Updated: Mar 26
In any business venture, reaching the executive level is an accomplishment, as it signifies the mastery of a specific function, but no executive title is more of an accomplishment than the title of COO. That is because as COO, you have developed a deep knowledge of each function and the part that it plays in the creation of the product that you’re selling. But, for someone new to operations, it is important to identify areas of efficiency and inefficiency and then create a strategy in order to optimize them.
So, what are six things every new COO should pay attention to?
In today’s blog, we’re discussing six things every new COO should pay attention to.
1. CREATING A WINNING CULTURE
As a leader, one of the most important things you can do is build a positive, winning culture. The easiest way to do this is to lead by example.
As Chief Operating Officer, you’re expected to be the company culture champion. You should be the model employee, displaying all the virtues and positive traits you expect to see in the business. You want the people around and below you to be inspired, motivated and find higher purpose in their work.
So, how do you do this?
For starters, lines of communication should be open. Your direct reports should have access to you regularly and be involved in a certain level of decision-making. Give them space to express their observations, and then ask them to create solutions. This often leads to greater transparency, trust and self-determination that creates a sense of ownership in their roles.
Secondly, be transparent about how success is measured. Your teams should understand where the bar is and how much work is required to get there. Make it clear which teams or individuals are responsible for specific tasks and support them while performing those tasks.
And finally, reward and recognize publicly. People and achievements should be recognized and publicly celebrated. There’s no better way to build your employee’s truth, loyalty and pride in their work than by showering them with praise and rewards. This culture of reward and recognition should be adopted and used at every level of the business.
2. A BUSINESS’ MANY MOVING PARTS
What separates a COO from other executives? While other executives have only mastered one specific function and the part that it plays in the company, a COO has a much deeper understanding of all the functions that are involved in the business and how they work together to create the product or service being sold.
A new COO should make it a priority to gain a working knowledge of all the departments that make up the operations side of the business. You’ll need to understand each team’s workflow, staffing arrangements, logistics – even how they interact with each other on a day-to-day basis.
A business often operates as a closed system where an interruption in one area can lead to larger problems elsewhere in the business. Understanding this complex dynamic can help the COO to know when and where to intervene.
Being too granular or having too much of a birds-eye-view means you can either miss things or misinterpret the big picture. A COO’s focus must be on understanding all the moving parts of a business without getting bogged down in detail.
3. INDUSTRY CHANGES
A COO isn’t always expected to the expert at a company, especially if a business deals in tech, medicine or engineering. But that doesn’t mean the executive leadership team shouldn’t be at least passionate about the industry they’re working in. The COO should be across industry news, trends and changes that relate to the product you’re selling.
This will allow the COO to make real-time decisions about strategy, pricing as well as adopting any new tech or products that can give you an edge over the competition.
While the COO of Toyota might not be able to fix your car, they should be able to tell you about the future development of hybrid-powered sedans.
4. TEAM DEVLOPMENT
A leader is only successful as the team he creates. So of course, one of the most important areas that a new COO can pay attention to is team building. As great as the systems and vision of the CEO might be, it falls on the employees to deliver, and then onto the COO to make sure it’s done as efficiently as possible.
It should be a top priority of any new COO to conduct performance reviews of all employees that are under the operations umbrella. These reviews will help weed out employees who are not meeting the standards that the company has set, and will show areas where efficiency can be improved via staffing changes.
These changes allow for new employees to be trained to meet your new standards of efficiency and build dedication to the company culture.
In smaller companies, it is often common practice that the CEO is the point runner on all projects that are being strategically implemented.
But as a company grows, this attention detail no longer becomes feasible. The CEO morphs into the company’s face and transitions into a role that’s way more “big-picture” than it used to be. The COO steps in to take over the dirty work, overseeing operations and managing the executive leadership team while the CEO takes on loftier ambitions.
But once the business grows again, the COO might find themselves in a similar situation the CEO did not too long ago. It’s important that the COO can effectively delegate functions as well as keep an eye on their progress. That’s not just giving someone a job to do either, delegation also means that the right people are trained and placed in positions where they’ll be effective.
6. DEVELOPING STRATEGY
While the duties of a COO are often administrative and deal with the day-to-day duties of running operations, COOs also have a hand in developing business plans, strategies and budgets before they are implemented.
A focus of any new COO should be sitting down with the CEO and reviewing the different systems that have been developed for the functions of operations. The COO may have valuable insight and offer a fresh perspective to a situation the CEO hasn’t been able to figure out.
COO’s also usually have decades of experience in the industry that they are working in and can offer valuable insight to a CEO who may have vision and a winning mentality but lacks the strategic experience to move the company in the desired direction.
A COO’s role isn’t that of a nightwatchman, content to sit a and monitor a business as it is. It should all be about looking for opportunities, developing plans to address them and then implementing the changes needed for growth and profitability.
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 with our founder to see how we could help you. Just email us today.
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