Companies Need A Chief Of Staff To Accelerate Programmes
All great military leaders have had a strong Chief of Staff. Governments as well have used this key role to manage the cabinets and ensure that the leader's agenda is ultimately driven as they plan. I wonder why this role has not permeated into the private sector as much as in the military and governments?
This is the next in a series of articles that I have been writing looking back at my 10 years in the US Navy and trying to relate these to challenges facing firms today.
First of all, what does this role entail? In short, the Chief of Staff is the person who is responsible for powering the leader to function at the highest level. Obviously, there is a team around any leader, but this team needs to be managed. The managing is a two-way street, from inbound controlling the access to the leader, while on the outbound side, ensuring that the agenda is being communicated and more importantly, delivered.
This person must constantly work at both the tactical and strategic levels. On the tactical level, they are managing the daily schedule to make sure that the leader is ready for each event with the right information and prepped for any questions that may come up. They are also working with the personal assistant to control the schedule to match the wishes and desires of the leader.
On the strategic side, they need to be constantly scanning ahead to ANTICIPATE car crashes. These can be as simple as the wrong person with the wrong details at the wrong time. But as well as this, the job is to look ahead to see where challenges are coming that will impinge on the leader's agenda being delivered. When done correctly, the Chief of Staff is ACTING, as empowered by the leader, to actively clear the roadblocks that might stop the agenda being delivered.
As I said earlier, in the military and government these roles are very commonplace and work effectively as stated above. Why then do we not see these as much in businesses? Maybe the companies don't think there is value in having a high-level person managing the leaders and their teams? Given the pace of change and challenges out there now for leaders to contend with this feels a bit 'pennywise and pound foolish'.
I have seen in both my time in the Navy and a few of the roles that I have had in business that, if done correctly, having an effective Chief of Staff can really 'turbocharge' the agenda of the leader. It frees them up from worrying about things that might be going wrong to focus on strategy, communications, stakeholder management and inspiring the organisation forward. The team may also value an extra point of contact to clarify a position or gain more information to help with their case.
With the level of disruption that we are all experiencing right now, I would argue that having a competent Chief of Staff is an investment well made for any leader hoping to deliver their agenda.