Kicking Off an Effective Relationship With Your Chief of Staff

Written by vChief

July 25, 2016

Many of our clients are incredibly busy and overwhelmed, which is why they’ve turned to vChief for additional strategic support. But it can also be a challenge when it comes to getting rolling with your new chief of staff (CoS). We want to provide some recommendations on working with your CoS that will help make the onboarding process smooth and the ongoing support most effective. These are a few things that clients have found most helpful

  1. Devote a lot of time together in the first week or two. Work demands will ebb and flow over time, but the early days of working together will require several hours to set you both up for success. At vChief, we complete a comprehensive needs assessment with our clients, where we review how a leader spends their time currently vs. the ideal state, and dive into all of the various streams of work your CoS can support to see what current gaps or challenges there may be. Though it is a time intensive process, it allows us to jump right into meaningful work once it is complete.  Also, If you already have a set of onboarding materials, we encourage you to share those in advance to provide your CoS a strong understanding of your organization.
  2. Establish a system on how you will regularly communicate. To ensure your CoS is best supporting you, a regular check-in system is highly recommended. You and your CoS should ensure you are aligned on agendas and check-in processes to ensure your regular communication is effective and efficient. Also, think about how you communicate best, whether it is by email, phone, IM or some other means, and let your CoS know.
  3. Invest in meeting in person with your CoS. Ideally this will be towards the beginning of your time working together, but some clients like to leverage broader team or organization gatherings and events as an opportunity to get in-person time. Though there is a financial investment in travel costs and time, the payoffs in relationship building are well worth it. Plan both some collaborative work time together as well as unstructured time, maybe over a meal.
  4. Get on video & build rapport. If you can’t meet in person, the next best bet is to be able to see one another’s faces. It helps so much in getting to know one another personally and being able to read one another’s nonverbal cues. Skype or Google Hangout are great free options to do this.
  5. Make your chief of staff a real part of your team. Though we are in contracted consultant roles, we work most effectively when you just treat us as a regular part of the team. What this looks like in different organizations will look different. It might mean regularly joining team calls, or using a company email address, or having individual meetings with all of your direct reports as you begin working together.

We’ve found these are great ways to ensure a strong foundation as your new chief of staff gets up and running. What other things have you found helpful?

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