As a company grows and becomes more complex, hiring a chief of staff can be a smart move. In the political arena, the COS is a leader and trusted advisor who takes responsibility and delivers results for the president or governor. In the corporate world, the COS understands the company’s sensitivities, customers, and team members who make it all work.
While the COS concentrates on troubleshooting and paying attention to the daily needs of the company, he makes room for the CEO and COO to spend more time strategizing and focusing on the growth of the company.
The COO/COS Partnership
Although the COO and COS have complementary roles, they handle very different day-to-day responsibilities.
The outward-facing COO is strategic and concerned with client retention, revenue, bookings, profitability, pipeline, and client and consumer satisfaction. On the other hand, the COS is concerned with employee satisfaction, recruiting efficiency, training, and facilities. When a new opportunity comes along, the CEO and COO can focus on closing the deal and making it work, while the COS finds, trains, and outfits people to execute it.
My company hired a COS when it reached around 400 employees and it was clear that we needed a senior executive to focus on internal projects and initiatives to support future growth. An example of the return on investment came in early February, when snow and ice were beating down three of our six East Coast offices. The COS focused on closing offices and ensuring employees' safety, which freed up the COO to drive results in a strategic partnership agreement with a new client.
What You Want in a COS
A COS can offer valuable “gut checks” to the CEO and other members of the C-suite, but he or she needs special skills to succeed:
• The ability to be a steel trap: The COS is privy to highly confidential discussions and needs to maintain the complete trust of all those with whom he or she interacts.
• Confidence with a small ego: An effective COS must have the authority and confidence to make decisions but be content remaining largely outside the spotlight. When functioning correctly, the COS enables other team players to do great things.
• Openness and intuition: A COS must believe that all feedback is good and keep communication open across all levels. He or she should be able to listen to what people are saying (while understanding what people aren’t saying) to identify and address underlying issues.
In an organization with a good COS, the COO can focus on running the business, while the COS manages the company and the CEO leads the enterprise. This C-suite dream team ensures that each part of the organization will get the attention it deserves.