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Power up Your First 90 Days as Chief of Staff

Have you just started your career as Chief of Staff? Plan your first 90 days and shine out your responsibilities as a CoS.
Sourabh Jha

Sourabh Jha

Chief of Staff planning his first 90 days.

Before you take another action as the new Chief of Staff in your Organization, planning is as important as you already know. But here is what your first 90 days as chief of staff will look like.

After decades of use in the military, politics, and Fortune 500 firms, the role of Chief of staff is now catching on in the modern fast-paced world. Chief of Staff is becoming a more common position in a variety of governmental, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. 

Many chief executives require a Chief of Staff (CoS) who performs duties beyond those of an executive assistant (EA) to ensure the smooth operation of the office.

A CoS is responsible for supervising internal operations and directing special projects, as well as managing the executive’s priorities.

Chief of Staff working on new project

According to Chief of Staff, Lisa Hovey, “My job is to help define our top priorities and to make sure everyone understands what they are. Especially in our environment, people move fast and we can get unintentionally silo’d. I manage communication and collaboration—ensuring that the right connections are being made across the organization where they matter most.” 

What exactly does a chief of staff do?

A Chief of Staff serves as an executive’s right hand and force multiplier, saving their time so that they can focus on the things that will have more influence on an organization’s growth. Your duties will differ according to the needs of the executive and the organization but here are some key responsibilities you must always be prepared for: 

1 Assists executives in decision making

The most effective chiefs of staff also assist CEOs in formulating and enacting policies, as well as ensuring that they are followed. They foresee challenges and are particularly sensitive to topics requiring negotiation.

2 Supervise internal operations

You must prepare weekly staff meeting schedules, take notes, and assign action items, manage the OKR and yearly planning processes, assist with board meeting prep, and develop decision-making frameworks.

Chief of Staff strategizing on company management

3 Initiate special projects

Your tasks will include leading a metrics upgrade, doing customer research on an adjacent company potential, managing an acquisition process, and leading the CEO search.

According to Patrick Aylward, a vice president, and CoS at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the role of Cos can be defined in five ways “serving as an air traffic controller for the leader and the senior team; as an integrator connecting workstreams that would otherwise remain siloed; as a communicator linking the leadership team and the broader organization; as an honest broker and truth-teller when the leader needs a wide-ranging view without turf considerations; and as a confidant without an organizational agenda.”

What are the different levels for this role?

1 Level 1 (Associate)

As a CoS at this level, you’ll be in charge of the CEO’s time and ensure that he stays focused on the most important issues, as well as manage special projects for the CFO and the head of human resources. You’ll also Prepare prework, conduct follow-up, and attend the majority of board meetings.

2 Level 2 (Sr. Associate/Junior Manager)

On Level 2, you’ll work on collaborations and acquisition initiatives alongside the heads of business development. You won’t have direct reporting, but you’ll be in charge of major projects and making strategic decisions that will demand advanced expertise.

3 Level 3 (Manager/ Sr. Manager)

You’ll assist CEOs and top executives in executing significant strategic, operational, and cultural agendas that need large changes, manage your projects and initiate and lead the OKR process across the organization.

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Planning your first 90 days as Chief of Staff

A CoS’s effectiveness in the role necessitates not just good communication with his or her boss, but also credibility within the executive management team and other staff. To perform these duties successfully you need to have an organized plan. 

Let’s plan your first 90 days as a CoS together:

Chief of Staff working efficiently to achieve Goals

1 Put the substantial time in the beginning with your executive

To manage your executive’s time and put it into more important things, you need to understand their schedule, communication, working style and spend a significant amount of time with them in the beginning. You must attend as many internal and external meetings as well as involve yourself in taking action on them.

2 Establish a Communication Cycle

Scheduling alignment meetings with your executive is essential to succeed in the CoS role. At least for a month, you should daily sync at the beginning and end of the day to align your priorities.

Following this, you must conduct 1:1s for daily check-ins, project assessment and brainstorming sessions. You must organize and plan your 1:1s to save time during the meeting. Before the meeting list all the high priority discussions, questions and project approvals.

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3 Understand the Work Style

For a successful working relationship, team members must understand each other’s work style for effective communication. For example, preferred means of communication, an appropriate time to conduct meetings and the feedback process.

Discuss with your executive the same, how often should the meetings be conducted, how they would be conducted, what will be the means and routine of sharing feedback etc. Molly McCarthy, CoS at Insight Partners, recommends keeping an eye on your working style alignment regularly.

Chief of Staff analysing company’s growth

4 Discuss your objectives in detail

Since your responsibilities will depend upon the Organization and executive you are working for, it is important to have it clear in the beginning and understand what your executive’s expectations are from the CoS role. 

To perform your duties effectively, ask all the necessary questions about the company and its long and short term goals, values, and align them with your role.

5 Understand the teams

It is important to learn the working of all the teams across the organization. It helps you understand the work environment and team members better and build authentic connections. This will help you in leading new projects for the organization with the help of team members and better comprehension of the company.

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Your OKRs for the first 90 days as chief of staff

OKRs are no longer an alien concept in modern fast-paced organizations. As a Chief of Staff, one of your responsibilities will be to implement OKRs across the organization on behalf of your executive.

Here is a few examples of OKRs you can use as Chief of Staff:

1 For Company

Objective: Increase Company’s growth

Key Results: 

Increase profits to $3 million.

Announce the new product.

Reduce turnover by 5% each year by focusing on customer retention.

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2 For the Finance management team

Objective: Enhance Financial Reporting Process

Key Results:

Employ a Bookkeeper 

Install the cloud-based version of QuickBooks

Complete financials within 2 weeks of the quarter’s end

Tools you need to succeed as a Chief of Staff

Chief of Staff Office

For the effective management of your organization and enhanced productivity, you’ll need some tools or software to work and communicate across the company. Here are some tools that you’ll find very useful while working:

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To implement OKR across your organization, you’ll need an OKR tool to develop strategies and track objectives that align the team and the company. The OKR tool works as an online goal tracker and helps you achieve organizational goals efficiently. 

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Conclusion

From Small to large companies, the Chief of Staff now has become an emerging role and differs according to the executives’ requirements. Your key duties as a CoS will be to make decision-making, time and operations more effective.

Planning is the key to success for anything. Therefore, before you start, “PLAN” your first 90 days as Chief of Staff. Set clear Objectives, be clear about your responsibilities, communicate effectively, organize tasks in advance and align your goals with the organization.

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