COS 101

Role Mission

The role of Chief of Staff is varied because it is dependent on many factors, including leadership, organizational structures, and priorities. Therefore, it can be difficult to summarize the position into an easy-to-understand definition. We believe the role's mission is more simple:

 

TO ENSURE AN EXECUTIVE IS FOCUSED ON HIS OR HER HIGHEST-LEVEL PRIORITIES

Role Benefits

For the Leader AND ORGANIZATION

  • > More time on strategy
  • > Better organization and prioritization
  • > More efficient workflow and processes
  • > Greater cohesion among teams
  • > More informed decision-making
  • > Increased accessibility and visibility
  • > More accountability
  • > Increased alignment and engagement

For the Chief of Staff

  • > Exposure across an organization
  • > Develop leadership skills
  • > Enhance cross-functional expertise
  • > Build organizational awareness
  • > Learn from the executive purview
  • > Experience one-of-a-kind situations
  • > Accelerate career growth
  • > Make a valuable impact

Role FUNCTIONS

 

THE GOALKEEPER

Manage and triage workflow of the executive. Prioritize, delegate, and complete work on behalf of the executive.

The operator

Add structure and process for better communication within the office of the executive as well as across teams. Ensure activities are running efficiently.

The IMPLEMENTER

Drive business priorities from start to finish. Execute special projects or initiatives on behalf of the executive or the organization.

  The     integrator

Create cohesion among teams and departments. Connect the dots across the organization for improved alignment and engagement.

      The           PROXY   

Act on behalf of the executive for greater visibility and accessibility. Prevent bottle-necking and promote decision-making when the executive cannot be present.

The advisor

Serve as a strategic thought partner, sounding board, and confidante. Inform organization strategy and decision-making.

*Based on primary research as well as secondary research from McKinsey.

Role FAQs


There are plenty of reasons the Chief of Staff role is becoming more popular with company executives and integral to organizations. Let us pinpoint a few challenges this role can solve:

  • You need to shift your focus to your organization's highest level priorities.
  • You are missing or extending deadlines.
  • You are not focused on developing senior and/or future leadership.
  • You need better "eyes and ears" to better engage your organization.
  • You want to create more cohesion among leaders and/or teams.

The Chief of Staff role is a win-win scenario for you and your organization. You have a right-hand person to help ensure timely completion of work with a focus on completing key initiatives, while giving high-potential talent exposure to real-life business activities not typically experienced in other roles. This means you remain focused and productive while grooming future leadership for your organization.


The specific personalities, attributes, and skills we seek in Chief of Staff candidates vary depending on the position, the leader, and the organization. In fact, our ability to pinpoint the behavioral traits to create lasting partnerships between a Chief of Staff and leader is our bread and butter. We help your organization determine the right mix of technical and behavioral skills required for a successful relationship between the candidate and your leader.


We believe there are six key functions that almost every Chief of Staff performs to some degree. Of course, more specific responsibilities will depend on your organization and your leader(s). Check out the Role Functions above to learn more.


We look for diverse backgrounds and well-rounded experience. We like the Swiss Army knives. We seek individuals who exhibit curiosity for learning new things and can toggle between organizational details and big picture thinking. We applaud strong education, but it isn't our focus. Instead, we seek thinkers and doers who demonstrate real outcomes from their experience. Most Chief of Staff backgrounds may look more like a jungle gym than a traditional career ladder.


As with many roles, experience levels can vary and depend on a candidate's ability to perform the position's duties. Generally speaking, Chiefs of Staff have at least seven to ten years of business experience. The reason being: the role requires advisory and decisive action across a variety of business challenges. Having someone with adequate professional experience can be very beneficial. It is important to understand the right mix of experience and background necessary for your particular role before you begin a search.


Yes, depending on your needs. We believe pinpointing superstar, high-potential employees for a future Chief of Staff role is a great way to develop talent and provide them with exposure to your leadership and business. However, we think the Chief of Staff title should be reserved for those who fully perform the role’s key functions above. That doesn't mean, however, and more junior person cannot be Chief of Staff.


We get this question a lot. We believe many executives need both and that they are two distinct positions--both of which add tremendous value. This chart helps to outline a few key differences:

    EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

  1. Tactically focused
  2. Executes details
  3. Completes tasks provided
  4. Specific understanding of his/her executive
  5. Typically does not manage others
  6. Carries out directives of the executive

    CHIEF OF STAFF

  1. Strategically focused
  2. Formulates and executes projects and priorities
  3. Determines appropriate person to complete tasks
  4. Comprehensive understanding of entire organization
  5. Typically manages others directly or indirectly
  6. Works on behalf of the executive or organization

To be clear, we are not opting for companies to replace their human resources departments with a Chief of Staff. We believe Human Resources serves an important function in every company. The Chief of Staff does not typically handle HR administration such as salary and benefits, worker compensation, unemployment insurance, and many other necessary details of employment. The Chief of Staff can, however, partner with HR to be involved in people management and strategy.


While the title sounds like managing people is a given, it isn't necessarily the case. “Of Staff” relates to creating a more productive and engaging environment for the entire organization and its people. Chiefs of Staff may manage people directly, typically starting with others in the office of the executive; however, it isn't a requirement for the position. The role is focused on people management skills because it works closely and collaboratively with a range of internal and external stakeholders.


The hope for most organizations is that the Chief of Staff stays with the them in a leadership position. We've seen Chiefs of Staff become VPs of Strategy and Operations, VPs of Community Relations and Corporate Development, VPs of Sales, VPs of Marketing, COOs, Presidents, leaders of spin-off companies or business divisions, CEOs, and entrepreneurs.

While some companies use the Chief of Staff role as a shorter-term "tour of duty" for high-performing employees, others employ Chiefs of Staff who occupy the role for several years. We can help you determine the best way to utilize the position at your organization.


If you believe you have a qualified internal candidate for a Chief of Staff position, it can be beneficial to hire someone from within your company. They typically get up to speed more quickly because they already understand your organization's culture and ways of doing things. It can also help to more quickly build trust with an executive. However, some executives find the fresh perspective of an "outsider" useful and/or don't want to poach an internal candidate. We understand both points of view and are more than happy to discuss what makes sense. Whatever you choose to do, ensure you follow a consistent hiring process to identify the best candidate.


It's difficult to say where the origins of Chief of Staff reside, but we didn't coin the term. The role is relatively new to the private sector. For years, governments, health care organizations, and military organizations have used Chiefs of Staff to provide managerial and advisory support to their respective entities and principals. One of the simplest definitions of a Chief of Staff is a person who serves "at the pleasure of her or his principal." While a very broad definition, it's actually fairly accurate. Having a jill- or jack-of-all-trades on your team can be extremely beneficial to keeping your executive focused on company growth while ensuring other work is getting done. If you need more convincing, just read some articles we didn't write from CNBC, Forbes, Inc., and LinkedIn.


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