On page 18 of the paper version of Fortune magazine (I have searched and searched for a link, I will update when I find one) they talk about the role of Chief of Staff.
I happen to be a huge advocate of this role for leaders in complex, large organizations. As much as we like as leaders to say “we need to be in all the details” businesses are too complex today for people to be in all the details, there isn’t time and capacity to do so.
That is what Fortune’s article discusses. When I served as a VP in US Division of The Coca-Cola Company I had a similar role – an Executive Assistant. The role was an up and coming Director who assisted me in some of the background necessary to complete to run the complex business we were in.
An example of how that role came into play: I needed to be in a meeting across the country with a key customer, and my bonus amounts were due to HR. I sat down with my EA and said “here are my top performers. Here are my not so good performers. Here are my concerns with how the typical bonus apportionment will work for these people (because of low salaries or relatively low levels to the work being done). So we take the guideline, create a 130 person spreadsheet with salaries and bonus recommendations and the pool we have available, and try to accomidate all of my other “tweeks” based on my comments.
He went off and did that work, which I understand took 5 hours. It isn’t easy – 130 people with fixed salaries but variable amounts and then an overall to hit – we’ve all done this I’m sure, it isn’t fun. I landed in CA and looked at it, made 2 changes, and off it went to HR for their look and additional insight.
I made the meeting and had time on the plane to refine my talk and rehearse my thoughts, and HR got the spreadsheet.
Now its easy to say “someone else can do this”. My response is “and just who would that be?”
You line teams are doing what they are paid to do. HR should not do this – they should review what it is that you think is appropriate given your intimate knowledge of the situation. And just who else is there?
If you have a leadership role now, designate someone as part of their job to be your “right hand person”. You don’t necessarily have to have a title and a fulltime role, but you do need someone who is aligned with your thinking and values who can “do it as if you were there”.
And if you are not yet at that level, I challenge you in a different way – who can you be a “right hand person” for? The training and learning you will get will accelerate your mind – and your career.