Evolving Your Chief of Staff Role
You probably feel it, your COS role is constantly evolving. You stepped into a role with few guardrails because it depends so much on variable factors—leadership, strategic priorities, immediate needs, operational capacities, etc. Your own skills and strengths play into it, too. Therefore, it is critical to evolve your role as these factors change.
Every year, it is worth evaluating and assessing your position against the needs, priorities, and challenges of your leader and organization. You may be surprised that functions of your role can look slightly, or sometimes vastly, different year to year. Annual reviews or year-end evaluations are an opportune time to reconcile what you should be doing against what you are currently doing.
Follow these simple steps to evaluate your role and performance:
1. Eliminate & Delegate
Think about the routine tasks you do on a regular basis. Complete a simple time allocation exercise to help you visualize your current time spend. Ask yourself if performing these tasks is still necessary or are you doing them because it’s been shoved off on you. How do they serve your leader? How does it help the organization? Do they align with the goals of the organization? Are there other functions of your role that should be higher priority? Are there tasks that can be delegated? If you find that there are non-value-added activities cluttering your role, find ways these can delegated or eliminated.
We do this exercise for our bosses, but we can often neglect ourselves. It can be very easy for Chiefs to perform duties that should go to others because our leaders have confidence in our ability to do them. But, are you the appropriate person to be taking them on? Are you neglecting opportunities to empower others by owning unnecessary workstreams?
2. Develop Your Road Map
Consider the experiences you’ve had within the organization. Understand the parts of the business where you found the most success and enjoyment, and where you felt out of your element. Think about where you should continue challenging yourself. What areas of the business do you need to better understand? What context or exposure would help you take on more strategic projects?
As Chief of Staff, you should feel a forward progression from more execution-focused responsibilities to more strategic-focused responsibilities. It is important to connect where you are with where you want to go. Devise a plan to either start, or continue, heading in that direction. After all, the Chief of Staff role is very commonly a developmental role.
3. Get Feedback
Obtain feedback that is useful in improving your performance and your leadership. Ask a variety of people you interact with on a regular basis across the organization. It’s like conducting your own 360 review. You may be killing it in your day-to-day responsibilities, but you may have areas of improvement when it comes to establishing more command or confidence, building influence, or working with difficult colleagues.
Instead of simply asking others, “How am I doing?” ask for situational feedback. “During the yesterday’s meeting with the Ops team, did my message resonate clearly?” You gain insight while clearly communicating your ambition for continuous improvement and leadership development. With this feedback, find opportunities to continue honing your skills.
4. Break Out the Measuring Tape
Some organizations are up to their eyeballs in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), some have never used them, and others are somewhere in-between. However, if you aren’t measuring anything for your position, it’s important to start. Even if your organization doesn’t heavily rely on metrics, you can still create your own. We know there are aspects of every Chief of Staff role that are difficult to measure. When part of your is creating an environment for success and effectiveness, intangibles exist. But, in determining the key functions of your role from Step 1 above, you can start to decipher measurable components. For example, if project management is a focus, there are ways to track effectiveness of the project and the team.
Measurement ensures we are on the right track toward the progress we are establishing in Step 2. It can also just help us feel validated in a role that gets little validation.
5. Update Your Position Description
You remember that piece of paper you *may* have had when you started your role? Does it reflect the role you’re currently performing? If not, it’s time for a re-write. This isn’t just for HR’s sake, it’s for your own. Having an adequate representation of your work is important and it’s an exercise that forces us to take a step back and think strategically about what we do across the entire scope of our role. It should also reflect Steps 1-4 to a certain degree. This can then be used during discussions with your leader or HR about your development, compensation, and more.
Whether your role is changing because you’ve grown over the years or other forces have created a need for your skills in a new capacity, it’s safe to say that your COS job today isn’t going to be the same in a year. Embrace it. Evolve with it. Elevate it. Enjoy it!