Chief of Staff Spotlight: JP Pinckney
What is a Chief of Staff and what do they do? There are none better to ask than the Chiefs themselves. In this series, we interview current and former Chiefs of Staff about their role as well as their personal motivations and secrets to performing it well.
Name: JP Pinckney, MBA, PMP
Former Title: Senior Director Special Projects
Industry: Finance, Education Management
Years in position: 2014-2017
Tell us a little about your responsibilities in your position.
I had a broad reach. I worked on everything from day-to-day operations to project management of certain lines of business to personnel strategy. This included evaluating the infrastructure of the organization and assessing whether or not projects were aligned with the mission.
What was the overall mission of your role?
The ultimate goal was to identify qualified talent and increase the number of graduates in the pipeline for potential employers. I worked with a network of schools as a consultant to strategize the best way to fill the pipeline so it benefits the employers, the schools, and the students.
How did you find the opportunity?
I fell into the role. I was introduced to the President at the time by a mutual friend. He then introduced me to his Chief Programs Officer who sat down with me over breakfast to talk about education and sports (we were both former athletes). That conversation sparked a mutual interest in working together. The timing was just right for both of us.
That’s the nice thing about networking, you get to know the person you’re working with before you agree to take on a job with them. Unlike an interview, you get to see more of their personality and interests. We started out with a true relationship where we could communicate openly. We developed a critical level of trust that was necessary in this role.
How did your previous background help you in the role?
It’s easy to underestimate my time working in a bank, but that’s where I learned some great technical skills and the importance of paying attention to details. It was easier for me later to see how those details fit into the big picture. Plus, knowing how to functionally manage P&Ls and robust budgets made me more comfortable sitting in executive meetings. I wasn’t just an observer, I was a participant and leader.
How do interpersonal skills fit into this role?
There’s a lot of counseling that goes into it. At the end of the day, being a successful C-suite executive can be a lonely job at times. Allowing them to vent or bounce ideas off you is key, but the biggest element is trust. They entrust you with confidential information—both personal and business information. You have to be able to give them the respect and confidence they need.
What was the most challenging part of your job?
The hardest part is managing different levels of emotional intelligence. Everyone is built differently, and they all work differently. You have to learn how to work with all styles. Some people are more hands on. Some want you to give them more space to run with things. As a former athlete, I’m comfortable giving and receiving direction and blunt feedback. Not everyone responds well to that. But we have to find a common ground in the mission of the organization and figure out where we need to go as a team.
What advice would you give to another COS?
Think about your own thinking. Take time to think about your thinking. Athletes have game tape. They can go back and watch their performance and make adjustments in the future. Leadership is the same way. Mentally review your game tape. Find time to think about your thinking and ask yourself: Does that align with leadership? My team? The mission? If not, why? Doing those things commits yourself to lifelong learning. You’ll continue to evolve your understanding of the team, the industry, the products, the process, etc. Being mindful of your actions will help you continue to grow.