Friday, June 20, 2014

5 things a junior Chief of Staff can do to have an impact

Leader (comics)
Leader (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometimes, in a Chief of Staff role,  you question how to be that go-to person and really make an impact.   And if you aren't involved enough with your leader and your team, they won't think about you... which means you become less involved.  A vicious circle.  Here are some things I have done as a Chief of Staff  to add value to the team and stay involved. 

Read articles/listen to talks/ attend online seminars on the relevant topics of the group.  Then take action on what you learned.  The internet has so many great reference sites:  TED Talks, Wikipedia, special interest websites, Points of view, etc.  Search for relevant topics and get smart on them. This does 2 things: 1) it helps you get more knowledgeable in the topics relevant to your team's responsibility and 2) it may help your team members have fresh (external) views.  Many times experts in a company don't look outside for fresh perspectives.   Also do this for your leader and what interests her/him: read articles about leadership, management styles, etc – these can help him directly and are good ways to give him feedback on what he can work on to be more effective. 

Suggest you go to key meetings that keep you in the know.  Assuming you have access to your team's calendar, you can see the meetings that your team is attending.  Don’t be shy about asking whether it makes sense for you to attend some of these meetings and let them know the reason you believe it is important that you be there.   Worst case they say no but will appreciate your initiative.

 Spend time with team members. Make sure you spend time with team members and ask if they can use help with something.  Even better, if you see something that is not getting done, volunteer to do it.  It may not be completely in your wheelhouse, but you will learn by doing.

Talk regularly with people outside your immediate team.  Talking with people outside your team will give you new perspectives and insights into your team.  Improvements, things being done well, missed opportunities, etc... and you can take these back to the team in the form of suggestions, actions and recommendations. 

Above all, think like a leader.  If you were in your leader's shoes, what would you do?  If you were in a team members role, what would you do differently?  How can you help team members succeed with your leader?  Ask yourself what you should be doing now if you were the leader, and do it (or if it feels too risky, talk with your leader about it).  You may also find one of the team members is a good mentor to you - build that mentoring relationship to work better with your leader and your team.    

Practicing these 5 things will keep you involved and valued member of the team.