See the following notes from the Unpacking the Future of the Chief of Staff role from the CoS Summit.
Moderated by Ken Biberaj Host of Coffee with Ken
-Priya Monga Chief of Staff to the CEO at Instacart
-Anne Caprara Chief of Staff for Illinois Governor JB Pritzker
-Scott Amenta Founder at Chief of Staff Network
Note: please see the following summary of the core ideas from this conversation at the Summit. We did our best to clarify the ideas for you. Please refer to the video for specific details, ideas, and context.
On the day-to-day of Chief of Staff:
Anne: I will just say it was a constant day to day treadmill like you just and you never felt like you could really get off.
Priya: My first Chief of Staff stint was actually at Facebook, and I think because I had all of that interaction with people, I really understood the organization. I really felt like my onboarding into the chief of staff role felt a little bit more straightforward. And a couple of months ago, I decided to make the move over to Instacart.
I would say the personal complexity of jumping into a role like this, and supporting our CEO, our new CEO, was just trying to get to know the organization and the people within our organization really, really fast. Because so much of this job as a connector role, especially I think in the private sector.
Scott: I think the Chief of Staff role has kind all of these things have collided at once — the pandemic, the speed of businesses, the vastness, and kind of complexity of these ecosystems that we're operating in — to make generalist profiles have a really interesting career opportunity. They probably were doing before and just never had a real name to kind of put behind it.
Priya: I think the beauty of the Chief of Staff role in many ways is that it's really an opportunity for you to step in and take the first stab at how this this particular project or program is going to operate. And you might not be the long-term owner of that strategic initiative. But I often find you actually are very well positioned to take a first stab at operationalizing it and getting it off the ground. And also determining what the real gap is, so that you can then go hire for it.
On how to do a good job:
Priya: I think really the key to the role, at least that I've seen in my experience, as a Chief of Staff is really about figuring out ways to scale yourself as a leader. The reason I start so general with that is because I think every leader actually leverages this role in slightly different ways.
Anne: A lot of my role is keeping up the key decisions. Because my boss, you know, his days scheduled from seven o'clock in the morning, until sometimes 10, 11 o'clock at night, it's really hard to run an office and understand all the things that are going on in the state agency.
The future of the Chief of Staff role:
Scott: I think one of the challenges and this may be a point of contention here is how long does the Chief of Staff stay in the role? We've heard a few kind of panels over the last two days to talk about this to some degree. I hear anything from 18 months, 24 months, maybe 36 months tops. And you know, I would argue a few years ago, I'd probably say “okay, that seems pretty standard”, given what we've seen people are kind of in and out of this position relatively fast in the private sector. Today, though, I would probably take that back — I think that there's a really interesting opportunity for Chiefs of Staff to make this a much longer part of their career, and to find those unique opportunities to continue leveling up — whether it's with their Principal, kind of depending on where they're reporting in the organization, or just in the kind of broad generalist.
Advice for people trying to become a CoS:
Priya: I've always been a really big proponent of like shaping any job that you're in, to start learning the skills you need for your next job, and taking careers or taking job opportunities that give you the space to do that.
I think if you're looking to potentially get into this role, my advice is always to think in your current job, how you can start up leveling yourself, how you can start looking to maybe the most senior person in your organization and, really start putting yourself in their shoes and think how could I make their life better? What would it mean to scale this person? What would it mean to scale my manager? What would it mean to just think outside of my day-to-day and take on maybe some of the more strategic questions that our teams have.
Anne: I think life in this country, work in this country has changed pretty dramatically over the last 24 months. And so trying to figure out how to deal with all of those things. At the same time, that you're still trying to battle a disease that's very much still with us has been challenging.
Anne: It is a very unique role to in the sense that, and I think this is really important in politics, there has to be somebody, particularly with an elected official, who can say to somebody, “this is a bad idea. I wouldn't go down that road.”