Recently, the company I work for introduced a new structure of senior management that includes a new C-level position, the Chief Operating Officer. Not all companies have COOs which is why this position is unclear to many of its role and purpose. When doing a research on the role you will find different and quite ambiguous definitions online. Wikipedia’s definition is : “The COO is responsible for the daily operation of the company, and routinely reports to the highest ranking executive, usually the CEO. The COO is usually the second in commend at the firm…”.
FirstRound’s article “Make Operations Your Secret Weapon – Here’s How ” explores the position in much more detail. As cited in the article “..what COO really means, is business operations: how you operate your business, think about strategy, and move the business forward in growth.” To find the right COO, a company’s CEO must do a deep introspection to reveal the key traits that the COO will need to complement the CEO. “Think of it like a puzzle where your COO will fill in the missing pieces to round out your leadership team”.
A related article from Harvard Business Review ” Second in Command: The Misunderstood Role of Chief Operating Officer” identified seven different types of COOs listed below.
Hence, choosing the best fit for COO is more important than the candidate’s qualifications. In addition, there are few key traits that are non-negotiable for a COO, according to Laura Kozlowski, COO of Etsy and interviewed in the FirstRound’s article mentioned above. Those traits are:
- Proven execution
- Ego checked – “It’s vital that your candidate has their ego in check and clearly understands their responsibilities supporting the business” – says Kozlowski.
- Chemistry with the CEO
- Versatility – “Adaptability must be their default mindset”
The role of a COO seems to be a unique and quite demanding position requiring experience, understanding of strategy and creativity. This is why its the secret weapon to growth. It complements CEO’s strategy and ensures flawless execution which is why more CEO’s should put more focus on operations and the role of COO.