How to Successfully Transition Out of the Chief of Staff Role

When the time comes to move on from your current Chief of Staff (COS) role, the decision is often not an easy one. While all good things come to an end, the workload, demands, and pace of your job do not. Therefore, handling your transition away from the COS role should be done appropriately to keep your relationships and reputation intact. Here are some ways to do it:

1)      Give ample notice.

This role is a bit different from your days scooping ice cream at the local mall, so the minimum two weeks’ notice doesn’t cut it. First, you have a much closer relationship with your boss, and they deserve a bit more time to adjust to a new way of working. Second, you are so entwined in their day-to-day activities that two weeks’ notice will cause sudden and frequent ball drops—never a great situation in which to leave your boss or your company.

Oftentimes your departure from the role doesn’t come as a surprise. It is usually part of an ongoing discussion with your boss about development, length of time in the role, and areas you wish to pursue long term. Ideally, your boss can be a partner and advocate as you think about your next career steps, either internally or externally. Even if your boss isn’t expecting the news, try to give at least 4 weeks’ notice. This allows time for you, your boss, and others in your company to adequately prepare for a transition and begin the process of finding your replacement.

2)      Consider a temporary Chief of Staff replacement.

If you can’t be flexible with the start date at your new position, consider finding a temporary COS to help your executive and team while a new COS search takes place. A temporary professional may not be able to manage the entire workload you did, but they have experience supporting other executives and can help minimize the burden left on your boss and team.

A company called vChief offers temporary Chief of Staff replacement to help fill the void. Founded by long-time COS Maddy Niebauer, vChief offers companies and their executives with full or part-time contract COSs to ease the burden of COS replacement. Find more information at www.virtualchiefofstaff.com.

3)      Consider helping find your replacement.

Upon giving notice, your executive may ask you to find your replacement. This is certainly not mandatory do to, but it is the most helpful solution for your executive and your company. However, you must have the flexibility with your new employer to do so.

Finding your replacement shouldn’t be your full-time job, so partner with a recruiter who specializes in finding Chief of Staff talent to take the heavy lifting off your plate. My company, Prime Career Advisory, does just that. As you can imagine, it is extremely helpful for us to work with exiting Chiefs of Staff because you critically aid our search with your knowledge, experience, and insight. Prime can also help onboard the new Chief of Staff to reach full productivity sooner. 

4)      Keep a list of your responsibilities.

This is important for every departing employee, but I stress it exponentially for this role: write down your day-to-day responsibilities and work processes if not currently documented. As you know, there is way more to your role than what is listed on your position description. This is particularly important if there’s a gap between Chiefs of Staff. During the interim time, your responsibilities will be divvied up to a variety of employees. The more your colleagues understand what you did and how you did it, the better.

5)      Offer ways the role can be augmented for the next Chief of Staff.

Whether you were your company’s first Chief of Staff or tenth, there are likely things that could be done differently the next time around. You are the best person to communicate those ideas. This includes considering your onboarding process. How easily did you feel integrated into the company? Are there any trainings that would’ve helped you get up to speed faster? Are their procedures or processes that can be better outlined and communicated to a new COS?

In addition to onboarding, what responsibilities were on your plate that should possibly go to someone else? The transition to a new Chief of Staff is always a great time to revisit the position description and your daily responsibilities to make any changes. This role evolves with each person in it. Learn from your own experiences about what worked and what didn’t, and share those with your boss and your HR team.