As more and more aspiring strategy and operations leaders evaluate whether the Chief of Staff position is right for them, it’s more important than ever for companies and candidates to have a clear understanding of what the position entails. However, one of the trickiest parts of the role is that the position can often come with ambiguity, as well as unique responsibilities that vary company to company.
On Season Three of Aspiring Ops, we had the opportunity to meet with a number of current and former Chiefs of Staff. Although the structure of the Chief of Staff position often depends on the stage of the company, industry, and principal that you report to, there were a number of common threads we heard from guests on what to expect when strapping into the role.
Here are some of our favorite pieces of advice from season three of Aspiring Ops.
Couple Stakeholder Management with Subject Matter Familiarity to Get Things Done
For many aspiring strategy and operations leaders looking to step into the Chief of Staff role, it can be difficult evaluating what experience is needed. Often, the position seems to bring together a unique combination of years of experience with industry knowledge that can seem overwhelming when evaluating the position.
However, as one of our favorite guests from season three of Aspiring Ops, Maariyah Choudery, shares, “The job I applied for at Uber was looking for 4-6 years of work experience, and I had one. I went for the job anyway….I think a lot of the times we limit ourselves to begin with. We take ourselves out of the race, because we don’t feel like we have the qualifications.”
So how was Maariyah able to step into the Chief of Staff position at Uber and find success without the perceived prerequisite experience? Well, it comes down to an ability to navigate stakeholder management and subject matter familiarity to simply get things done.
As Maariyah shares, what often starts as a very vague question of, “How do we get this done?” is the moment where a Chief of Staff often shines.
Understanding what’s going on across the business and identifying who the right stakeholders are for a given project or opportunity can go a long way in finding success in the role. While that won’t come overnight, setting the foundation for long-term success starts with building trust and immersing yourself in the business from day one.
Amplify the Impact of Your CEO or Principal
A business advisor, an individual contributor, and the glue that holds a company together. For John Quayle, the Chief of Staff role serves many purposes across a business, but maybe none more important than the ability to amplify the impact of your CEO or principal.
One of the most common pieces of advice we’ve heard across all three seasons of Aspiring Ops is the importance of a Chief of Staff who can amplify the impact of their principal across the business.
That being said, it can’t be understated how critical it is for long-term success for individuals stepping into the Chief of Staff role to be willing and able to flex across the business, while also working upstream and downstream.
As John shares, the Chief of Staff has to be able to wear multiple hats. While that is often categorized as working across different departments or projects, it also means being capable of working with individual contributors, as well as leadership team members.
For someone stepping into the Chief of Staff position, you can’t be afraid to assert your voice and direction across all areas of the company.
Build to Let Go
For Carmeanna Eberly, the process of building something out of nothing is a responsibility she’s come to expect as a strategy and operations leader. As a former Chief of Staff and current Director of Operations at Refine Labs, Carmeanna has been an integral part in building multiple high growth companies.
Unlike other areas of the business like sales, product, or marketing, Strategy and Operations leaders that find success in building something from the ground up are usually asked to let go of what they’ve built. And for some people, this can be really difficult.
But as Carmeanna shares, a lot of the success she’s found in the role comes from building to let go.
So much of the value a great Chief of Staff or strategy and operations leader can bring to any company is the ability to flex into different roles and work across all areas of the business.
As Carmeanna shares, whether it is setting up a new department, taking over a new project, or onboarding new members of leadership, success in the Chief of Staff role comes from empowering other individuals to take on ownership and enhance what’s already been built.
Bring Your Company’s Vision to Life
One reason that the Chief of Staff role varies so much from company to company is that the position itself is so dependent on delivering what the company needs most at that given point in time. From standing up brand new departments to taking on special projects, the range of responsibilities can vary drastically.
However, if you look at any Chief of Staff job description, it will almost certainly have some variation of the following: serve as extension of the CEO or your principal. For many companies, the Chief of Staff to CEO job description outlines the role the Chief of Staff has in bringing the company’s vision to life.
One of the most critical aspects of the role we so often see overlooked is the Chief of Staff’s ability to understand the company's long term vision, and translate that long term vision into tactical execution. Whether through implementing an operating framework or taking on ownership of an existing framework, the Chief of Staff has to be able to take the company’s long term direction and distill that into goals, objectives, or initiatives that can be taken to different departments.
As the leading Chief of Staff software, Elate can help any Chief of Staff communicate a company’s vision, create alignment, and track performance all in one place. If you’re interested in learning more about how Elate is working with today’s leading Chiefs of Staff, feel free to reach out today.