How a chief of staff can help your CIO or CTO function

CIO UK heard from CIOs, CTOs and their chiefs of staff about the role, responsibilities, and value the role can provide to a technology function and the whole organisation.

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"The pace of change is increasing, along with complexity," she said. "Speed wins, so becoming an individual or departmental bottleneck degrades business results. As a result, I believe the chief of staff role will become increasingly strategic, with the internally focused, 'keep the trains running on time' duties becoming less and less important to the job.

"This will require the chief of staff to deeply understand the company’s strategy, how all the work IT does contributes to it, and then perceive how the CIO would likely respond to questions and changes in the plan to execute that strategy — all when the CIO can't always be in the room. Having their own voice be respected in those situations will require significant confidence, as well as leadership and communications skills."

Hoffman, a chief of staff for half a dozen years, linked the position with the 'Information' part of the CIO role.

"A chief of staff helps bridge an organisation, starting at the top," he said. "One colleague described it as being the 'copper wire' of the organisation in that you conduct maximum information with minimal loss. That flow of information sets context which helps an organisation make better decisions sooner."

For further reading about the job of chief of staff, Hoffman recommend Chris Fussell's One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams, which includes an appendix specifically on the chief of staff. Another great read, according to Hoffman, is Captain Class by Sam Walker.

"His characterisation of the 'water carrier' is a powerful metaphor for servant leadership," Hoffman said. "It's a helpful mentality in this role where you're often essential but not always in the spotlight."

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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