What Does a Chief of Staff Do? Organize. Communicate. Delegate.

About 6 years ago, as I worked to develop my career path, I did a lot of research on the Chief of Staff role and many a Google search of “What does a Chief of Staff do?”. There weren’t many resources available back then that didn’t have to do with the military, government, or maybe a non-profit or health care facility. That was fine. I took what I could and applied it to my job working with an entrepreneur. But I was still looking for more examples of start-ups, business leaders, and large corporations utilizing this role effectively.

Well, all I had to do was be patient and stay the course. Today, a Chief of Staff is basically the must-have hire for many leaders and organizations. Do I think it’s true that a Chief of Staff is essential? Maybe. It really depends on the organization and the leader. I will say this, if the leader’s life and business are complex, if there are multiple companies in various growth stages, or big problems to solve across several entities, then a Chief of Staff may be required.

DEFINING THE CHIEF OF STAFF ROLE

Much like the Executive Assistant role, the Chief of Staff role is one of the most ambiguous careers. I like to think of a Chief of Staff as a Force Multiplier; the right hand to a leader; the strategic partner that helps a leader build and run a wildly successful business. That’s who a Chief of Staff is. What does a Chief of Staff do? That’s much harder to define. The role can evolve and shift based on the Executive, the organization, and the industry.

This year Adam and I really broke my role down into a few keywords: organize, communicate, and delegate. That’s my job in a nutshell. I must organize the ideas, projects, people, time, and resources necessary to keep all companies moving forward. I need to help communicate the vision, the ideas, the projects, or the process to the necessary people. This includes creating content and helping connect the dots across all organizations to create opportunities and growth. I need to delegate projects and tasks to the appropriate people, support them, and hold them accountable to the results.

Let’s break down these three key components of the Chief of Staff role:

CHIEFS OF STAFF ORGANIZE

Often times a Chief of Staff is brought onboard or hired from within to fulfill this first main function. The company may be growing rapidly. Perhaps the entrepreneur just started two companies, acquired another, and is working on a book and merger. Maybe the organization is going global. Whatever the main reason – things are getting complex, communication gaps are starting to emerge, projects (important projects) that don’t fall to any one division or leader are piling up, and the organization is in that messy middle.

Enter the Chief of Staff. Chiefs are fixers and problem solvers. They will figure out the who, what, when, where, and why and then organize those components as needed. They will streamline communication, establish a rhythm to the business and to the leader’s calendar, and get the right information flowing in and out of the Office of the CEO and to internal and external stakeholders. They will triage projects and prioritize against the company’s or leader’s goals and agenda. Bottom line? Chiefs of Staff organize ideas, projects, people, and resources to keep the company moving forward effectively and efficiently.

CHIEFS OF STAFF COMMUNICATE

Chiefs of Staff must be expert communicators and be able to communicate the right message at the right time to the right stakeholders up, down, and throughout the organization, as well as to external parties.

Depending on the Executive and the company, this can take shape in many different ways. A Chief of Staff may be drafting letters, speeches, and presentations. Perhaps the Chief is working alongside the leader to cast the vision and communicate that vision to potential investors. A Chief of Staff may be communicating strategy along with key metrics to various divisional leaders while reminding the team of the bigger goal.

Great communication, means great listening. Chiefs of Staff watch, listen, triangulate information from many different sources and connect the dots across the organization. For example, the new merger the Executive is working on could pull their time from missing their manuscript deadline. While the Chief is communicating the need for a deadline extension to the PR team, they hear of a new podcast opportunity that would be perfect for the newly hired President. Dots connected. Information communicated. New opportunity created.

CHIEFS OF STAFF DELEGATE

As a Chief of Staff, it’s really easy to get caught in the trap of being the catch-all position for your leader or the organization. While it is true that a lot of varying tasks and responsibilities fall into your lap, what I have discovered over the years is that just because I know about it, it gets told to me (or asked of me), doesn’t mean I actually have to do it. For many years, when our company was small and just starting to grow, I was the one who needed to execute the task or project. Now, with our company and team at the size it is, that is no longer the case. Doing the projects/tasks myself was a hard habit to break, but totally worth it in order to grow in my career as Chief of Staff.

Yes, Chiefs of Staff have projects and tasks to deliver, but very often, the main project to deliver is the organization, communication, and delegation of said project. A big part of being a Chief of Staff is delegating new projects or responsibilities to the best person for the job. But it’s more than just a handoff or assignment. It’s the Chief of Staff’s responsibility to support that individual, guide them through the project, help them organize their thoughts and resource if needed, and make sure the expectations and end result are clearly communicated. From, there, the next step is to hold the team member accountable to the end result. Just because you delegated it and aren’t actually doing the project, doesn’t mean that the Chief of Staff is not still responsible for it getting done. A Chief of Staff owns the project, even if it’s delegated. That’s leadership. And that’s what a Chief of Staff does.

Whenever I feel myself getting caught in the weeds, I go back to the mantra: organize, communicate, delegate. It brings me focus and clarity so that I can continue to make the biggest impact for my Executive and the organization.

So, what does a Chief of Staff do? Organize. Communicate. Delegate. What would you add to this list?

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