In senior leadership roles, understanding task delegation is essential.
Here at Freshminds, we talk to an abundance of CEOs, COOs, and CFOs every week. They would love more time to think about big-picture strategy and ensure that their business runs efficiently and without sacrifice.
But sometimes, administration can prove distracting. Daily tasks, which can’t be ignored yet shouldn’t be your priority, pile up. Below, we explore how a Chief of Staff (CoS) role could offer the ideal remedy.
What does a Chief of Staff do?
It may be that you’ve considered hiring a capable pair of hands to help run your agenda and coordinate stakeholders, but perhaps you think it’s a stretch of investment, or you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for.
These queries and concerns tend to follow a similar pattern from business leaders keen to ensure they have the best and right people in the business. But firstly, we feel it’s essential to break down what defines a Chief of Staff, particularly as the term definition has fluctuated over the last decade or so.
“CEO staffs help their bosses identify, prioritize, and protect time for these things, which can make the difference between realized ambition and lost opportunity.” - The Chief of Staff Association
Essentially, a CoS is someone that provides continuous advisory services to a Founder or CEO, coordinates EAs and operates as their own entity within a business.
Historically, the role has been more prominent within areas of work such as investment, politics and the armed forces. However, over the last five years, the value of CoS has become increasingly recognised sector-wide.
The role is often associated with bringing in a junior resource whose remit is a blend of EA or administrative activities, and they may have involvement in the coordination of high-level strategy projects or participate in board meetings.
The differences and apparent similarities between the EA and Chief of Staff roles are evident from the research highlighted below.
BCG’s data breaks down essential job functions of both the CoS and EA role. Noting that many responsibilities, such as “Review CEO’s time allocation” and “Monitor executive time allocation”, are often cross-over tasks.
However, on average, CoS responsibilities lean more heavily on “source of innovation in ways of working efficiency” and “recognize team personal and professional milestones”. This points to the idea that an EA operates from a more interpersonal angle, whereas a CoS operates from a greater inter-business angle.
What are the issues companies find with a CoS?
We’ve seen a bit of reluctance from firms, particularly PE-backed, private or publicly listed firms, to use the term. This is largely due to the difficulty of determining how this individual might slot into the business and whether the entrance of such an individual will ruffle their counterparts.
What we understand, though, is that a title is rarely a top priority for the type of candidates we want to attract for these roles. It’s much more important to have a compelling and exciting narrative that candidates can visualise being a part of and, most importantly, create an impact within.
Leaders may therefore opt for a term such as Special Projects Lead, or depending on the function of the role, Strategy Manager, Operations Manager or a total mix.
For organisations needing help to define not only the role title but exactly what skills are needed to fulfil expectations, Freshminds can help untangle the confusion and connect you with an ideal candidate. To do this, we heavily consider the below question.
How will a CoS fit into the existing structure?
It's key to explore what a CoS means in the wider picture, but also - how will they practically fit into your everyday team?
A Chief of Staff remit typically lasts between 18 months to 3 years, so understanding how their role will be segmented and creating clear deliverables to establish what ‘success’ looks like in the role is vital.
What are some examples of this in practice?
Key responsibilities: Have a look at the different areas of your business and ask which tasks you’d love to have someone else take responsibility for.
Define business impact areas: Create ‘buckets’ for these tasks; i.e. is it 30% board reporting; 30% market entry/strategy/assessment projects; 30% KPI and project tracking across the business, and 10% other ad hoc projects?
Role development: Think about what success would look like within this role – could you see them moving into a business vertical or leading a region, or could they help build out a strategy team themselves?
All of the above considerations are needed to design a unique CoS role that truly benefits you and your business.
How to shape the role to suit you and your business
Here at Freshminds, we pride ourselves in taking a very high-touch approach to understand both our candidates and clients.
It’s critical we assess the skills and experience to select which candidates have the potential to make a positive impact within your business, but it’s arguably as important to understand the nuances of what makes the dynamics of successful partnership work. Working in close collaboration with both parties means we can understand who the right person will be to leverage you and your wider leadership team.