Countdown of The Best Aspiring Ops Episodes
Last updated: 9/26/23
When we initially launched Aspiring Ops, we weren’t really sure what to expect. Drawing from our own experience as former Strategy and Operations Leaders, we recognized a void in content that truly nurtured the growth and development of young, aspiring Strategy and Operations Leaders.
And so, Aspiring Ops was born - a series crafted to amplify the voices of world-class Strategy & Operations Leaders as they share their personal stories and provide practical steps we can all take to help scale our companies and ourselves as leaders.
After five enriching seasons of Aspiring Ops, we believed it was time to reflect on the path we’ve traveled and the community that we’ve built alongside each and every Strategy and Operations Leader. To do so, we wanted to revisit the top episodes of all-time and relive some of the pivotal moments that made them the most popular episodes of Aspiring Ops to date.
Starting with the fifth-most popular episode, we will be counting down the top five episodes, delving back into the wisdom shared by each guest that helped make the episode so popular.
So, without further delay, I’m excited to announce that at number five in the countdown we have episode number 21, Providing Clarity in the Chief of Staff Role, featuring Céline Felan, Chief of Staff at SugarCRM.
#5: Providing Clarity in the Chief of Staff Role
Original Release Date: August 31, 2021
Episode Number: 21
Original Recap: Providing Clarity in the Chief of Staff Role
This episode originally aired way back in 2021, but it was at the bleeding edge for how many companies were beginning to think about the impact of the Chief of Staff role. In particular, a number of companies were starting to feel the effects of hiring for the Chief of Staff position, because it was the popular thing to do, but not having a clear grasp as to what the role truly entailed.
A number of organizations were hiring for this role, but looking at folks who were relatively early in their career and who didn’t have much experience working across a number of departments within a business.
Céline’s journey, from her beginning as a business analyst, followed by roles in program management, business transformation, and mergers & acquisitions, led her to a point where she felt drawn to opportunities where she was helping leaders bring ideas to life. This desire to connect strategy with execution helped set the stage for how Céline approached the Chief of Staff role and how she defined success.
On this episode of Aspiring Ops, Céline shares how her willingness to accept opportunities with open arms led to her role as the Chief of Staff at SugarCRM, and helped her understand the importance of providing clarity and managing expectations across the business.
Key Takeaways of Episode #21
All too frequently, we witness organizations implement a Chief of Staff role only to see it get watered down into a Chief Firefighter, focusing on the little things that inevitably pop up each day. And while there is certainly something to be said about the Chief of Staff being a utility role, capable of flexing into a number of different areas of the business, the truth is that the position needs to be much more strategic.
As Céline shares, the Chief of Staff role is set up to provide clarity to the organization, managing expectations, and bringing people together.
It’s one thing to say, ‘we want to be clear, aligned, and transparent as a company,’ but it’s much harder to actually follow through on that claim. Céline emphasizes that the Chief of Staff is tasked with bringing together different teams, departments, and projects to work towards a common goal. These individuals often have a superpower when it comes to building collective buy-in and seeing ideas through to the completion.
Impact on Strategy and Operations Leaders
The Chief of Staff role is one riddled with ambiguity and challenges if an organization hasn’t taken the time and intentionally to define success. Over the past few years we have seen the role grow so quickly in prominence, but also endure hurdles that are raised when companies hire for the role without thinking about the experience needed to empower the individuals stepping into the role.
From what we’ve seen over the past few months at Elate, many organizations are starting to learn from these mistakes. More clearly defining success and the necessary experience to thrive in the Chief of Staff position.
Céline was at the forefront for how the Chief of Staff can impact all areas of the organization, and her episode has had a lasting impact in shaping the conversation around the Chief of Staff role today.
#4: A Clear Vision Leads to Clear Outcomes
Last week we unveiled the fifth most popular episode of all-time, and we’re excited to be back this week to continue our countdown. This week we move to number four on the list, as well as one of our more recent episodes. We’re elated to share that the fourth most popular episode is episode 46, A Clear Vision Leads to Clear Outcomes, featuring David Rosenberg, former Chief of Staff and COO at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
Original Release Date: August 1, 2023
Episode Number: 46
Original Recap: A Clear Vision Leads to Clear Outcomes
As the most recent episode, this episode shot up the charts with the most-ever downloads within the first seven days of an episode being released in Aspiring Ops history. David certainly didn’t disappoint with his insights regarding the role of Chief of Staff and COO at the IEDC, but what really set this episode apart was his journey into the role.
Similar to so many Strategy and Operations Leaders, David’s career trajectory hasn’t been from point A to point B. It has taken a number of twists and turns, but at the heart of his career path has been the desire to surround himself with incredible Leaders and phenomenal teams.
On this episode of Aspiring Ops, we hear about David’s journey into the role of COO and Chief of Staff for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. After multiple positions in the private and public sectors, David shares how he has charted the course for his career by surrounding himself with incredible Leaders and how the combination of great leadership with incredible teams has helped him bring together a big vision with measurable outcomes during his time with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
Note: As we update this post, David now serves as Secretary of Commerce for the State of Indiana!
Key Takeaways of Episode #46
As the former Chief of Staff and COO at the IEDC, David saw this firsthand in the role he plays bringing together a big vision with measurable outcomes. Specifically, David finds himself leading the charge for aligning the strategy set by leadership with the execution carried out by team members. But as he shares in the episode, it starts at the top.
“It was so important to get that buy-in from the team early on. There are a lot of different things we can chase, but here are our strategic pillars,” said David. “If (those initiatives) are not fitting into our ultimate goal of driving population growth, then we don’t have the time or resources to spin our wheels on it.”
At Elate, we refer to this often as the connection between long-term strategy with tactical execution, and Strategy and Operations Leaders are the bridge that brings these two areas together.
Impact on Strategy and Operations Leaders
It’s really easy today to talk about setting a strategy that can be measured, but bringing an outcomes-based approach to Strategic Planning is easier said than done.
On this episode of Aspiring Ops, David continually comes back to the long-term vision for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, which ultimately helps him and his team set clear, measurable outcomes. Here at Elate, we see time and time again that a poorly communicated vision leads to misalignment and a lack of prioritization throughout the entire organization.
For David, alignment comes from the vision being set by Leadership, and the role he plays in serving as the connective tissue between where your company wants to go and how you get there. As Strategy and Operations Leaders think about what success looks like in the role, it’s important to remember the role we play in bringing the vision to life in an intuitive way for team members, and provide clarity in how each employee’s work connects to the ultimate direction.
#3: Building A World-Class Operations Team
This week we have the privilege of revisiting the third most popular episode of the series, which brings us to Episode #36, Building a World-Class Operations Team, featuring Toby Carrington, Chief Business Officer at Seismic. This episode held the title of most-listened-to episode for quite some time before being overtaken by two other episodes (stay tuned)!
One of our team’s personal favorites, Toby highlights the significant rise we have seen in the impact of Strategy and Operations teams across the organization. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from one of the greats in Aspiring Ops history…
Original Release Date: April 26, 2022
Episode Number: 36
Original Recap: Building A World-Class Operations Team
Toby’s Episode Recap
In this episode, we proclaimed that ‘We are in the midst of the rise in Strategy and Operations.’
While it was something of a bold take when we originally made the statement, we’ve continued to see companies investing earlier and more heavily into the people, processes, and solutions that will empower Strategy and Operations leaders to unlock growth and opportunity within a business.
At the time of this recording, Toby held the role of EVP of Global Operations at Seismic. However, as his newly earned title as Chief Business Officer would suggest, Toby has played a key role in helping Seismic unlock growth and scale into the industry-leading sales enablement platform that it is today.
On this episode of Aspiring Ops, Toby shares how he’s helped build a world-class operations team, and the focus he’s placed on finding team members with a complementary skill-set. He also highlights the role Operations plays in Strategic Planning, and how OKRs have helped drive alignment and execution throughout the company.
Key Takeaways of Episode #36
It’s hard to boil this episode down into one key takeaway.
From sharing more on how Seismic overcame false starts with OKRs to ultimately rolling out a clear, transparent process with the help of Elate to aligning on key initiatives in a way that distinguishes what’s urgent vs important, Toby provides a blueprint into building a great Strategy and Operations department.
However, the biggest takeaway from this episode has to be the advice Toby shares for any aspiring Strategy and Operations Leader looking to take the next step in their career.
We talk often about the role Strategy and Operations Leaders play in bringing together long-term strategy with tactical execution, and as Toby shares in this episode, that process starts during the planning process.
As Toby highlights, “The planning process is the number one tip that I would suggest for people looking to move out of the operational level detail to strategy.” And we would tend to agree with this statement.
For many Strategy and Operations Leaders turning their wheels, feeling as though they’re stuck simply tackling the most urgent (not most important) fires or feeling whiplash from getting pulled in a new direction each day, it comes back to the way the organization sets priorities to begin with. The more ownership Strategy and Operations Leaders take in the planning process, the more impact they will have in clearly defining the priorities that matter most to the business to achieve long-term success.
Impact on Strategy and Operations Leaders
Building a great Strategy and Operations team isn’t as simple as throwing bodies at a challenge or introducing process for the sake of process. As Toby highlights, there needs to be intentionality in how the team is built, how decisions are made, and how you communicate clearly to the entire organization.
By defining the ‘why’ behind your operations team, you can effectively communicate ‘how’ Operations can work throughout your business.
With the rise in Strategy and Operations, it’s more important than ever to put in place a world-class team to thrive in a constant state of change and provide clarity on what matters most to the business. Toby and the team at Seismic have continued evolving how this comes to life across the organization, and more importantly, committed to the process of consistently evaluating the structure of the team and how they best facilitate bringing together the strategy with execution.
For those leaders looking to build a leading Strategy Operations team and amplify their impact across the business, this is an episode that you will want to bookmark.