Like tales of sasquatch roaming the Pacific Northwest, the Internet is littered with stories of work-life balance observed in the wild. Squint hard enough, they say, and you can make out a blurry image of what appears to be a member of the c-suite, at a junior high basketball game, cheering on their daughter.
Urban legends of executives simultaneously achieving peace of mind and operational excellence have become increasingly common, thanks, in part to the rise of another creature shrouded in mystery — the executive Chief of Staff.
So, what does a Chief of Staff do? And how can they make you a better, more balanced executive and simultaneously strengthen your organization? Here are the areas in which a Chief of Staff can pay immediate dividends.
In sports, it’s sometimes said that a player’s greatest ability is their availability, meaning an athlete is most valuable when they have a well-rounded skill set and can be counted on to make the right play for the team whenever called upon to do so. The Chief of Staff is that player
A Chief of Staff provides administrative support beyond a traditional 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday capacity to alleviate the burden of off-hour communication. While an Executive Assistant can manage your incoming messages, the Chief of Staff is a skilled communicator with the ability to provide judgement and respond to important messages in your voice and style.
By expertly managing your calendar and communication channels the Chief of Staff delivers peace of mind, a critical, but often overlooked weapon in the modern executive’s arsenal.
Let’s take a quick walk through the day of a modern executive, otherwise known as your Tuesday.
You might start by catching up on email and respond to a couple voicemails. Then you accept an urgent meeting that pops up without warning (as all urgent meetings do). Since you’re in the meeting you forget and do a last minute cancellation of the meeting that would have taken place if the more urgent one hadn’t hit your calendar. Then there’s the quick scramble, looking for another time to reschedule the newly cancelled meeting. Once that’s handled you have to send out a contract and sign a document that just received approval from legal – wait, what got changed…you spend some time analyzing the documents…again. At that point, you make time to check in with one of your top clients. As soon as that call ends, you call a prospect, and then, if the planets align…you have lunch…at 3pm.
Not all tasks are created equal. A Chief of Staff manages communications and implements best practices, giving you back valuable hours that can be dedicated to tasks that truly move the needle for your organization. A great Chief of Staff can give an executive back anywhere from 8-18 hours each week.
Covering critical tasks, and the efficiency created by doing so, are key pieces a Chief of Staff brings to the table. But what truly sets the Chief of Staff apart from an administrative assistant (virtual or otherwise) is that your Chief of Staff is an executive-level strategic partner.
Rather than simply shuffling meetings around your calendar based on priority, a good Chief of Staff will stand in for you at meetings you are unable to attend. In addition to taking great notes and sending detailed meeting recaps with important information and next steps, your Chief of Staff can be trusted to make the judgements and decisions you would have made if available.
This level of strategic partnership doesn’t just benefit you as an executive – it makes your entire organization more efficient and effective by removing the bottle neck that naturally forms at the CEO’s door.
When leaders across your organization are given the green light to move projects forward, or receive actionable feedback when changes are needed, it generates results for your business and sustained excitement among employees, otherwise known as culture.
In the competition for top talent, companies no longer have the luxury of treating culture like a luxury. And a great culture is not achieved through ping-pong tables and free food alone. Those are nice perks, and can incrementally improve the way employees view your company, but they will not paper over bad processes that regularly put undue stress on your team.
Great cultures are built by creating consistently remarkable experiences for your employees with the same passion and you bring in create them for your customers. When you are stretched too thin at the top of the organization, potential game-changing, culture-building initiatives have a tendency to sit on your whiteboard for months at a time.
Getting those initiatives across the finish line is the ultimate impact the Chief of Staff creates. They provide the partnership to help you take your organization to new heights, and the service to take you anywhere you want to go – including the occasional junior high basketball game.