What does a chief of staff do?
The chief of staff role is defined by its ability to provide strategic counsel to key leaders within organizations. While the day-to-day responsibilities vary dramatically across industries and companies, the position is an increasingly critical component in supporting a successful leadership team. At its core, a Chief of Staff is responsible for:
- Serving as strategic advisor and counsel to leaders
- Assuming day-to-day responsibility for projects and tasks
- Creating and maintaining cross-departmental relationships to enable leadership success
How does a chief of staff fit within an organization?
A chief of staff is a critical hire within an organization given the position’s ability (and responsibility) to enable the success of leadership teams. The background of a chief of staff varies, but they are highly educated, often with a graduate degree, skilled and oftentimes have extensive experience leading teams.
Whether the position is new for your organization or the evolution of an existing role, it’s beneficial to understand how the Chief of Staff will fit into your organization. In interacting with our clients, we highlight three critical paths in defining the roles and responsibilities of a chief of staff:
- Strategic Partner – A chief of staff is always there for the leader she works with. She is a trusted adviser who can be called on at any moment to provide support. This work includes:
- Internal and external communications
- Operational support
- Interacting with Board of Directors
- Expands a Team’s Bandwidth and Resources – The right chief of staff has the skill and experience to integrate themselves into an organization quickly and assess issues that serve as barriers to a team or organization operating at maximum effectiveness. By taking on day-to-day tasks, an effective Chief of Staff is building a level of trust with her leader and enabling her boss to focus on larger strategic organizational initiatives. These daily tasks may include:
- Team management
- Meeting preparation
- Strategic lead on high-profile projects
- Hiring of key personnel
- Relationship Builder – A chief of staff must be well connected with those reporting into a leader and others across the organization to influence outcomes. This cross-functional perspective not only helps garner support for the leadership team, but also fosters long-term partnerships that are critical to organizational success.
What types of projects does a chief of staff manage?
Direct Support of the CEO
- Setting a leader’s strategic priorities: Helping a leader identify the areas where they must direct their focus and identifying metrics for success. Revisiting regularly and evaluating progress.
- Strategically managing a leader’s time: working with assistant, looking at long term travel calendar, evaluating opportunities and determining fit with priorities.
- Meeting preparation and follow up: reviewing upcoming meetings for the week to ensure the leader has all of the information needed to be as productive as possible and sending out agendas or documents to meeting attendees as necessary.
- Reviewing Internal and External Communications: drafting company newsletters, reports, pitch decks, speeches or presentations for the CEO.
- Monitoring information flow: Sometimes acting as a gatekeeper, ensuring a CEO’s involvement in a project or decision-making process at the right moment.
Meeting & Event Preparation
- Managing the meeting cadence for the board of directors and leadership team, ensuring materials are sent in advance, time is well spent, and objectives are achieved.
- Planning and leading company retreats, step-backs, and other special events.
- Overseeing large, often cross-functional organization-wide projects or initiatives.
- Bring together multiple stakeholders and help drive decisions.
- Researching, benchmarking, analyzing data, and making recommendations.
- Leading annual strategic planning for the company.
- Creating & updating dashboards for reviewing key performance indicators.
Hiring and Management
- Leading hiring processes: drafting & posting job descriptions, outlining an interview process, and screening candidates for roles reporting into the CEO.
- Office of CEO team management: hires and directly manages others in the office of the CEO. This may include executive assistants, special projects managers, speech writers, or others.
There are different approaches to on-boarding a chief of staff to an organization. Some companies require a person in the role full-time, while other teams with limited resources need part-time support. Regardless of your organizational needs, it benefits both your team and the prospective chief of staff to ask the right questions early in the process to fully understand your team’s objectives. Gaining alignment will help maximize the effectiveness of the chief of staff and enable her to successfully support your organization.