadership team members across all companies to manage various initiatives, hire and grow talent, and maximize Adam's reach through training events, public relations, and strategic communication.
In 1-2 sentences, what is the overall mission of your role?
My mission is to ensure Adam's vision is communicated and implemented.
How did you find this opportunity?
I created this opportunity for myself after serving as Adam's Executive Assistant for three years. In 2013, I did extensive research about the Chief of Staff role and the Chief Operating Officer position and everything in between. I was looking both to define what I currently did, and where I saw myself in 10, 15, 30 years. After much deliberation, I settled on Chief of Staff.
How does your previous background help you in your Chief of Staff role?
Serving as an Executive Assistant before assuming the role of Chief of Staff allowed me to see all aspects of the organization and learn directly from the CEO. For all intents and purposes, even when I was Adam's EA, I was often serving as Chief of Staff, as well. That is one of the many advantages of working for a small to mid-size company or directly for an Entrepreneur or Founder. By doing so, you are often exposed to more pieces of the organization, and have a direct impact on the growth trajectory of the company, staffing, branding, and more. All of this has helped me in my current position.
What skills do you believe are most critical to your success in this role?
Leadership, communication, conflict management, change management, and strategic decision-making skills are critical for success as a Chief of Staff. Specifically, developing influential leadership skills and mastering the ability to lead from behind are key.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my role is leading various personalities, managing individuals’ priorities and agendas, and juggling competing demands. As with all leadership positions, you rarely hear the good stuff, and people or issues only come to you when there are problems that need to be solved. It can certainly be challenging, and it is also the most rewarding part of my job.
Tell me about your learning curve when you started this position. What was your approach to learning all of its facets?
Since I created this position for myself, it's been an interesting learning experience! I'm still learning constantly about what makes a great Chief of Staff and how I can better structure my day and my work to best serve Adam and the organization. I joined The Chief of Staff Collective to learn from other Chiefs who may have had more formal training. My initial approach to learning the position was to read anything I could get my hands on about the role—from white papers, to online articles, to books written by former Chiefs of Staff, to any book that mentioned the Chief of Staff role (usually focused on the government and military). In addition, I would comb through LinkedIn bios of high-profile Chiefs of Staff to understand the specifics of their role and how I could adapt that to my position and company. Ultimately, I simply aligned myself with the CEO and made sure I knew what he did.
What’s helped you establish trust and rapport with Adam? What do you think is the key to a great fit?
Adam and I wrote a book that explores this topic. There are so many things that go into building trust and rapport including direct communication, loyalty, and clear expectations. I think the key is self-awareness. A Chief of Staff must understand their own natural behavior and ensure it is a match with the executive's natural behavior.
Do you feel like you have ownership in your work? how do you establish that?
Absolutely. While I often fill the gaps between key hires or on specific projects, in general, I set the direction of my work through weekly meetings with Adam. As a growing organization, we determine what's next together and then get to work to make it happen.
How do you define success in this role?
Success in this role is being able to implement the vision of the executive, while simultaneously listening to the feedback from key stakeholders and staff and making changes as needed. In my role, I also define success as being able to stay one step ahead (or at the very least, in step) with Adam!
Give us one piece of advice you’ve learned from your experience in this role.
Clear, concise, consistent, and direct communication is everything. I have had to hone my communication skills and develop my leadership capital in this role. Learn to lead yourself first and develop a personal and professional development practice. As the Chief of Staff role continues to evolve, as the economy shifts, and the business landscape changes, you and I must be ready to answer the call.