“Chief of Staff”; a CEO accessory or non-negotiable?

Challenges to right, obstacles to the left, investors & competitors on your heels , and your family is crying for some “quality time”. Sound familiar? Reading a very interesting article entitled “Latest CEO accessory: A chief of staff” had me reflect on the role of Chief of Staff. More specifically, it was the opening paragraph that grabbed my attention; “These days it’s a chief of staff, a top-level adviser who’s part confidant, part gatekeeper, and part all-around strategic consultant. While that has long been a key position in politics, many top executives are now adding this person to the payroll.”

Which led me to think to myself… “A Chief of Staff, by definition, provides a buffer between a chief executive (CEO of a corporation) and that executive’s direct-reporting team. The chief of staff generally works behind the scenes to solve problems, mediate disputes, and deal with issues before they bubble up to the Chief Executive. The varying amount of politics, egos, and issues to deal with require that a highly experienced senior executive with a proven background in delivering results in the most adverse conditions lead this role.

A Chief of Staff also acts as a confidante and top-level adviser to the Chief Executive, as a sounding board for ideas, confidant, part gatekeeper, and part all-around strategic consultant. Ultimately, the actual duties will depend on the actual position, roles and the people involved, as well as the situations that present themselves, and could even fulfill temporary senior management voids until one is effectively on-board.

As a resident in-house resource, the role of Chief of Staff will also increase the practical experience of the management team as a whole, as well as their ability to deliver/over-deliver on expected results. Inter-acting across multiple functional areas, this solution will significantly increase interdepartmental efficiencies“.

In short, an all-around personal Strategic Consultant, Practical Implementer & Trusted Partner?

A “scorecard” for someone like that might look like:

  • Facilitates fellow entrepreneurs & CEO’s worldwide across varying industrial verticals
  • Leverages their extensive experience & network in favor of action steps once your success strategy has been defined
  • In working with the team regularly give tools, mechanisms & methodologies that will increase practical knowledge with the ability to immediately implement
  • Fulfill on academic requirements by explaining in clear enough terms what they’ve observed
  • Translate into actionable lessons how, or what, you can learn from to achieve success
  • In parallel, be driven by gut and trusted instinct honed by years of experience, allow an organization to fulfill on practical requirements by “reading” the situations and finding the most appropriate solutions

If you had read Simon Sinek’s recent articles “Two Types of Experts”, you’d see that it’s not that far fetched of a notion to begin with. And if you had been present in a client meeting of mine whilst in Sydney earlier this month, when a new client asked me to help him better align his staff with a methodology previously unknown to me as a formal framework, you would have been even more convinced that, again,  it’s not that far fetched of a notion.

That methodology my Sydney client was referring to is known as Horizon 1-2-3, and after adapting some other frameworks I traditionally work with, we customized a new & improved Horizon 1-2-3 scenario to work with his team, 🙂 which goes something like this..

  • Horizon 1 (H1) is the work resulting in more consistently effecting change through improving and extending present operations (routines and habits), resulting in doing what is currently done in better ways, whilst leveraging (direct or indirect) functional expertise along with industry experience, to drive for greater efficiency based on the focus on performance & results
  • Horizon 2 (H2) is empowering the team to ask themselves how their daily/weekly activities & focus facilitate the creation of new opportunities that will extend the H1 operations, but rather than being focused only on continual improvement in short-term performance, through the art of continual questioning and periodic structured pulse checks (Weekly/Monthly Strategic Meetings), bring new ideas to fruition. This involves increased risk, taking and dealing with a greater degree of uncertainty as the team will be confronted with the Vision Chasms which often don’t exist in Horizon 1 and based on them now literally straddling between H1 & H2 more often
  • Horizon 3 (H3) is where futures must be imagined, researched and developed. This requires seeding options today for the future, which represents understanding these type of costs as related to the required research, pilot projects, proof of concepts, etc, as practical implementation of the same must be immediate

Now, if you’re a CEO, or anything similar, how would any of this information impact your life? Both personal & professional? How would it impact your business? Who do you have in your business or network that can help you in this fashion? And finally, here’s the trick question 😉 is it really an “accessory” (a nice to have), or is it a modern day “non-negotiable” (a must have) for a CEO that want’s to guarantee success?

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