What is a chief of staff?
A chief of staff acts as the CEO’s sounding board, strategic partner and overseer. Put simply, the chief of staff acts as a go-between for the CEO and important stakeholders. The chief of staff keeps a track of the broader picture, acts as the eyes and ears for the CEO and is a sounding board for decision making. By managing stakeholders, following up on deliverables and triaging problems, the chief of staff empowers and supports the CEO in the delivery of their KPIs.
It’s a bit like a high-level strategic EA role, without the meeting preparation, calendar management and administrative duties.
The term originated in the US military and government and is now increasingly popular in the American corporate landscape.
Here in Australia, the position is relatively rare (beyond government). But as reports of the benefits of hiring a chief of staff circulate online, more Australian CEOs are considering the opportunity.
A typical chief of staff position description may include:
Please note that while I’ve referred to the chief of staff as supporting the CEO, they can also be employed to support other c-suite executives, such CIO, CFO or COO.
The Harvard Business Review recently covered this in detail in its May-June 2020 issue. The article ‘The case for a chief of staff’, outlines the many benefits of hiring a chief of staff.
Essentially, the chief of staff is a champion in the CEO’s corner. A bit like a star having a manager or an athlete with a coach, they support, guide and encourage the CEO to deliver.
The benefits of hiring a chief of staff include:
An incoming CEO can also enjoy valuable support from an internal team member who can share plenty of organisational insights. This can facilitate a faster and more successful integration of the new CEO into the company culture.
When it comes to personal qualities of the chief of staff, the desirables are very similar to that of a high-performing executive assistant. These may include:
It’s a good idea for an aspiring executive to take on the chief of staff role. This can give valuable exposure to a top-level position in the organisation, as a stepping-stone into a leadership role within the company. Ideally, they’d stay in this role for two-four years before being ready to step into an executive role elsewhere in the leadership team.
While many EAs already provide that top-level strategic support, chiefs of staff traditionally are not responsible for the administrative support. Having said that many EAs can and do provide that top-level support. So, it really depends on the nature of support required.
Your CEO could have a chief of staff for strategic support and an executive assistant for transactional support. Plus, it could be suitable to have both full time, both part time, or a combination.
When creating the support network for a CEO, I will take these elements into consideration to suggest the best support framework for the needs of the CEO and the budget.
Contact Anastasia on 0421 16 55 96 to discuss your needs and get expert advice on the best way to proceed according to your requirements.