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Executive Assistant vs Chief of Staff

In most organizations, the CEO is primarily focused on the big picture. His or her function is to create the vision of the company and oversee that it’s carried out by the employees. In order for a CEO to be the successful visionary required of a growing business, he or she needs strong support behind the scenes. However, filling the roles that allow a CEO to thrive can be somewhat tricky. So, let’s break it down a bit.

Two significant hires that act as pillars for the CEO are an Executive Assistant and a Chief of Staff. But, some confusion exists regarding the job responsibilities of these roles as there tends to be some overlap. There are plenty of distinctions and reasons why both are necessary for a busy CEO.

An Executive Assistant, or EA, is just that – an assistant to an executive. More specifically, an EA provides tactical support to a CEO, and most often, this is primarily an administrative function. The position runs the gamut from answering phones, booking travel, managing emails, scheduling meetings, organizing files, etc. Basically, the Executive Assistant keeps the CEO organized and ensures he or she is on track logistically day-to-day.

A Chief of Staff, or CoS, is more of a strategic role, bringing value and insights regarding the growth of the business to the CEO. This often includes working cross-functionally to deliver on mission-critical projects, such as creating streamlined processes to create seamless workflows, driving internal and external meeting preparedness and realizing strategic priorities based on data analysis. In other words, a CoS impacts larger scale tasks that affect the overall trajectory of the business.

While these two roles have clear differences, the soft skills required to be successful in both of them can be similar. Individuals should possess stellar communication skills, exceptional problem-solving abilities and a strong work ethic. So, the type of candidates considered for these jobs will definitely have some commonalities.

As an organization grows, however, most CEOs will benefit from hiring an Executive Assistant and a Chief of Staff. These two positions may interact often and together provide a solid foundation for the CEO. With the right people in place, nothing will slip through the cracks. And, the CEO can focus on bringing the company vision to life.

Written by Amy Jarosky, Chiefly Consultant.  Read more about Amy here.