Updated: May 11
For senior executives, a promotion to COO is just one step away from the top job. They’re the second in charge and responsible for the day-to-day operation of the business. But alongside the perks, prestige and power of a COO is a level of pressure that may take those unsuited to the role by surprise.
In fact, a lot of people finally rise to the top of the corporate ladder only to discover what organizational consultants have known all along - being at the top isn’t easy.
So, if becoming the Chief Operational Officer of a company is on your radar, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of such a demanding position?
The role of a COO or Chief Operation Officer can vary depending on the organization, especially in the microcosm of startups. Despite being second-in-command, a COO’s roles and responsibilities often overlap with that of the CEO.
So, what’s the difference between a CEO and a COO?
CEO or COO?
CEOs are responsible for laying out an organization’s strategy, including introducing new lines of business and adding acquisitions. In some other cases, CEOs are responsible for making decisions about which businesses should be offloaded. CEOs are also often called upon to travel from country to country, business to business acting as a sort of corporate salesperson.
COOs, on the other hand, have a much firmer grasp of all business operations. That means that they understand just how different business functions interact with one another. They know exactly what is needed when the organization needs a tune-up so that performance can be boosted and so that the highest quality products and services can be availed.
As you can expect, a lot of CEOs don’t like COO duties as they are typically too task-oriented and too commonplace. Whether you are a CEO or a COO, being in a position of leadership can be terrific. That’s because you’re it. When people see you, they see the organization.
PROS OF BEING A COO
· YOU’RE THE STAR OF THE SHOW
You are synonymous with your company’s operations, which means that you make all the major decisions. You’re across all operational aspects of the business and can drive change with real, measurable outcomes. When you are COO, you are ultimately responsible for disrupting old traditions and replacing them with more efficient operational processes.
As COO you have the power to inject life into your organization. When your strategies succeed, the sense of accomplishment that one feels as a COO is unbeatable.
· YOU SET THE TONE AND STANDARD FOR YOUR COMPANY CULTURE
Have you always wanted to work in an environment that promotes wellness? Maybe your passion is encouraging work-life balance. As a COO, you have the power to effect change in your organization. Want your office space to be a little more joyful? Why not add some fully-stocked breakout gaming rooms like they have in Silicon Valley?
A good COO focuses on factors that can create a successful company and a positive work environment. As we all know, happy employees are engaged employees and when employees are content and enthusiastic, the benefits will easily trickle down.
· YOU HAVE A UNIQUE TOP-DOWN PERSPECTIVE
A good COO understands every role in the organization; they take time to fully understand how each department interacts and contributes to the final business product. It’s this unique perspective that gives them the capacity to identify gaps and understand what the organization requires.
CONS OF BEING A COO
· YOU WILL HAVE TO WORK HARDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE
All the respect and admiration that you will receive as COO means one thing; that you will have to work harder than anyone else in the entire organization. If you don’t, you are just as dispensable as the intern in the mailroom. That’s the COO title- it comes with extremes that can be hard to handle. As such, one must be prepared and well suited for the job, otherwise it is easy to crack under the pressure.
· FAILURES ARE INEVITABLE
Your ideas and efforts aren’t always going to work. There will be good days and a lot of bad days. On some days, you will be so proud of the things that your business has accomplished. But this won’t be the case every day. A good COO owns their failures, doesn’t pass off blame and seeks to adapt to the lessons learned.
· POWER IS INTOXICATING
It can be difficult not to let the power, reputation and status go to your head. The command and respect of others around you can be intoxicating, so you’re not likely to hear a lot of disagreement.
· ITS LONELY AT THE TOP
When you are COO, the buck begins and stops with you. Whenever you have to make difficult choices, there is really no one that you can turn to. Sure, you can turn to your board for advice, but ultimately the final decisions rest with you. And this kind of pressure can be debilitating, overbearing in some cases.
There’s a reason why the COO job is a powerful, influential and highly sought-after role in the corporate world. The pressures and demands can be intense, and to succeed requires a lot of patience.
The role of COO can be thrilling and exhilarating, and just like other roles, it’s also characterized by numerous ups and downs. So, if you want to be an effective COO for your organization, then you have to brace yourself for everything in between.
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