MAY 2023
What the participants said
Energy and camaraderie
CEO of the Chief of Staff Association
Claire Millar
3 min read
‘The biggest highlight … was the sense of energy and camaraderie amongst all the participants.’
I started in my chief of staff role about a year before the programme, and so I was a relatively new chief of staff compared with some of the people in the room. There was a great diversity of experiences and we all learnt from each other. In fact, one of the most impressive things about the programme was how quickly we all started to do that – and a lot of it was down to the ice-breaker on the first day. There were 50 of us, and all strangers, but in just an hour or so it felt as if we’d broken down those initial barriers between us. It was a really amazing start to the programme.
I loved Paulo Savaget’s workshop on workarounds and was inspired by the creativity described in the case studies. But my biggest takeaway from his session was more of a reframing and mindset change for dealing with everyday problems, approaching them by asking first, ‘what do we have?’ You don’t need to be dealing with big or complex problems to use his ideas. They reflect a positivity and creativity that I would like to foster within my own team, and that’s definitely something that I brought back with me from the programme.
I’ve been working on strategic alignment within my organisation, so I was interested in Jonathan Trevor’s sessions on the subject – and really appreciated his reminder that it feels hard because it is hard! The process looks simple on paper, but to put it into practice across your organisation is extremely challenging. And in fact, when he asked us all to assess how successful our organisations are at it, there wasn’t one that was in what he called ‘the best position to win’. He also talked about the chief of staff having both a ‘luxury and a responsibility’ when it comes to alignment: the luxury is the vantage point that you have, but that also means that it is an important responsibility of the chief of staff to use that to bring strategic alignment to the organisation.
Dotted throughout the programme were Andrew White’s reflections on leadership and soft power. And I appreciated those because I think that as a chief of staff you can be a powerful role model within your organisation – and it’s worthwhile to stop and consider these dynamics and how you show up in the organisation. There isn’t generally a lot of time to reflect like that while you’re running hard to manage the day-to-day workload so it was a refreshing change of pace. And so was the segment on meditation in the workplace, which asked us to try it out by taking a moment to pause in the middle of the first day. It was only for about two minutes but it felt like such a luxury to take that break. I’m a great believer in meditation but practising it alongside others and in a work-related context was a new and powerful experience. It reminded me of the power of meditation as a counterbalance to a busy and a demanding job.
The biggest highlight for me, though, was the sense of energy and camaraderie amongst all the participants. To describe it as ‘networking’ really doesn’t do justice to the experience of building connections with this fantastic and intelligent group of people, who all had similar challenges despite coming from different sectors, countries, and sizes of organisation. It was a truly wonderful experience.
Author Bio
Claire Millar
Chief of Staff, International Chamber of Commerce, Paris
Claire Millar is the Chief of Staff at the International Chamber of Commerce, the institutional representative of more than 45 million companies in over 170 countries.

Claire leads the team in the Office of the Secretary General, acting as an advisor to the Secretary General, leading strategic initiatives to advance the organisation’s priorities, and coordinating the operational support required for the day-to-day program of the Secretary General.

Before joining ICC, Claire worked at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the International Transport Forum leading the annual Global Summit of Transport Ministers, and prior to that in management consulting at KPMG in Australia. Claire is a dual Australian-French national.