Updated: Mar 26
In business, it comes as no surprise that certain skill sets can lead to highly desired roles, especially if you stay in the same industry. While some skills, like a good work ethic and an ability to follow instructions can get you a comfortable salary and may be a useful tool, those skills alone won’t get you into the executive suite. In most cases, executive positions come with having mastered leadership, time management and communication skills as a prerequisite.
The good news is, most companies promote from within, giving any employee a chance to rise to the top tier if they work hard enough, even to the rank of COO
So, here’s three things you need to know if you want to become a COO.
In today’s blog, we’re discussing three things that you need to know if you want to become a COO
THE COO POSITION
The COO, or Chief Operating Officer is generally considered the number two position at a company and ‘heir apparent’ to the C.E.O. In this role, the COO is responsible for overseeing every aspect of the day-to-day workings of the company, making sure everything runs like a well-oiled machine.
This role comes with some very niche and specialized skills. Ideal candidates will possess top level leadership qualities, time management and communication skills and have a fundamental knowledge of both the business and industry they are a part of.
In a lot of cases, the COO of a company has risen up through the ranks as an MVP before landing at the feet of the CEO. It makes sense, someone with an intimate understanding of how the business works is the ideal person to help direct those same operations. It’s the reason from company to company, no two COO roles are the same.
Unfortunately, there are no degrees or courses that teach you how to be a Chief Operating Officer, but there are three things you need to know.
1. THINKING ABOUT THE BIGGER PICTURE
A very important requirement to become a COO is having a complete understanding of the operational workings of a company from the top down. Ultimately, one of the easiest ways to get that understanding is by staying at the same company, and working your way through the ranks, mastering different departments and business functions along the way.
What separates a COO from their C-suite counterparts is that the COO has mastered all of the functions that make up operations, not just the one that they started in. Needless to say, this wasn’t done jumping around from company to company and starting the learning process all over again.
The fact is, companies recognize loyalty and see the work that you put in. It’s no surprise that the employees who are willing to step out of their comfort zone at work and move around the company to see which areas they excel in, are in many cases, the ones who break through and become the branch manager, then the director of operations and ultimately the COO.
Keeping this in mind, if you want to become a COO, it is crucial to understand that your responsibility isn’t the wellbeing of any one specific function, but the wellbeing of the entire company.
When it comes down to it, having this ability to see the bigger picture from a company standpoint is a skill set that is unique to the position of COO. Other C-suite executives don’t need this skill because their responsibilities and duties are limited to their own specific function of the business. A COO on the other hand, is the executive who is overseeing and delegating their projects.
To say that a COO runs the day-to-day operations is semi-misleading. The COO is the executive who is in charge of managing the people who directly oversee the day-to-day operations of the company. People who fall under this oversight include business managers, production managers, and directors of operations just to name a few.
Keeping this in mind, it is important to understand that the position of COO is highly administrative, making sound management skills a requirement to fill this position. A COO needs to be able to juggle several different tasks at once, prioritising the importance of their day-to-day tasks and putting what absolutely needs to get done at the top of the list.
Being able to manage your own time is all well and good, but in order to become a COO, you have to get really good at managing other people's time as well. Especially because you are the one responsible for delegating tasks to the heads of other departments and holding them accountable for the established deadline. It gets better, in many cases these deadlines are all falling at different times. Juggling half-completed projects in parallel can be a nightmare, but a good COO can allocate the right people in the right places to get them over the line.
Being a good delegator also means knowing who the best people are on your teams, and making sure that they are the ones that are getting the work that is driving the project forward.
Chances are, if you have your sights set on the position of COO, you already have some type of business degree. And if you don’t, you should consider getting one as soon as possible. The fact is, to become a COO, you need both decades of industry experience, and an M.B.A or some other high level business degree. Because when it comes down to it, having decades of industry experience isn’t enough if you don’t understand the strategy behind making all the different functions operate. Business school arms you with an education of all the different functions of a business, how they operate and how to create a business plan.
However, education doesn’t just mean having a degree. Most COO’s spend decades at the same company building the unique set of skills needed to fill the position being offered. To become COO, an employee's education never stops as they rise through the ranks of a company, they are always willing to accept more responsibility and learn more about the different areas of operations.
As a COO, education is important, in more ways than one.
Realistically, any person that expects to fill the role as the right-hand man of the C.E.O should be really good at strategy development. In many cases, companies have brought in highly experienced COOs in order aid in the development of strategy and to help the C.E.O fit into their position. As more and more companies are discovering, especially more recently, the COO often has much more applicable industry experience than the C.E.O. This makes them the perfect person to oversee the development and execution of the CEO's strategy, while finding ways to tweak it for efficiency at the same time.
The role of COO is one of the most highly sought-after positions in the business world and is definitely not easy to achieve, often requiring skills and experience that is circumstantial to the needs of a company at that time.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become one. Certain core skills including leadership, time management, communication and the ability to delegate can greatly improve your chances.
Level up, get the necessary education, remain loyal to the company you work for and you could soon be second-in-command.
If you are looking to identify areas of operations to work on, the right advice is priceless. As business consultants and COOs, we work with entrepreneurs every day to set them up for success by identifying where their business is suffering. We help them pinpoint which processes to re-evaluate and adjust to grow their business. And best yet… We offer hassle-free, no obligation 30-minute discovery calls to see how we could help you. Just email us today.
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