The role of a Chief of Staff (COS) is to provide support to the executive team and the CEO. They act as a legal advisor, sounding board, and guardian to the CEO, and have a deep understanding of daily operations. COS will help the executive director become the best possible leader for their organization, focusing not just on their success, but on every aspect of the organization. It is important for the executive director to think aloud with their Chief of Staff so that they can learn about the executive director's thought processes.
The chief of staff also keeps track of everyone involved in the process and ensures that tasks are completed. They can help manage the flow of information needed for the CEO to succeed. With discipline, structure, practice, and the help of their support staff, even the most burdened CEO can find time to reflect. Smaller companies tend to hire managers of staff for operations and business services, while larger companies are more likely to use the department of finance or professional services, such as consulting, or to promote a senior executive assistant.
The functions of a chief of staff are not too rigid and can change over time and with the needs of the organization. They can facilitate discussions of difficult topics and help ensure that these issues are addressed. These exercises are also valuable for the CEO's staff, especially when responsibilities are shared among staff members, as they are for many of the most important activities, such as managing the executive director's energy, preparing for meetings, and allocating time. A chief of staff works independently and does not manage routine correspondence or manage the leader's daily schedule.
The tasks performed at levels one and two are not new; what is new is that people who perform them are increasingly receiving the title of chief of staff. During his 25 years working at a consulting and software company, a dozen as president and CEO, he had a chief of staff. An executive director's staff must earn the right to play a strategic role by mastering the basic concepts of their boss's work, especially two fundamental elements. A former chief executive who now advises boards of directors argues that many chief executives need a chief of staff (CO), someone who goes beyond the role of executive assistant to help keep the office running smoothly.
He joined a large life science company as a chief of staff after earning a doctorate and an MBA in the best programs and then working for a strategic consulting firm, where his current boss was a client. Depending on the complexity, geographical reach, and culture of the organization, the team should be able to fully implement a CEO management system and new set of staff behaviors within four to eight months.