Keeping your business running smoothly is no easy feat in today’s economic climate. Whether you own a real estate company or are the president of a political party, having a Chief of Staff you can rely on has become a non-negotiable.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of the role of a Chief of Staff, a typical Chief of Staff job description, and how to find a suitable candidate for the position.
What is a Chief of Staff?
The Chief of Staff (CoS) in a company works closely with the Chief Executive Officer (CE) to aid in their business’s day-to-day running. Chiefs of Staff are expected to deal with many different tasks, including facilitating communication between various parties such as CEOs, consumers, and employees, standing in for the CEO or other executives when necessary, and providing general support for their employers. This role is not the same as an executive assistant; however, a CoS carries more responsibility and is relatively autonomous.
Business owners or leaders employ CoS to make their jobs manageable. Employers who want a CoS should look for professionals with experience in being part of a dedicated leadership team. A CoS might not be first in command, but they need to be as invested and engaged as the most senior executives.
When you’re interviewing for a Chief of Staff, there are a few things to look out for in potential candidates:
- Prior experience in a Chief of Staff role
- Experience in business management and/or as an executive assistant in a corporate setting
- Excellent communication skills
- The ability to make decisions and show initiative
- Relevant industry experience preferable, i.e., previous track record in a similar industry
A Chief of Staff role can vary depending on the industry. They may report to the CEO of a company or the Chief Financial Officer and should, if possible, have a thorough understanding of relevant business processes. Identifying priorities and implementing policies can look very different in a retail company as opposed to a political party. A CoS needn’t be an expert in a specific field, but they must be able to apply their skills in various settings.
What does a Chief of Staff do?
Chiefs of Staff need to be adept at juggling tasks and managing day-to-day operations with minimal supervision. While they are expected to report to the CEO, they are also granted more autonomy than executive assistants in terms of making decisions, delegating, and putting plans into action.
A Chief of Staff job description can encompass a number of responsibilities and requirements. Hard skills and experience can include:
- A degree (bachelor's degree at the very least; master’s degree preferable) in Business Administration or similar field
- Understanding of data analytics and its application
- Understanding of budget management, project coordination and human resources management
The duties of a Chief of Staff can vary widely depending on the industry and company type.
In general, duties can include:
- Being a sounding board for the CEO and other senior executives
- Facilitating and overseeing meetings
- Representing the CEO at meetings and functions they cannot attend themselves
- Assisting executives with their tasks, including decision-making, project management and business strategies
- Collaborating with and advising the CEO
- Assisting in the implementation of strategies
- Act as a liaison between executives and other relevant parties
- Assisting human resources with the hiring of new employees and overseeing their onboarding process
- Identifying goals and objectives
Key skills of a chief of staff
Questions like, “what is a chief of staff?” and “what does a chief of staff do?” are useful for employers, but neither really explores the qualities a great CoS should embody. Having experience as an executive assistant or in a similar role is a prerequisite, but apart from those “hard” skills and capabilities, the role of a CoS requires a host of soft skills—and many that don’t necessarily fit into either category.
A first-rate CoS should be an excellent communicator, diplomatic, and suitably qualified, with a bachelor's degree at the very least. Other (more qualitative than measurable) skills include:
- Communication skills
- Industry-specific knowledge/understanding
- Decisiveness and the ability to take initiative
A Chief of Staff’s role is to assist executives while acting as a supervisor and manager of other employees. Reporting to a CEO doesn’t make a CoS a subordinate in the practical sense of the word, even if it is a technically correct description.
Chiefs of Staff should be able to make decisions without second-guessing themselves. They are expected to provide feedback to senior executives and board members and be confident enough to act as an advisor when appropriate. Functioning as a liaison between executives, senior and junior, requires the ability to communicate with directness and diplomacy.
2. Written and verbal communication skills
The importance of excellent communication skills simply cannot be overstated. Chiefs of Staff are expected to deal with various tasks simultaneously, as well as handling a lot of information and data they must use to inform their decisions and actions. Listening skills are a chronically undervalued quality and absolutely essential for a CoS who facilitates communication between multiple parties.
A Chief of Staff’s job obviously includes sending and receiving emails and other digital communications, which demands excellent written skills. Being required to communicate with everyone, from senior executives down to junior employees, also requires adaptability.
3. Industry-specific knowledge and understanding
A Chief of Staff job description can differ widely depending on the industry. Some functions of a CoS will remain the same no matter what sector they’re in, but industry-specific knowledge is hugely important—a prerequisite should you want someone who can carry out their duties effectively with minimal training.
A CoS in a law firm, for example, should ideally be highly knowledgeable about legal policies and processes, even if they aren’t required to be qualified as a lawyer or attorney.
4. Decisiveness and initiative
The ability to make decisions quickly and objectively is essential in a Chief of Staff. They may report to the CEO, but that doesn’t mean their role is that of an underling.
A CoS is part of the glue that holds an organisation together by bridging the gap between executives, employees, and other relevant parties. This requires excellent decision-making skills and being able to process information quickly and effectively.
Every CoS needs certain skills, like communication and decisiveness, but they also need to apply them in a variety of settings. They’ll have to navigate busy schedules, sudden changes in the business landscape, and potential crises that strike without warning.
Someone who works closely with the CEO and other senior executives should be able to adapt and tailor their approach to specific tasks and interactions.
Need help finding an excellent chief of staff? We can help
Finding the perfect CoS for your company can be a daunting process. Having the support of a recruitment agency like Oriel Partners, however, can make the task far less complicated.
When it comes to serving high profile brands, we are experts at finding the best person for the job. Oriel Partners provides a platform for companies to find the best executive assistants, PAs, Office managers and, of course, Chiefs of Staff.