The speed and trajectory of your organization’s growth come down to three things; having great people, building a solid plan, and designing an implementation process to allow for focus and flexibility.
There’s one role that can help unlock all three of those functions and ultimately unleash your growth; a Chief-of-Staff (CoS). Initially more prevalent in the political world, the role has gained traction over the last decade, first in the startup sphere and now for more complex organizations looking to scale.
A good CoS can multiply the effectiveness of the CEO, align the senior leadership team and help build the dumbest of planning and implementation.
However, the role of CoS can mean many different things to different people depending on the industry and organization. Some approach the role like a turbocharged executive assistant. Others see it as someone who can run special projects. Others still see it as more of a press secretary. These are all acceptable options but none that will make the most of this unique position.
Here are the three main functions that a CoS should perform for you and your team to help fuel the triad of people, plan, and team.
Managing information flow
The first job of a CoS is to ensure information flows appropriately into and out of the CEO’s office. Whether it’s emails, phone calls, memos, meeting agendas, and minutes, they’ll provide a quick triage and route the information accordingly.
Using an agreed-upon prioritization process, the information and decisions that need to be seen and attended to by the CEO will be funneled through and placed in the most appropriate avenue to be actioned. For all other items, the Chief-of-Staff’s role is to work with the broader leadership team to manage them at the right level of the organization.
An important distinction to make here is between managing information and filtering information. When data is filtered, it has been massaged or distorted somehow under the pretense of making it more palatable. That’s an unhealthy way to run a business and not advisable as an approach. On the other hand, managing the flow is about getting the right information in front of the right people in the most effective way.
Maximizing your time
With a good information flow in place, the next job of a CoS is to help the CEO maximize their time by focusing on those areas where they add the most value. These include sharing the organizational vision, long-term strategic planning, mentoring their leadership team, and engaging with employees at every level to build morale and alignment.
An effective CoS will be ruthless about protecting the schedule of the CEO and will minimize the time spent on activities outside of those deemed most critical. Not in an attempt to make them appear unavailable or disengaged. Quite the opposite. With a carefully curated calendar, a CEO will be able to ramp up their level of availability and engagement because they’re not eating up time focusing on the wrong things.
In addition to being the gatekeeper of the CEO’s schedule, the CoS will also do the upfront legwork to ensure the CEO is prepped ahead of each engagement. They’ll provide background information to the meeting, and if necessary, who will be in the room, they’ll pull out any key talking points and make sure there’s a well-thought-through agenda.
Facilitating strategic planning and implementation
The final key role of an effective CoS is one of facilitation. As a start, they should oversee all aspects of the strategic planning process. This involves scheduling all pertinent discussions, working with subject matter aspects to compile the necessary data and research ahead of time, and documenting all key outputs.
Once a strategic plan is set, their next task is to build out an implementation and communication cadence of quarterly, monthly, and weekly meetings for the CEO and their leadership team. These meetings should be used to track all goals, KPIs, and the progress of key initiatives, as well as any agreed-upon shifts in strategy or direction.
The CoS would work with the leadership team ahead of these meetings to ensure all necessary pre-work has been completed and the appropriate data is available to create a positive, engaged discussion. They would facilitate these meetings and take responsibility to circulate and track all next actions, allowing the CEO to participate fully in the discussions without focusing on the structure or flow.
Building out a CoS role can be challenging. It requires an individual with a high amount of emotional intelligence. Its success depends on the interpersonal relationships between themselves, the CEO, and the rest of the senior leadership team. Get it right, however, and your growth trajectory will only point upwards.