Sometimes a Chief of Staff holds another role, but oftentimes that is their only role. They come from a variety of departments. These include operations, finance, business development, and business transformation.
So, what is a Chief of Staff? What do they do?
Keep reading to learn more about the Chief of Staff role. And discover how they support the CEO in daily operations and projects.
What Is A Chief of Staff?
A Chief of Staff is a leader that supports a CEO, President, or Vice President. They have a variety of skills and serve as problem-solvers, communicators, and decision-makers.
It’s hard to truly define the Chief of Staff role because the tasks vary by company and industry. A Chief of Staff in the technology industry will have different priorities than one in the retail industry.
They provide essential support that keeps an organization running. They serve the CEO in a manner. They also advise and recommend operational strategies and projects.
They act as a “Jack of all trades” that bridges the gap between executives and teams. They also drive improvements, processes, and strategies to meet organizational objectives and goals.
A Combination of 5 Different Roles
A Chief of Staff role is a combination of five different roles. While delivering support, a Chief of Staff can take on many different roles and projects. Those include:
The Chief of Staff delivers continuous support to the CEO. And that support can vary across several functions. These functions are all basic duties of the below job titles.
A Chief of Staff oversees the administration of processes and personnel. They serve in this capacity to serve the CEO to the best of their ability. But they also ensure everything runs smoothly and on time.
They clarify roles and responsibilities, processes, and objectives for team members. They also manage processes, collect metrics and facts, and engage with stakeholders.
They are often tasked with managing performance and personnel metrics. This can include dashboards and analyses.
The Chief of Staff serves as a gatekeeper for the CEO. This is to protect their time and make sure they focus on priorities.
This means sometimes the Chiefs of Staff handle difficult conversations. Or they take on problems that the CEO would normally handle. They enforce rules, fire employees, and mediate disputes.
They also manage the CEO’s agenda and schedule to include only the highest priority tasks.
A Chief of Staff is a confidant, advisor, and consultant to the CEO. They provide thought leadership and strategic recommendations. They also serve as a sounding board for new ideas.
They ultimately counsel a CEO on several topics but also listen to issues and ideas. They are the last line of defense and the voice of reason for potentially bad ideas or business decisions.
They are there to guide and advise on urgent or high-profile matters.
A proxy is someone who is legally allowed to represent someone else. The Chief of Staff represents the CEO in many functions. They may attend meetings, convey messages, or negotiate on behalf of the CEO.
They may meet with the board of directors or stakeholders. They’re oftentimes tasked with decision-making when representing the CEO.
The CEO empowers and enables the Chief of Staff to execute priorities, initiatives, and strategies. The Chief of Staff often works with stakeholders, teams, and leaders to deliver strategy and implementation.
They hold cross-functional teams accountable for their part in executing plans. They drive the top and most important initiatives based on the CEO’s determination.
Is a Chief of Staff an Executive Role?
An executive is someone that directs a function of an organization. Chiefs of Staff direct many functions and support daily operations. Most of the time, Chiefs of Staff are in executive roles!
Each organization has its own definition and job description for the role. Some companies may give a Chief of Staff much more authority than others. The essential job functions determine if the title is an executive role or not.
Deciding whether the role is an executive position is up to the company, its leadership team, and the person in the position.
Alternative Titles for the Chief of Staff Role
Sometimes a company has a different title for the same job functions. These titles include:
- Staff Director
- Chief Business Officer
- Chief Administrative Officer
- Personnel Manager
- Chief of Personnel
- Chief Business Administrator
Though the titles may change, the essential job functions do not. The role is one of authority and organizational leadership.
Industries With a Chief of Staff
Any industry can have a Chief of Staff. The role depends on if the organization has it in its organizational chart or not.
Companies of all sizes can use Chiefs of Staff. Some companies make the role from scratch. Others use industry job description templates to develop the role.
Some companies decide to place someone as Chief of Staff after the executive team voices the need for help. Executive Assistants can only go so far.
What Does a Chief of Staff Do?
A Chief of Staff is a comprehensive role that encompasses a lot of functions. They are advisors to the CEO, recommending strategies and direction for the organization. They often set priorities for the CEO and take on the tasks that aren’t included.
They evaluate the progress of projects to help keep CEOs on track. They optimize the time of the CEO through scheduling and planning. They are responsible for many functions, including:
- Team management
- Meeting preparation
- Project management
- Daily support
- Recruitment and hiring
- Program management
- Operations Management
- Business consulting
- Mentoring and coaching
- Process enhancement
- Strategic planning
- Business management
Read more about each responsibility below.
The Chief of Staff manages the CEO’s team. This could be Executive Assistants, Speech Writers, Marketing Specialists, or any other role in the office. They often translate strategies and objectives, so the team members understand their role.
Chiefs of Staff are motivators who inspire and empower employees. This can be done through coaching, leading by example, and servant leadership practices.
They delegate tasks, track performance, and mentor junior associates. Chiefs of Staff are leaders and advisors first. They ensure teams meet their goals while improving performance.
Chiefs of Staff are usually front and center in executive or board of director meetings. They facilitate open discussions. They also keep the conversation focused on the objectives of the agenda.
They prepare necessary materials and distribute them to the attendees before the meeting. During meetings, they track the time to ensure it is well spent and productive.
Sometimes, Chiefs of Staff plan retreats or conferences. Other events, such as company parties or discussions are also planned by the Chief of Staff. Any sort of meeting or event the CEO attends will also include them.
Oftentimes, Chiefs of Staff are responsible for operational, strategic, or improvement projects. These projects can be specifically for the CEO office or be organizational-wide.
They offer guidance in planning projects and track activities to meet deadlines. They facilitate collaboration and often bring together decision-makers and stakeholders to define requirements.
An important aspect of project management is decision-making. Chiefs of Staff have to be confident and decisive leaders who know what direction projects need to go.
Throughout projects, they will assess data and benchmarks. They also offer recommendations to the Project Manager. These recommendations can be about how to improve the project or streamline the process to meet milestones.
Daily Support for the CEO
Internal and External Communications
A Chief of Staff conveys information from the CEO to others. They can be internal or external professionals. The roles range from team members to media representatives.
They can communicate verbally or through documents, correspondence, or press releases. They have a set communications strategy and follow it at all times to maintain the company’s image.
Manage and Maximize Time
A Chief of Staff supports the CEO with whatever they need. This not only saves the CEO time but also helps them to maximize the time they have to focus on other projects.
CEOs delegate the time-consuming tasks that every leader has to do, like reporting or correspondence, to the Chief of Staff. This allows everything to get completed within deadlines without there being too much pressure on the leaders.
Recruitment and Hiring
Chiefs of Staff often support the human resources (HR) department in the recruitment and hiring process. They also support people management. These functions include:
- Posting job descriptions
- Creating interview processes
- Screening candidates
- Hiring staff for the CEO office
- Delegating tasks to the team
- Evaluating performance
- Offering constructive feedback and coaching
A Chief of Staff is an important piece in the team leadership puzzle. They must be strong leaders. And have the qualities needed to motivate and empower employees.
They are often liaisons between the CEO and the team. Building strong relationships and communicating clearly is an important aspect of the Chief of Staff role.
Chiefs of Staff can sometimes oversee programs. Programs often are complex and detailed. Some span across several departments or the entire organization.
A Chief of Staff must have organization, delegation, and leadership skills to manage programs.
They often oversee programs to help grow the company or motivate a specific department. They design programs to advance the company forward and to meet the organization’s objectives.
While managing programs, Chiefs of Staff will manage many smaller projects that make up the program as a whole. They ensure they execute strategic initiatives during this.
Chiefs of Staff manage the daily operations that keep the company running. They are responsible for projects and functions that the CEO has delegated to them. These can be tasks from any department, such as:
- Talent acquisition
- Process or system updates
- Improved reporting processes
- Effectiveness measurement
- Support for HR, IT, or finance
- Liaising between departments
Chiefs of Staff wear many hats, and they can change direction at any time. They are in a position to support the CEO and the demands of the business change daily. They can expect to manage operations in some form or fashion daily.
Since a Chief of Staff is an advisor and strategic planner, it makes sense that they would serve as a business consultant. Many of them are experts in various operational areas. They leverage that knowledge to help a company expand and grow.
Many of them were in leadership roles in past positions. They take the lessons they learned about frameworks, strategies, and models to recommend strategic changes to the CEO.
Chiefs of Staff often measure performance and analyze operations. They are in the perfect position to offer consulting on how to increase productivity and profitability.
Mentoring and Coaching
A Chief of Staff is a mentor and coach to the team members and the executive they advise. With teams, they’ll assess performance and company metrics to coach team members in improving.
If the CEO they support is new to the executive role and the Chief of Staff is a seasoned leader, they can mentor them while advising on strategic decisions.
They are problem-solvers who also motivate and inspire the teams they lead. A big part of leading a team is mentoring and coaching. The best leaders also empower their teams through these functions.
A great Chief of Staff not only creates new processes but also enhances existing ones. They understand that employees have to have a clearly defined process to do their jobs.
They regularly assess existing processes to see where they can improve. Chiefs of Staff know that operations, teams, and even the industry change all the time. So why wouldn’t the company’s processes?
Chiefs of Staff make sure to document and outline processes in handbooks and playbooks. And they conduct regular reviews to make sure every process is still in alignment with the company’s vision and mission.
An effective strategy not only focuses on the future but also the present. What state is your company in? What steps get the organization from point A to point B?
A talented Chief of Staff can recommend the direction for strategies. They also can lead the planning process for new strategies. Strategic planning is an ongoing activity for most businesses. Chiefs of Staff implement improvements consistently and are always assessing to identify opportunities.
Chiefs of Staff may represent the CEO in strategic meetings. Or they may have owned the entire process permanently. Either way, they refine it as needed to ensure continued profitability.
When all the skills of a Chief of Staff are combined, it’s a given they can oversee the business management function. Business management is all the above functions in one strategy.
Whether they are advising the CEO or translating the company’s vision to team members, the Chief of Staff has a hand in the overall business management for the organization.
They offer recommendations, create processes, meet goals, and evaluate performance as a part of this function. The core of business management is to coordinate and organize all activities that make a business run. A Chief of Staff has a lot of knowledge to contribute.
Differences Between a Chief of Staff and an Executive Assistant
An Executive Assistant and a Chief of Staff both support the CEO, but the similarities end there. A Chief of Staff is in a position of leadership and guidance. An Executive Assistant coordinates and organizes while leading a team.
Executive Assistants manage tasks that keep the CEO focused and the department running. Essential job functions of an Executive Assistant include:
- Manage calendars for several leaders
- Sending correspondence and invitations
- Plan and schedule events
- Coordinate travel
- Secretarial and administrative functions
- Office management
- Personal assistant tasks
A Chief of Staff manages operations and people. They are strategists that guide the CEO in making sound business decisions.
Their main tasks are to execute and lead teams. The Executive Assistant completes all the tasks that build up to the bigger picture.
Executive Assistants enable executives to do their jobs by handling everything else.
Differences Between a Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer
The biggest difference between a Chief Operating Officer and a Chief of Staff is that a Chief Operating Officer is not seen as a support role. The Chief Operating Officer operates the entire company. Their role includes:
- Serving as second in command behind the CEO
- Overseeing daily operations
- Handling internal affairs
- Executing the business plan
- Aligning the business model with goals
- Facilitating organizational change
- Mentoring younger executives
- Planning company expansion
A Chief of Staff supports the CEO in delivering many functions like the above, but the Chief Operating Officer is in charge of them. Both roles offer a form of support to the CEO.
And both roles are important to keeping the organization running smoothly and without issues.
What Education is Required for a Chief of Staff?
As with most corporate jobs, a Chief of Staff requires at least a Bachelor’s degree. A lot of companies prefer a higher degree, like a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Professionals looking to start a career as a Chief of Staff do have other options. They can take professional development courses or certification programs. They can also mentor or shadow executives to learn new skills.
A lot of companies offer on-the-job leadership programs. This would be a great way for them to gain hands-on experience and show their leadership ability to the company’s decision-makers.
As mentioned above, some companies have leadership development programs. Others have specific career progression development programs. When someone decides they want to pursue a Chief of Staff role, they should discuss their goals with their managers.
A company that values and invests in its workforce will help them to gain the skills they need to reach their goal.
Books and Online Courses
People can learn a lot about leadership, time management, and managing a business by reading books. There are thousands of available books written by people who have been in the same position.
They offer advice, instruct on how to develop skills, and can be a great resource to create the mindset needed to be a great leader. They can’t learn all skills this way, but many can advance their knowledge and capabilities.
Candidates can study the books and understand what steps to take next. There are many online courses, several of them created by the authors of the professional development books, that will help to strengthen skillsets.
More knowledge is never a bad thing. When someone decides to focus their career path on becoming a Chief of Staff, they should take all the steps they can to make it happen.
Certifications and Programs
There are many certification programs available that could help someone to get the skills needed to become a Chief of Staff. Some of these programs focus on:
- Thought leadership
- Design thinking
- People leadership
- Diversity and inclusion
- Strategic leadership
- LinkedIn Learning courses
- Project management
- Program management
- Human resources
- Financial management
Since the Chief of Staff role compasses so many aspects of operations, most certifications will help. There are many skills that are beneficial in the Chief of Staff role. So, continuous professional development is an advantage.
A potential Chief of Staff candidate should understand their strengths and weaknesses. And then plan their professional development accordingly. A good Chief of Staff is an excellent communicator, problem-solver, leader, and mentor.
For example, say a candidate communicates well and has strong leadership skills, but panics when there is a crisis. They could find a course or program to help them develop their problem-solving skills. This turns their weakness into a strength.
And it also sets them on the path to success.
What is the Salary Range for a Chief of Staff?
The salary range for a Chief of Staff is wide and it varies. The position has a different definition depending on the sector and industry. Most job descriptions show a salary starting at $120,000 and going up.
The Chief of Staff role is still relatively new in the corporate setting. This means it changes often and the requirements shift. To find the most accurate salary range, it’s important to search the area and location of where the open job position is.
How Many Years of Experience Should You Have Before Becoming a Chief of Staff?
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as it should be. Most job descriptions need between seven and ten years of prior experience before applying for a Chief of Staff role.
But it depends on how intelligent you are and what kind of leadership skills you possess. Someone with more education would be considered even if the experience doesn’t meet the requirement.
A Chief of Staff role should be someone who has led people before. And someone that is good at executing strategy and understanding the bigger picture when looking at operations.
How to Become a Chief of Staff
To become a Chief of Staff, it’s important to plan ahead and gain the skills that are needed. Chiefs of Staff think like Chiefs of Staff long before they’re in the role.
They do the following:
- Think and act like a leader
- Take on more responsibility
- Expand skills across departments
- Network to increase opportunities
- Strengthen their interpersonal skills
- Gain experience in executive-level operations
- Understand the company’s strategy and vision
- Possess strong collaboration skills
The best way to become a Chief of Staff is to learn as much as possible, develop professional skills, and strengthen leadership abilities.
Key Qualities to Display
A Chief of Staff is a leader and advisor. To be a good Chief of Staff, there are a few key qualities they should have. These include:
- Emotional intelligence
- Critical thinking
A Chief of Staff that has these qualities will be able to do their job effectively and seamlessly.
Strong leadership skills are vital for a Chief of Staff. They often act on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer. This can range from leading teams to facilitating growth strategies.
Since a Chief of Staff advises the Chief Executive Officer, it’s important they showcase adequate leadership abilities. CEOs don’t want someone incompetent or someone who is a weak leader helping them guide the company direction.
There are ten key aspects to a quality leader. They are:
- Possess integrity
Learn more about each below. Does the Chief of Staff at your company own these traits?
Anyone in a leadership position should have integrity and trustworthiness. Leaders who display this are more valued and respected by their teams.
A Chief of Staff is guiding an organization and helps to make important decisions. Employees and clients want to know that someone they trust is in this position of power.
It’s important companies make sure their leadership team understands how important it is to show integrity in their daily functions. Whether establishing a partnership or mentoring a team member, it’s an important aspect of a good leader.
An effective delegator understands it’s more than assigning tasks to your team. When delegating, they must think of the strengths of their employees and determine which employee would be best for the task.
Delegation should help teams to grow. The assignments for team members should be challenging but also rewarding. Great leaders focus on empowering and growing the skills of their teams.
Delegating leads to better decisions across the board. It also fosters cohesion among team members and provides autonomy.
A good leader is also a good communicator. This is both written and verbally because they’ll communicate with internal and external professionals in both manners.
The ability to communicate in different ways is also important. An empowering leader coaches individuals, but they also inspire and motivate them. Leaders are also tasked with translating strategy into daily terms and goals.
Knowing how to communicate in several ways is a very important trait to have for a good leader.
If leaders want their teams to feel appreciated and respected, they’ll show them how grateful they are for the work they deliver. This could be a simple thank you. Or maybe an email telling them how much their efforts helped the company.
A good leader knows that showing gratitude to the team is an important part of effective leadership. Teams that feel appreciated will be more willing to work and have better employee satisfaction.
All those in positions of power should showcase sincere gratitude to their team members.
A good leader is a self-aware leader. Do they know their strengths and weaknesses? Do they understand how they are perceived at work?
Do they actively try to change the perception if it’s not the greatest? Are they humble and show up at work as their best self?
A self-aware leader will consider all of these questions. And make changes accordingly. No company or team wants a leader who isn’t aware of how they act or show up at work.
Being an agile leader means you think quickly and clearly in situations where you don’t know what to do. Agility is important with changing markets or industry changes that impact their business.
Agile leaders lead to more productive and satisfied teams. Many companies adopt an agile method across their operations. This can increase employee enthusiasm and help everyone to become more flexible.
Embracing an agility mindset may mean implementing new tools in their team. Or maybe they give up on micromanaging them and let everyone set their own schedule.
Whatever they choose, an agile mindset is an important trait for a leader.
Influencing employees and even external professionals is an important quality. When someone is truly influential, they inspire and convince others of their idea.
Truly influential leaders appeal to their audience with logical and emotional reasons. They are passionate about the changes they are trying to make and show everyone how exciting it could be to embrace the change.
An influential leader possesses emotional intelligence. They also have good communication skills, can build relationships, and are trustworthy.
Leaders who are emotionally intelligent and effective are also usually empathetic with their teams. Empathy is when a leader understands someone else’s emotions.
Empathy is also putting themselves in the position of someone else and seeing things from their point of view. Being empathetic means being a good listener and offering sound advice.
Showing empathy for their team members can build stronger relationships. And it can help the team to trust their leadership team more.
A courageous leader is one that handles conflicts and problems proactively. They aren’t afraid to speak up with the situation warrants. This could be providing constructive feedback or voicing an innovative new idea.
A leader who is courageous empowers their teams to also speak up and voice opinions and issues. Problems that simmer are not a good thing for the workplace, so ensuring leaders who will resolve these situations are in place is essential.
To earn respect, leaders must treat others with respect. A respected leader is a respectful leader. Not only does treating each employee with respect boost morale, but it can also create a culture where teams thrive.
Respect happens in many ways, such as:
- Recognition for a job well done
- Active listening
- Assessing all perspectives
- Open communication
- Clear processes that employees’ had input in making
Many traits of a great leader feed off the other traits. When Chiefs of Staff combine all these qualities, leaders can become unstoppable and highly respected. Showing all of the above traits can increase employee satisfaction and performance.
A good Chief of Staff is adaptable. Working directly with the CEO to offer support is stressful. And they’re usually in a fast-paced, changing environment.
They could be balancing deadlines, many projects, and meetings while trying to find a new candidate for an open role. A Chief of Staff is an advisor, so they need to react quickly to situations.
And handle problems and changes with a level head and open mind. This is especially true when a company is going through a growth stage. They must remain adaptable and focused to ensure profitability.
Chiefs of Staff communicate with internal and external professionals every day. They interact with the CEO, team members, stakeholders, and the public. Some may even engage with vendors or media representatives.
Having effective written and verbal communication skills are vital for a Chief of Staff. Whether they are writing a press release or providing a performance evaluation, they are representing the company.
And companies want on-brand and nice reputations. When offering recommendations and advice to the CEO, Chiefs of Staff must be able to communicate clearly and articulately.
They communicate in a way that allows teams to know exactly what they expect of them. And they often serve as a messenger for alerts, updates, and changes from the CEO. They have to do this accurately.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are empathetic and supportive. People with this skill can evaluate, perceive, and control emotions. How leaders respond to emotional situations with team members is important.
Strong emotional intelligence means that leaders will respond to situations with high emotions in an appropriate manner. Chiefs of Staff are responsible for emergency and crisis situations. Possessing strong emotional intelligence will help them to remain calm during these situations.
Utilizing their skills in emotional intelligence can ripple throughout the entire company. By remaining positive and upbeat during challenging or stressful situations, leaders can set an example for their teams.
Chiefs of staff manage many fires. They handle situations with employees, external professionals, and executives. Having a strong set of problem-solving skills is very important for these leaders.
Effective leaders assess problems and determine the root cause. They don’t just brush situations off to keep operations going. They leverage problem-solving abilities to find clear and lasting solutions.
Problem-solvers are able to look at the bigger picture and understand how one problem can impact several areas of operation.
Leaders who embrace problem-solving are the best. They see problems as an opportunity to improve the company’s operations, not a challenge.
Chiefs of Staff that apply critical thinking to situations are empowered and strong decision-makers. They thoroughly analyze what is going on and weigh their options before choosing a course of action.
They may also apply these skills to recruit new talent, define strategies, and create new processes. Before making decisions, they look at the pros and cons of each direction.
They always have an eye out for improvement. With strong critical thinking abilities, leaders will assess operations and performance to identify ways to ensure continuous improvement.
Strengthen Your Business Today
Does your company have a Chief of Staff position you want? Or perhaps you’re thinking of creating the position for the business you run. No matter the reason, Kamyar Shah is here to help your advance your skills.
With services focused on management, operations, and leadership, you can’t go wrong when choosing Kamyar as your business consultant. He can serve as a remote Chief Operating Officer or Chief Marketing Officer. Or he can offer guidance on strategy, budgets, performance, and talent.
If you’re ready to complete business coaching for your Chief of Staff to improve your operations, reach out to us today.