Getting started as the Chief of Staff (CoS) for an organization can be a daunting task, especially if you’re young and relatively inexperienced. An effective CoS can juggle several responsibilities at once — organizing day-to-day tasks, planning events and meetings, and filling gaps of knowledge and analysis that the core team has yet to drive across the finish line– all while developing and maintaining an effective network of communication between customers, employees, and executives.
In this article, Yasmin Bashirova, a Chief of Staff operating in the tech industry, offers her advice to young professionals looking to become the sort of Chief of Staff who can help support an organization and elevate it and move it forward.
Preparation is the key to success in any job, and a Chief of Staff is no different. To be successful as a Chief of Staff, you must be more prepared than anyone else in your organization. Event planning, strategic planning, research, day-to-day scheduling, and organizing company meetings are just some aspects of the Chief of Staff position that require you to think several steps ahead. Create detailed plans and always be prepared for whatever can and might go wrong.
Don’t Be Afraid to Start from Scratch
Your primary job as a Chief of Staff is to bridge the gap between your organization’s institutional knowledge and new strategic initiatives that can elevate it to greater heights. Doing so will sometimes require you to build new ideas from the ground up. This means that you’re going to have to be innovative, creative, and fearless.
Don’t be afraid to introduce new ways of measuring success within your organization, whether that means creating key performance indicators that didn’t previously exist or rethinking the way existing ones are counted. Starting from square one can be intimidating, but frequently it’s when you dare to step onto the frontline and create something brand new for your organization that you’re able to shine the brightest.
Lean on Your Strengths
No young person with relatively little experience will immediately excel at every aspect of a position as broad as a Chief of Staff. Getting a handle on all of your responsibilities is going to take some time. Creating a streamlined and efficient system to carry out your plans will take even longer than that.
Until that time comes, lean on your strengths. For example, if you excel in strategic finance, start by creating high-impact value-added products in that function before branching out into others, such as product or marketing. Success in your area of expertise will allow you to extend your capabilities into other domains.
Meet People from Different Departments Early On
Creating an effective communication channel amongst all of your organization departments will be one of your most important roles as Chief of Staff. Forging relationships with leaders and other members of these departments will be vital to your success as early as possible. Reach out to each department and begin building a rapport right away so that you can act as a diplomat if and when cohesion begins to crumble.
Shadowing people within your organization is a great way to understand how their department operates, too. Gaining this intimate knowledge can lend insight into how you might help all the various moving parts of your organization coexist.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Feedback
Becoming a successful CoS is an iterative process that is going to require steady improvement. Because of your high visibility within the organization, you will be open to criticism, and you should be welcoming of it, provided it’s given constructively.
Keep in mind that constructive criticism is the best way to correct your mistakes and grow as a Staff Chief. Let your peers and your superiors know early on that you are open to their feedback and that you’ll do your best to use it as a recalibration tool as you approach your position.
About Yasmin Bashirova
Yasmin Bashirova went to college to become an energy resource engineer and worked as an Investment Banking Analyst at Goldman Sachs. She then worked as the Chief of Staff at an e-commerce startup that strives to bring trust and simplicity to the peer-to-peer used car market. She draws from her engineering, finance, and analytical backgrounds to deliver data-driven results for many projects in her current role.