PODCASTS

 / EPISODE 45

Qualities of a Great Chief of Staff

GUEST

Laurie Arron
Laurie Arron

Executive Coach to C-Suite Leaders and Chiefs of Staff

Episode notes

On this episode of Dreams With Deadlines we meet a dynamo who has converted lessons learned over many years of serving as chief of staff to various C-suite executives at AT&T into a professional development program with bespoke coaching and tools you won’t find anywhere else. Laurie Arron breaks down exactly what it means to be a chief of staff and how the role shapes, protects, and advances leadership agendas.

Key things discussed

  • “Rewirement” and Laurie’s career pivot into coaching.
  • The specific roles and functions that chiefs of staff serve.
  • The three C’s that form the basis of Laurie’s trusted advisory practice.
  • Block-and-tackle tools and systems to optimize leadership goals and efficacy.
  • The unique cross-industry opportunity that Laurie’s ChiefSpace group coaching program offers chiefs of staff – especially those who are operating in isolation.
  • Valuable lessons learned, especially when it comes to speaking up early and often!

What you will learn in this episode

  • [00:03:48] About the many hats that Laurie wore during a long career at AT&T and the venture she has more recently launched as a business coach for high-level leaders.
  • [00:04:53] “Rewirement” and what it means to pivot – not into retirement but into an opportunity to leverage skill sets, experience, and passions in new ways.
  • [00:07:31] About the 3C’s that form the basis of Laurie’s trusted advisory practice: 
    • Coaching.
    • Consulting.
    • Chief-ing.
  •  [00:09:13] Breaking down the role of chief of staff into five parts:
    1. Air traffic controller for a leader and their team.
    2. Integrator among silos.
    3. Master communicator.
    4. Link between the executive team and broader organization.
    5. Honest broker and truth-teller, a confidante without an agenda.
  • [00:10:08] Laurie’s take on the servant-leader role that chiefs of staff play, which is shaped by the requirements and needs of specific leaders at any given moment.
  • [00:13:08] Why developing relationships and ensuring alignment among various team members is a critical aspect of performing the Chief of Staff function.
  • [00:14:53] How it feels to work for a Fortune 10 company on the cutting edge of innovation, including the exhilaration (as well as occasional exhaustion and loneliness) associated with being integral to critical decision-making.
  • [00:17:18] Laurie shares strategies she deployed with the leaders she served at AT&T, challenging narratives, providing perspective, highlighting risks and rewards, and pushing back where necessary. 
  • [00:19:08] Ultimately, a chief of staff’s highest purpose is to see what needs to be done and then ensure that, one way or another, it happens efficiently and effectively.
  • [00:21:23] More about the chief of staff’s highly strategic niche:
    1. Identifying and delivering on goals.
    2. Ensuring alignment among companies, departments, and divisions.
    3. Tracking progress against strategic plans.
  • [00:22:00] About where the chief of staff function should sit organizationally and why. 
  • [00:25:35] Laurie touts the 4D Productivity System as a helpful filter for chiefs of staff:
    • Do it – Is this a task that I can accomplish quickly?
    • Delegate it – Is this something that could be better done by someone else?
    • Defer it – Could this be pushed out to a later time?
    • Dismiss it – Does this really need to be done at all?
  • [00:27:28] About the power of time blocking, which places all planning in an intentional framework that modulates energy and maintains focused priorities.
  • [00:27:48] More helpful tools for chiefs of staff, leaders, and really anyone at any level:
    • Apps to support morning routines and drive efficiencies.
    • Intention-setting at the start of meetings.
  • [00:31:16] Laurie’s ChiefSpace group coaching program targets chiefs of staff, who generally lack a support network, offering them a cross-industry opportunity to:
    • Navigate critical decisions with speed and confidence. 
  • Act as an accountability partner and reality check. 
  • Drive alignment and maximize efficiency across the enterprise. 
  • Act as a gatekeeper, protecting and advancing leadership’s key priorities.
  • Learn how to work powerfully and deftly across silos.  
  • Be a strategic thought partner and proxy in executing strategy.
  •  [00:31:48] About the book Laurie is writing – which is the book she wished she had when she first started in her chief-of-staff role. It will demystify the job and offer advice. 
  • [00:34:56] How to turn business challenges into foundational opportunities:
    • Cultivate crystal-clear clarity about where you’re going and why.
    • Implement clear communication that aligns efforts across teams.
    • Follow up consistently to ensure alignment and anticipate issues.
    • Put milestones in place as well as measures for tracking execution.
    • Take time out to reflect, debrief and learn from wins and losses.
  • [00:42:24] About the primary leadership lesson that Laurie has learned: To speak her truth early and often. It isn’t about being liked. It’s about expressing yourself as a leader.
  • [00:45:30] Laurie shares what’s top of mind for her in advancing her work as a transformational coach and advisor, cultivating health and wellness, and keeping a calendar that reflects her philosophy that time is energy. “I want to give my clients and my family and myself the best energy I can,” says Laurie.

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