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People, process and tools. Those are some of the simple ingredients of success for any high growth company looking to scale in today's market. Recently one of the newest additions to the 'people' category has been the Chief of Staff position for high growth companies. If one were to do a simple Chief of Staff LinkedIn search, they would find that the role is more popular now than ever before. Companies have found that the Chief of Staff position can serve as a growth hack for amplifying the presence of leadership throughout the company, especially in regards to the Chief of Staff to CEO position.
As the Chief of Staff position becomes more relevant for high growth companies, so do the tools used to support the role. Going back to the people, process and tools, often the Chief of Staff is tasked with helping to implement the process needed to establish a rhythm for building, executing, and reviewing a company's strategic planning process.
However, Chiefs of Staff haven't traditionally been given the tools needed to support how they went about implementing and running their strategic planning process. Until now.
Elate was built for today's Chief of Staff to help them navigate the challenges and opportunities they face in scaling their company. As the leading Strategic Planning software, Elate was built to help SaaS companies communicate their vision, create alignment, and track performance all in one place.
So as Chief of Staff jobs continue growing in popularity, we wanted to highlight more on the role itself and how Elate is helping strategy and operations leaders everywhere implement and run a strategic planning process that accelerates growth for their company.
To help provide context to the software used by today's leading Chiefs of Staff, let's begin by highlighting the career path to the Chief of Staff position.
For many, the Chief of Staff position is still a bit of an unknown. We often get asked the simple question, 'What is the difference between a Chief of Staff vs Executive Assistant?' Or even, 'What is the difference in the responsibilities of a Chief of Staff vs COO?' Since the role is relatively new, those aren't bad questions to ask when thinking about how to become a Chief of Staff.
On Season Two of Aspiring Ops, Grace Sutherland, who serves as the Chief of Staff at Yext, highlighted the main differences between the Chief of Staff vs Executive Assistant positions. As someone who served in the Executive Assistant role before setting out on the Chief of Staff career path, she offered some great insight into how the Chief of Staff has to be able to flex between the day-to-day execution, while also thinking about the long-term goals of the company.
And Grace's story isn't unique. From meeting with hundreds of strategy and operations leaders, it has become clear that the career path into the Chief of Staff position is never the same. Each person has a unique journey that can lead them into the role.
However, there are common traits that help distinguish those that might perform well in the role. For example, the Chief of Staff role is one of extreme ownership and accountability. The Chief of Staff is regularly asked to flex between all areas of the business, looking for opportunities, while also identifying weaknesses. To say that it is a highly dynamic role that requires a high degree of context switching is an understatement.
For those that love the fast-paced environment and ability to switch between a portfolio of projects, then the role might be well-suited for you. But it's important to understand what is expected of the role, because as you may see in the Chief of Staff job description, it may vary drastically depending on the company.
Similar to the countless career paths that can lead to the Chief of Staff role, no two Chief of Staff positions will look the same. From company size and stage to leadership team makeup, the Chief of Staff responsibilities will vary based on the needs of the company.
However, while the Chief of Staff duties may change from company to company, similar to the Chief of Staff career path, there are certain commonalities we've found across every job description. And these commonalities also lend themselves to the tools needed to find success in the role.
For example, one of the most common responsibilities of a Chief of Staff is serving as an extension of the CEO. The Chief of Staff to CEO job description will almost always outline the need for the Chief of Staff to work closely alongside the CEO. For Zeke Fraint, Chief of Staff at Clearcover the responsibilities of amplifying the impact of the CEO was one of his main considerations.
As Zeke shares in Season Two of Aspiring Ops, the CEO can do fewer and fewer things as the company grows. So it’s important that the Chief of Staff is able to increase the CEO’s range and reach without insulating them from what’s happening in the business.
We’ve used the phrase many times before at Elate, but the Chief of Staff is the connective tissue between the company and the executive team. Zeke uses this example to reference how his ability to serve as a deep generalist allows him to flex into different situations that the CEO might have previously served in at an earlier stage of the business.
In serving as the connective tissue between leadership and the rest of the company, Zeke is also helping to drive accountability towards the company's overall strategic plan. However, this isn't done through brute-force. But rather, by applying the right processes and tools to bring this to life.
For the Chief of Staff position, a strategic planning solution to help align every member of the organization from the leadership team to individual contributors is critical to successfully serving as the connective tissue. Further, a strategic planning solution like Elate can help reinforce the Vision and Mission statement outlined by the CEO, while empowering employees to create objectives that unify the day-to-day execution with the long-term goals of the company.
By leveraging the tools that help amplify the impact of leadership and create clear alignment through the organization a Chief of Staff can serve as a force multiplier across the business.
For those that are new to the Chief of Staff position at a high growth company or simply looking to level up in their current role, we've found a number of commonalities across some of the best Chiefs of Staff we work with at Elate.
Let's start by first looking at how to build the role as you step into a Chief of Staff position at a high growth company. For any Chief of Staff stepping into the role, it’s important to lay a foundation that will set you up for success in the long run. Ben Battaglia is the Chief of Staff at Lessonly, and on Season Two of Aspiring Ops, he shares how he viewed the construction of the Chief of Staff role as a balance of the relational and operational.
For Ben, it wasn't just about coming in and completing tasks or a portfolio of projects. While those might certainly be part of his role, the reality is that he also has to establish relationships across every area of the business to surface insights and remove hurdles that prevent teams from accomplishing their goals. This requires establishing a high degree of trust.
From meeting with team members that had been at Lessonly for years to brand new team members, Ben wanted to get as many different perspectives as possible to start connecting the dots throughout the organization. So he started out by doing a 'listening tour' across Lessonly. This ‘listening tour’ allowed Ben to start building the foundation of trust he needs in order to be successful in the Chief of Staff role.
Another guest on Season Two of Aspiring Ops, Amrit Kanesa-thasan, went on to share that he viewed trust as the greatest currency for a Chief of Staff. Similar to Ben, Amrit recognized that without trust at all levels of the business, he wouldn't be able to find the success he wanted in the Chief of Staff role.
But finding this balance of how to serve the CEO, leadership team and all employees at the company can be a tricky balance, especially for those Chiefs of Staff at a startup or earlier stage company. Unlike a larger organization where the Chief of Staff may solely be responsible for working with one principal, the Chief of Staff startup job description might be stretched across a number of different areas of the business.
For those Chiefs of Staff at earlier stage companies, Sydney Cummings, the Chief of Staff at Terminus, shares how she sought out opportunities and was willing to run towards chaos in the early days at Terminus. For Sydney, her ability and willingness to flex across multiple areas of the business set her up for success in scaling with the company. She was able to evolve through different stages of growth, and ultimately level up her abilities to match the needs of the company.
Today, Chiefs of Staff, like Sydney, looking to blaze their own trails have a number of channels available to receive the guidance and advice needed to continue scaling themselves as strategy and operations leaders.
The Chief of Staff Network and On Deck Chief of Staff Fellowship are two great programs that offer Chief of Staff training and communities to help any aspiring strategy and operations leader along their journey.
For those looking to become a great Chief of Staff you'd be hard-pressed to find better programs and communities to help guide you along your way.
As the Chief of Staff role continues to evolve, so will the processes and tools leveraged to amplify the impact of the position across companies. Even the Chief of Staff meaning and job description will continue to take new form as companies realize the impact of the position, and start to tailor Chief of Staff job descriptions to meet the needs of their business.
At Elate, we couldn't be more excited to have a front-row seat to the continued evolution of the Chief of Staff position, as these leaders continue to take on more responsibility. From the number of LinkedIn Chief of Staff jobs to the Chief of Staff salary, we are committed to partnering with Chiefs of Staff and programs that support the evolution of the position itself.
As we continue building the leading Strategic Planning solution for today's high growth businesses, we will continue shaping our solution in a way that supports the Chief of Staff position.
If you're interested in learning more about being a guest on Aspiring Ops or hearing how we partner with Chiefs of Staff to continue growing their companies, feel free to reach out to our team today. We'd love to share how we are building a community of strategy and operations leaders everywhere!