Becoming a successful Chief of Staff to CEO

When your company moves from a family stage(10 + employees) to village(100 to 1000+ employees) to city stage(10,000+), you start strengthening your processes of enabling better communication and collaboration between “organization and its customers”, “among senior leadership team” and “managers & team members”.

A Chiefs of Staff (COS) main responsibility is to work closely with the CEO to implement a framework that enables this communication and collaboration; so that CEO can then focus more on the growth agenda. At its core, the Chief of Staff responsibility includes:

  • Get execution done on various strategic initiatives & objectives. A strategic initiative is a critical project that will impact the future growth of the company.
  • Help the CEO to be more productive by making sure that weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews & planning exercises are conducted on-time.
  • Substitute CEO in a critical meeting

The chief of staff role is catching up the popularity among many growing organizations after being commonly practiced in the military, governments and fortune 500 organizations.

A Chief of Staff (COS) role is different from the executive assistant role. A CEO needs someone who can look into the business and company performance horizontally along with him.

Job Responsibilities of a Chiefs of staff

  1. Help the CEO & leadership team in identifying the right initiatives & objectives to work on.
  2. Help the CEO & leadership team remain focused and complete the identified initiatives & objectives.
  3. Amplify and improve CEO communication

What a Chief of Staff should NOT do

  1. Book air tickets for CEO
  2. Manage CEO calendar

What type of people you can hire for Chiefs of staff role

  1. An ex- entrepreneur who has failed to scale. If the person is from your industry and matches your values and principles, don’t think twice in hiring the person right away. OR
  2. An experienced executive who has been in the role of COO.OR
  3. A 7 to 15 year experienced manager with commendable leadership & planning qualities.

When you need a Chief of staff

Typically, you need a chief of staff when your team is getting bigger every month and its harder to align people with the company agenda. Here are some signs when you need a chief of staff:

  1. You are adding 10 to 100 team members every month.
  2. Your leadership team is growing.
  3. As a CEO, you are spending a considerable amount of energy in thinking and keeping your leadership team and beyond on the same page.
  4. You are burnt out as CEO as there are too many things on your plate.
  5. As CEO, your decision making is getting slower every day. And you feel that everyone is focused on their department performance, but no one is looking for the horizontal performance of the company.

The first 180 days agenda of your Chief of Staff

Once you have hired your Chief of Staff, its time to build the relationship and provide the required training. Here is the agenda for the first 180 days:

  1. Give him the required business overview.
  2. Clearly communicate the CoS role to the entire organization.
  3. Arrange 1-On-1 meetings with all the people in the leadership team and high potential managers.
  4. Make sure the Chief of Staff is there in monthly and quarterly business reviews.
  5. Help the Chief-of-Staff build the relationship with the leadership team and required credibility internally and externally before CoS starts representing you.
  6. Post 90 days allow CoS to represent you in monthly and quarterly meetings.
  7. Take your new Chief of Staff to series of lunch, dinner, and drinks.
  8. After 24 to 36 months, move your CoS to a new leadership role, hire a new CoS and making the old one train the new one.

Few important links for your further read