Onboarding a New Fractional Chief of Staff: What to Expect & Best Practices

When partnering with a fractional chief of staff (CoS)  through vChief, it’s important to establish a smooth onboarding process to ensure a successful engagement. A successful onboarding process includes introducing the CoS to your team, providing them with the necessary resources, and fostering an environment of trust and transparency.

Here’s what you can expect and what you need to do during the first two to four weeks of your engagement to set the stage for a productive collaboration.


Defining the Scope of Work

At vChief, we’ve developed a process to ensure the scope of work and priorities are defined from the very start of the engagement.

Some clients come to us with a specific project in mind, where the scope of work is clear, with an obvious finish line.

But what if you don’t have a well-defined scope? Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Many of our clients come to us because they’re too busy to sit down on their own and identify what tasks they need taken off their plate. That’s where our needs assessment comes in. We can work with you to develop a scope of work and identify your candidate in as little as two weeks, and it doesn’t require much additional effort on your part.

Once the scope of work is defined, your CoS will begin executing on it as quickly as possible. Typically, they’ll take about two weeks to familiarize themselves with your organization by attending key meetings, reviewing relevant documents, and gaining a comprehensive understanding of your organization’s most pressing challenges.


5 Best Practices to Lay the Groundwork for a Successful Collaboration

We were in business for five years before we hired our first full-time employee. In hindsight, we likely could’ve grown faster if we’d transitioned to some full-time staff sooner as the organization became larger and more complex. But I don’t regret the decision to resist that pressure.

I took my time with these hires and made sure they were the right fit. I believe this conservative approach to growing our full-time employee count provided a huge benefit: we preserved our culture. With each hire, I was able to take the time to find people who share my core values and priorities. That’s hard to do when you’re rushing to hire people.

While vChiefs are known for being autonomous, strategic doers, you’ll need to lay the groundwork for them by following these five best practices.


1.   Introduce them to your whole team.


Start by introducing the CoS to your entire team, emphasizing the transparency of their role and why it’s needed. Clearly communicate any changes that your direct reports can expect to see in their working relationship with you. This open and honest communication fosters trust and collaboration from the outset. Skipping this step can result in skepticism or resistance, especially for team members who will have much less access to you as a result of the CoS’s role as gatekeeper.


2.   Connect them with key stakeholders and share relevant materials.


In addition to meeting with your team, in many cases, the CoS will need to speak with external stakeholders. That might include other fractional staff or contractors, clients, and strategic partners. Facilitating introductions between the fractional executive and all key stakeholders will help them gain fresh perspectives that can help inform the solutions they pursue.

Additionally, you’ll want to provide them with access to the essential materials and documents relevant to their role. For example, if your new CoS has been brought in to streamline your hiring process, they’ll need to review things like your employee handbook, your application, and your onboarding checklists.

This ensures they have the necessary resources to make informed decisions and take effective action.


3.   Allow two weeks for essential meetings and material review.


It’s important to provide your CoS with sufficient time to conduct essential meetings and review relevant materials before expecting them to produce anything or meet any project-based milestones. Two weeks is typically the right amount of time for them to gather valuable insights, gain a deeper understanding of your organization, and identify the areas where they can make the greatest impact.


4.   Be available at the beginning and end for follow-up questions.


One of the most common mistakes leaders make when onboarding a new fractional executive is not making themselves available for an open-ended follow-up meeting at the end of the onboarding period. Make sure you offer at least two meetings to your new CoS during this critical period, allowing them to seek guidance and clarification. Use the follow-up meeting to address any questions or concerns they may have, provide context, offer guidance, and align on next steps. Additionally, it’s a good idea to establish weekly check-ins throughout the engagement.


5.   Let go of strategic responsibilities.


This last step may be the hardest, but it’s also one of the most impactful. A CoS possesses valuable expertise and can contribute beyond administrative tasks, but only if you empower them to take on strategic responsibilities. In many cases, you’ll have to make a commitment to letting go of responsibility and trusting the expertise of your new partner. But when you do so, you’ll maximize the value and impact of the CoS’s expertise, ultimately driving growth and success for your organization.

Fill Gaps Fast With a Flexible Executive Staffing Solution


At vChief, we fill urgent executive staffing needs by placing talented change-makers in roles such as Chief of Staff, Chief Operating Officer, Associate Chief of Staff, and Executive Director. Our matching process takes less than three weeks, and our talented team of vChiefs make themselves indispensable from day one.

Schedule your free consultation with vChief today to find out how you can offload strategic business initiatives and large scale projects onto a capable leader.


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