jonny-schwartz-director-of-finance
,

When Your Chief Of Staff Passes The Baton

Formerly titled “What is it time for? Continuing the evolution,” this post originally took the form of a personal letter from our then Chief of Staff, Jonny Schwartz, to the whole Roy Group team. Jonny wrote his letter early in the summer of 2021.

What is it time for?

Chiz asks this so often that when I think about it, it’s his voice I hear in my head. As we start asking our clients that very question, it has me pausing and reflecting.

What is it time for at Roy Group?

And…how about for myself?

It’s the exact question we asked ourselves when the pandemic redirected our course a year and half ago.

My answer then, for both Roy Group and myself, was simple:

Survival.

As the newly named chief of staff and the person responsible for the finances, I was feeling the weight of it all. Survival didn’t even mean breaking even. Forget that. Our business—our bookings, our work, our revenue—vanished in the span of days. Survival just meant finding a way to keep it all together.

We had assembled a team with plans for growth and now, by something completely out of our own control, those plans were shelved. I found myself analyzing scenario after scenario, looking at all the possible outcomes. How much revenue do we need, not only for the year, but for the next month? The next few months? How much can we turn up the revenue and turn down the expenses?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but while I was trying to solve this scary and unexpected puzzle, I was actually using the skills and abilities that bring out the best in me.

Figuring out scenarios.

Gauging our potential.

Looking past this year to the year after…and the year after.

That is the sort of work that allows me to add my greatest value.

Don’t get me wrong, this was still the most stressful and anxiety-filled time of my career so far. I imagine it’s so for many others, too—if not for all of us. The stakes were high and very real.

But I recognized that those were forces outside of my control.


So I looked at what was within my control.

What I could control was the work it would take to figure it out.

And that had me getting up early and working late every day, not feeling like it was really “work” at all.

At the time, it wasn’t easy to see I was doing some of my best work. What has given me the perspective now to realize it?

Well, while the unknowns were definitely stressful during the pandemic, it did give Roy Group some time for doing some extra personal development within our team.

We started working together to figure out our Leader’s Gifts. Led by Chiz, a group of us spent time over a number of weeks discerning, both together and within ourselves, What is the gift that we bring to the world and allows us to make our finest contribution?

It was a powerful process. It gave each of us a new lens on our strengths as perceived by others, and as defined by our own preferences in the work we gravitate toward.

Through these inner-focused sessions, I was able to see what was happening while I was working around the clock, trying to solve these problems….and totally loving it. I was able to identify that spark in me, and define what it was that gave me the energy to try to solve the challenges ahead.

As we close this next pandemic chapter—hopefully the last—I’m wondering, What does the next evolution of Roy Group look like? How can we use this knowledge to position ourselves in a way that we could all be at our best, making our finest contributions?

So, what is it time for?


I’ve realized through my work with the Leader’s Gift I am not the chief of staff for the next phase of the Roy Group evolution.

This wasn’t an easy decision to come to. The world tends to push us to more, to bigger, to better, to always keep moving forward, to never give in. To keep moving UP.

I had to ask myself, Am I allowed to take a step back?

And then I considered: Will that step back actually be a step forward for myself and for Roy Group?

I spent some time getting curious, wondering whether the best thing for everyone involved might be to let go of this societal programming…and do it our way. The simple truth is, for some people, once we climb to certain heights, we realize it’s not for us.

But instead of resigning and going to find something else to do, what about just accepting that we were happier a step before?

I realized I wanted this. It’s what I thought was best for the team. And thankfully, when I pitched the idea, they got it.

They understood as well as I did that for the chief of staff role, we need someone who can bring us together. A communicator. A connector.

We need to simplify our processes and communications, and increase efficiencies.

Luckily for us, the person who has exactly those gifts had joined us during the pandemic. Nina has tackled trickies in a way that has often left me thinking, “I could never have done that.”

She has filled the gaps I’ve left open and picked up the balls when I dropped them. And I am excited to pass the torch to her to lead the team along with Chiz and Anne-Marie into the future.

I won’t be going away; I will be moving back to my role as director of finance, using my Gift to create the blueprints for the future, assisting with solving problems as they arise, and supporting Nina and the team wherever I can.

I feel rejuvenated with the possibilities this new structure brings to our team.

The takeaway?

Sometimes leaders provide a gift to their teams in taking a step back…and allowing others to lead.

 


Jonny Schwartz is Roy Group’s Director of Finance.