How to Meet Deadlines as a Chief of Staff: A Guide for Executives

As a chief of staff, it is your responsibility to ensure that important deadlines are met. Learn how you can provide value by taking ownership of producing cardboard materials, developing narratives for external audiences, understanding organizational planning proc

How to Meet Deadlines as a Chief of Staff: A Guide for Executives

As a chief of staff, it is your responsibility to ensure that important deadlines are met and that the work you must do is completed in a timely and accurate manner. To do this, you must have a comprehensive understanding of the company's operations and processes. As the company grows, it is essential to have an effective system in place to give the executive team an advantage. It is also important to review and update processes every 6 to 12 months as teams and needs evolve. One way to provide value is to take ownership of the process of producing cardboard materials.

This administrative task requires setting up detailed schedules and staying in contact with all collaborators, integrating materials, and creating a final deck that is consistent across all departments in terms of format and content. The chief of staff should meet with executives beforehand to co-create a high-level draft presentation, work on iterations of decks, organize practice sessions to provide feedback, and ultimately edit and own the final materials. This will enable the company to tell a coherent story that focuses the attention of the board of directors on key business issues. Experienced executives may need help developing narratives for external audiences who are not familiar with their content. As someone who understands the content of a department but also has an overview of the big picture, you are in a unique position to serve as a thinking partner for contributing executives.

The chief of staff must refine the content to make it suitable for the meeting, eliminating irrelevant information in some places and requesting more details in others. You can also recall the board's previous comments on a given topic and use that information to help executives avoid questions from the board. The chief of staff should also be knowledgeable about all organizational planning processes, including annual strategic planning, annual budgeting and financial planning, and the establishment and alignment of quarterly priorities. You should also be familiar with technology planning, real estate and contracting processes. A better process often leads to better decisions, so it is important to determine who should make different types of decisions and with what information.

In some cases, the chief of staff could even make decisions outside the hands of the executives and empower their teams to decide for themselves. Creating clarity about ownership, decision-making authority, and the process for going from question to answer can be a multiplying factor for a growing company. You can also advise department leaders on how to formulate decisions that are ultimately owned by the senior team. If necessary, you can help resolve disputes between departments or personnel teams. However, if you spend too much time resolving disputes, there are likely to be deeper issues with people or processes that need to be addressed. In general, it is best to avoid projects that sound like “This person isn't doing their job, can you help them do it?” These initiatives are likely to score low in terms of impactability and are generally a recipe for failure.

It is also important to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of any initiative that requires the creation of an important function or a new department. New strategic plans can quickly fail if not properly executed, so it is important for you to keep employees aligned and engaged throughout the process. A chief of staff understands their organization's unique challenges that prevent success and uses tools and methodologies to achieve better results. While positional authority should generally be avoided, the chief of staff can still provide critical insight that executives need to refine their individual narratives.