A COO’s job is multifaceted. “The chief operating officer (COO) is a senior executive tasked with overseeing the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of a business.” - Investopedia
COOs also bring leadership, vision and interpersonal skills to the table that help motivate staff. They steer employees and entire companies toward an ultimate vision of the future.
Here are 5 abilities every successful COO should have:
1. COOs Must Have An Ability To Oversee
COOs have the ability to see the bigger picture. They are able to bring balance and direction to the day-to-day tasks in a company.
“In general, founders are excited by big ideas. A COO should balance out that visionary tendency with a practical follow-through. The perfect COO for a startup is someone who can take the ideas of plans of the CEO, break them down into actionable steps, and ensure that they're done efficiently.” - Forbes
2. COOs Must Have An Ability To Visualize
COOs don’t just see the bigger picture, they know how to navigate within it. They see obstacles and passageways that others are blind to.
The COOs primary responsibility is to recognize the delta between where a business is today and where it is going. They must possess skills that can guide entrepreneurs, CEOs and employees along the path of least resistance.
“The CEO must have a bold vision, and the COO must have an ambitious yet achievable operational plan to realize that future state.” - The Innovation Framework
3. COOs Must Have An Ability To Lead Others
COOs are strong leaders. If you study the best operating managers in the world, you will notice that great leadership is their most natural talent.
COOs that are “strong leaders encourage healthy group dynamics. They stay ahead of issues and make sure everyone on their team [especially the CEO] feels supported in their role. ” - COO Alliance Blog
Since they have an ability to see the bigger picture, they can lead others along their path with confidence. COOs can persuade and charm others into following them - negotiation skills are a must!
4. COOs Must Have Integrity
Integrity is key in business and good COOs have it in spades! In fact, billionaire and CEO Warren Buffett counts integrity among the most important qualities of any great leader.
“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you.” - Warren Buffett
Here, Buffett is saying that even if someone is intelligent and motivated to work, they will take advantage of you if they lack integrity.
5. COOs Must Have An Ability To Be Honest
All COOs need to possess the ability to be honest with themselves and with others.
Since COOs are close to the day-to-day activities in a company, they have a unique bird’s-eye view of how everything works together. Their interdepartmental knowledge means they can offer honest insight and help to refine processes and make them more efficient.
Constructive honesty is key. Honesty, much like integrity, is a choice that we make every day. Brutal honesty can be counterproductive while evading important issues can be equally as damaging. Thus, COOs must have the ability to communicate in an honest but constructive way.
The role of a COO can vary, but certain skills are non-negotiable. A great COO will counterbalance the CEO and bring a sense of direction to the entire company. There is no doubt that behind these professional and interpersonal skills is the perfect COO!
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