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What Does A Chief Of Staff Actually Do? A Quick Guide For Execs

I get this question often from founders, especially in Europe where the role is less known compared to the US and Silicon Valley in particular, where I spent most of my career.


While there is a whole spectrum from being a ‘glorified PA’ and effectively a COO/Head of Ops & Strategy, there are similarities in the scope that a Chief Of Staff is most likely to cover.


The 5P framework:


Plans & Priorities:

A great CoS helps you connect your vision to strategy (1 year+) to execution (OKRs) in a way that is practical and easily understandable for the organization. An even better CoS helps you pressure test your company strategy and priorities to make sure you focus on the things that will truly move the needle.


Progress:

Once the above is set, your CoS will help you monitor progress at a company level and make sure that you are on track and stay focused despite all the ‘chaos’ and unpredictability that is part of the startup life.


People:

You can’t build a successful business (notice, I didn’t say ‘tech’ or ‘product’) without a high-performing team. It all starts with your leadership and the way you work with your exec team (as well as the quality of that team). This is an area that differentiates an exceptional CoS from someone who could just be your ‘Head of Ops’.

Process:

Some things just don’t have to be that hard or complicated. Putting effective processes and ways of operating in place (i.e. the pulse of the business) is where your CoS can support you (and the entire company) big time.


Projects:

Finally, there are always misc things that you need help with, for example: expanding into a new country, managing your Board and investors, working on your external brand, internal comms, etc. Depending on your CoS’s strengths, they can be your go-to person for special projects.

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