Federal Coach: Inside President Obama’s West Wing

Chris Lu is assistant to the president and White House Cabinet Secretary. Prior to serving in the White House, he worked for then-Senator Obama as legislative director and acting chief of staff, and consequently served as executive director of the presidential transition. He previously worked as deputy chief counsel for a House committee and as a litigation attorney at a D.C. law firm. This interview was conducted by Tom Fox, author of the Washington Post’s Federal Coach blog.

How do you motivate and engage your staff? I believe in sharing as much information as possible with my staff. I don’t think they can do their jobs effectively if they don’t know the larger picture. Every morning, I hold a meeting with my entire staff and our interns so they know what I’m working on and what their colleagues are working on. That way, they will clearly know the game plan for the day and the week.

I also strongly believe you can never say “thank you” enough. There’s a tendency in politics to think that folks are jaded and that thanking them isn’t necessary. Even in a competitive, highly charged environment like the White House, just showing people that you appreciate their work goes a long way. And of course, keeping your staff well fed is never a bad thing. I try to bring doughnuts to the office every now and then.

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