The Chief of Staff position is now prevalent in businesses and startups, although it has a long history and its roots are in the military, bureaucracy, and politics.
Whether startups, small businesses, professional service providers, or agencies, CEOs and owners of expanding enterprises are always pressed for time, attention and money. Senior managers, executives, CEOs, and business owners frequently discover that their attention is still divided among excessive objectives even after hiring an assistant.
Very often, CEOs or business owners need more assistance than they are receiving. Because their position is integral to the leadership and strategy, a Chief of Staff is crucial for the startup. Startups have many moving parts, including the Board of Directors, Executive Board, stakeholders, customers and employees. A Chief of Staff can be the one element in the team that keeps everything running smoothly.
Startup founders and practitioners frequently argue over the right steps and choices in their early-stage businesses. Making the correct hires has often been a vital element of this conversation.
Some startup leaders debate the need for Human Resources early in an organisation. For instance, they are deciding whether an analytical or creative marketer is the best first hire and deciding when to bring on an Executive Assistant to optimise their lives. And meanwhile, the employment of a Chief of Staff has recently become a heated topic.
What is a Chief of Staff?
The Chief of Staff will be your right-hand – team member and strategic collaborator. She will utilise your authority to oversee operational domains, including finance, human resources, and risk management, as well as manage projects and develop strategic plans for unique projects. A Chief of Staff can operate as your eyes and ears in the business and industry.
Different Levels of the Chief of Staff’s Role
Level 1: Instead of changing the leader’s focus in this role, the Chief of Staff – or COS – assists the leader in being more efficient and organised.
She can handle projects, maintain good working relationships, organise the CEO’s office, and is knowledgeable about the industry. She may not have any direct reports, but given the administrative focus, may be promoted from the position of senior personal assistant or business manager.
A COS can manage unique initiatives for top executives in addition to managing pre-work, follow-up, and attendance at most board meetings. Chiefs of Staff have regular, condensed, transaction-focused meetings with the company’s management but are not expected to offer guidance during these meetings.
Level 2: A COS effectively manages significant projects and helps the leader implement the current strategy with minor modifications.
She has the same abilities as a Level 1 COS, plus the ability to manage a project from conception to completion, simplify complexity, study and analyse issues, and exercise strategic thinking. A COS at this level could be an MBA or experience in strategy consulting.
She is likely to collaborate closely with senior executives as a high-potential future senior manager on essential projects such as alliances or acquisitions, or a constantly changing project portfolio. She may be a lone contributor or a small group manager. Within the constraints of the projects, a COS provides advice to the leader.
Level 3: Though lacking the high officer’s rank or pay, this level of COS is a part of the senior leadership team. When the CEO and senior executives implement significant strategic, operational and cultural change, a Chief of Staff supports the leader in navigating uncertainty and risk.
Typically, a COS has political and organisational intelligence in addition to the skills of a Level 2 COS and can understand and contribute to the leader’s vision.
A COS may oversee divisions such as communications, analysis or strategy implementation and report directly to the Chief Executive. The Chief of Staff works on the organisation’s main priorities, which are at its strategic core, at this level. She often communicates with the leader on various matters as necessary and offers unbiased counsel on a wide range of subjects.
“The Chief of Staff will be your right-hand”
What Value does a Chief of Staff add to a Founder?
● Gaining Control of Company Culture
Corporate culture is the only long-term competitive advantage the entrepreneur can entirely control.
A COS will not simply look at the existing playbook and manage teams accordingly. She will create methods and systems to nurture and sustain a company’s culture; and will determine what isn’t functioning, and help to change current operations.
The Chief of Staff promotes the organisation’s long-term vision on behalf of the CEO. She also guarantees that organisational values are upheld in the company’s day-to-day operations.
● Strategy Alignment
The CEO’s Chief of Staff serves as a strategic partner. The primary tasks of a COS are to manage significant priorities and programs and ensure that everything is on track. Strategic alignment is critical to success, and projects linked with the business strategy are more likely to succeed.
The Chief of Staff will assist a business leader in streamlining strategic alignment, resulting in better and faster results for the company. She will maintain the necessary communication to carry out the changes that come with strategic objectives. Chiefs of Staff connect the various layers of the organisational chart.
This becomes even more critical for alignment out external stakeholders – Investors and analysts. Handling the Investor Relations communication, keeping all external stakeholders aligned with the company’s direction and roadmap, is another critical responsibility shouldered by the COS.
● Make Better Choices
The Chief of Staff offers the entrepreneur a larger perspective on all aspects of the firm and provides the necessary information.
A COS brings new insights to the decision-making process, making it more efficient. She takes a bird’s-eye view of organisational difficulties and acts as an extra set of eyes and ears to assist the founder in detecting what they missed earlier. A COS will supply you with insights and insider information from many departments so you can make better, faster decisions.
● Raise the Management Team’s Status
An excellent COS improves and raises the bar for the entire company’s leadership. She accomplishes this by providing effective feedback on team members’ ideas and suggestions. Your executive team, which directs your day-to-day operations, will assist in determining your effectiveness, and your COS can play an essential role in this regard.
In collaboration with the executive leaders, the COS develops strategies and actionable steps to achieve the objectives. The Chief of Staff to the CEO also follows up with everyone involved with the process to verify that tasks are completed.
● Work on Special Projects
As businesses grow, unique but critical projects emerge. It could be a fundraising event or a presentation at a forthcoming industry event. In any case, the COS position is ideal for spearheading unique projects alongside the CEO.
By delegating tasks like preparing investor decks or drafting notes for a conference presentation to the COS, leadership can focus on everyday responsibilities and jump into special projects when their input is required or for the final pass. A COS is a person who has been trained and is ready to devote their time to the most critical demand.
At the same time, the COS keeps a vigil on the market and competition. She ensures that any changes or competitor action are considered and responded to with tactical and sometimes strategic initiatives. New product development could be one such key initiative that the COS can drive for the leadership team.
● Locate Candidates who meet your Hiring Criteria
The COS will look for and hire the complementary capabilities your business requires to prosper. She collaborates closely with the HR staff to monitor the company’s hiring procedures, practices, and policies. The CEO’s Chief of Staff also observes interview schedules and candidate screening.
● Recognise and Minimise Problems
Sometimes, a COS serves as the CEO’s go-to troubleshooter, keeping him out of danger. She will pinpoint the problems that impede your success or might do so in the future.
The CEO’s Chief of Staff is aware of the actual state of the company’s operations, both internally and externally. She acts as a confidant to the CEO, identifying, mediating, and resolving conflicts before reaching the CEO.
● Make a Bigger Impression
You can use the COS to manage your time better and accelerate decisions. She aids in bringing a corporate plan to life. You can think and formulate policies with her help and support in putting those regulations into practice across all departments.
A COS will ensure you don’t attend meetings unprepared or improvise on the fly. To promote greater performance, she will assist you in developing deeper connections with your staff, top executives, stakeholders and other board members.
She will assist you in meeting all the requirements of your executive teams and concentrating attention on what demands it most.
● Propels your Company Forward
Finally, a COS can be vital in accelerating the business’s progress. She streamlines and prioritises for the CEO, is an excellent resource for specific strategic projects, and serves as a critical conduit for internal and external operational communication.
Being a Chief of Staff is a fantastic opportunity to understand how a seasoned CEO thinks about running a firm. It is an excellent technique to raise your level of thinking quickly, which can open numerous internal and outside doors as you advance in your career.
The Chief of Staff for the CEO is the thinnest line between realised strategies and missed opportunities. A COS will assist you in becoming the most outstanding leader for your organisation. He transforms plans into action.
Note: without being gender-biased, the Chief of Staff has been referred to as a ‘she’ for the purpose of simplicity while reading. The role is gender neutral, and a good Chief of Staff can be either male or female.