Whether you’re at the helm of a large enterprise or running a relatively small business, you’re probably enjoying being in the thick of things, making decisions, calling the shots, encouraging your people to greater heights and exploring ways you can add value to all your stakeholders. Well, you might not be the boss, so to speak, but if you run a Department with more than ten people, or have more than three business processes to juggle, you would probably have similar experiences with those we would normally consider “bosses”. Perhaps you are enjoying all this, and perhaps you sometimes feel as if you have too much to manage. Perhaps you feel that you need more time to focus on the external aspects of your enterprise – posturing, branding, strategizing, visioning. Well, maybe it’s time to consider whether or not you need a Chief of Staff.
What IS a Chief of Staff, or a Deputy? Here I use the term to mean anyone who assists an enterprise leader in maintaining homeostasis, developing internal fortitude, sharpening senses and building muscle strength and endurance for the enterprise. Even if you think you don’t need or can’t afford a Chief of Staff at the moment, you might like to take note of the following qualities to look for, as you could be a possible candidate yourself one day!
A Chief of Staff is like, in what could be perceived to be a “traditional” sense, a wife to a husband – the Ruler of Hearth and Home. A good Chief of Staff – let’s call it COS – runs the “household” so well that the Chief Executive does not know all the details about the goings-on. That, of course, does not mean that the Chief Executive can afford to be blissfully ignorant of all that takes place in the enterprise “home”. It DOES mean that the Chief Executive can focus more on directions for the enterprise, establishing and maintaining its presence in new and old markets, whether or not to acquire other entities, forging new business relationships and maintaining existing ones, etc. The COS focuses on “running a taut ship”. That includes synergizing the day-to-day operations between the various Departments or Business Units. The running of the Departments or Business Units is left to the respective Heads or Chiefs. The COS ensures that the supporting structures and personnel are always ready to support the Chief Executive in his/ her functions. Both COS and Chief Executive have a special team synergy. They are a Leadership Team in their own right. Of course, in a larger enterprise, they are also members of the C-Suite Leadership Team, and that team would have a synergy of its own also. However, the synergy between the Chief Executive and the COS is special. The COS has the capabilities and the capacities to step up to the position of Chief Executive, but deliberately channels those energies into, in effect, “playing second fiddle” to the Chief Executive as long as he/ she holds the post of COS. Both of them keep each other updated at all times and engage more in generative explorations of future possibilities for the enterprise and all internal and external stakeholders. At the same time, they recognize what their primary functions are, and do not meddle with each other’s roles. Harvey MacKay in his book “Swim with the sharks without being eaten alive” describes an incident involving the great evangelist Billy Graham and his organization’s manager, George Wilson. George Wilson once called Billy Graham to ask for his opinion about whether to move the organization’s offices to a new building. Billy Graham’s response? “I don’t call you and ask you what I should preach. Don’t call me and ask what you should do with buildings.”
Does YOUR enterprise/ business/ department/ business unit need a Chief of Staff, a Deputy to the Chief Executive? Who would the best person be? Maybe you should ask them!