The truth is, everyone's career has to start somewhere, and for most people, that somewhere is generally at the bottom of the corporate ladder. It takes time, determination, experience and a little bit of luck to advance in the world of business. But while many other executive positions have defined pathways, the role of COO is a lot more nuanced. How do you train or prepare for a role that is so specific to the industry it exists within?
In today’s blog, we’re discussing the role of a COO, and give you some insider advice on how to hack your own career path.
An important area of leadership in any business is leading by example, and there is no position is a company that requires more work and attention to detail than that of the COO.
Acting as the driving force in implementing the strategy developed by the CEO, the COO is directly responsible for managing the day-to-day operations; from product sourcing to final delivery, the COO is the individual making sure that all the different functions of the business are operating efficiently and in synch. Of course, this habit starts early on in someone's career; attention to detail, efficiency, and a strong work ethic are all things to strive for when wanting to quickly rise through the ranks of your career path.
Necessity is the mother of invention, especially in the business world, and it’s the main reason why the role of COO has become so popular recently. One of the main reasons behind the rise in the role of COO is the unique skill set that they bring to the table. COOs are both strategic and administrative, they have the ability to aid in the development of systems then implement those systems and manage their efficiency.
Just to add to the mystery and elusiveness of this position, the skills required are often highly circumstantial to the industry or sector the business operates within. The degree of your knowledge can depend greatly depending on the needs of the CEO. While an aptitude and understanding of the product and industry is generally required, no-one expects the COO to be the technical lead on any given project.
In saying that, many of the skills imbued by COOs are transferrable across sectors and operational understanding can be learned over time.
BEING A LEADER
As COO, leadership and the ability to motivate are one of the most important skills to have. Building different teams in different departments, assigning the tasks to the most capable team members and holding the teams accountable to deadlines are all things that a COO needs to be fluent in. As COO, it is important that you establish yourself as a leader so that the people working under you recognize your experience, see your vision and trust your judgment in regards to the direction the company is headed.
Just being a good leader isn’t enough, the role of COO requires exceptional time management skills. Due to the complex nature of operations and all the different teams involved in its success, the COO needs to be able to allocate their attention appropriately.
Projects don’t always run concurrently and the many moving parts of a business require someone who can not only plan well, but is agile enough to readjust and reshuffle if emergencies arise.
Being a good time manager also means being available to your direct reports if they need it. If you are constantly booked out or unavailable for communication, this disconnect creates further division and the people who work underneath you.
In all things, communication is key, especially in hacking your career path. As COO, you can expect to be meeting and interacting with many different people at various different levels of the company, so fluent communication skills often come as a pre requisite to this position.
COOs are key in supply and shipping negotiations, manage multiple teams at once and often act as an information hub to employees. The COO is often the one issuing company statements, so it is necessary to be able to convey information in a clear and concise manner to avoid misunderstanding.
To be successful at the executive level, it is important to become comfortable with making decisions. The COO is responsible for implementing the CEOs strategy, and making all the decisions that come with it. From negotiating supplier rates and terms, to organizing shipping schedules to start production and scheduling the final delivery of service, there is a decision to be made.
COOs will examine analytical data, weigh up the cost and consequences of each option before making their decision.
Albert Einstein may have said “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign.?” While this may be true, for a COO, organization is key.
In order to increase efficiency, the COO has to be able to organize different areas of the company until their performance is optimized and they are running in harmony with each other. In order to make this happen it is critical that the COO is fluent in;
The organization of reports, documents and other clerical materials related to business functions.
The organization of company events, retreats and trainings.
The organization of teams, making sure that the right people are in the right situations for success.
The organization of their time, making sure that the most important tasks are given top priority on a daily basis.
DON’T BE SCARED OF RESPONSIBILITY
Ultimately, the rise in popularity in the role of COO is based on an ever-growing need for CEOs to have a right-hand man. They’re after someone who can shoulder the load and is willing to accept the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of a business.
With the level of commitment that goes into being a COO, being irresponsible isn’t an option. People who reach the level of COO generally have a history of accepting more responsibility at both their jobs and in their personal life as a means of developing their leadership skills.
In business, it can never hurt to be the person who gets things done, and facing more responsibility head on can certainly be a way to set yourself apart from the rest in any industry.
GET REALLY GOOD AT SALES
While sales may only be a piece of the business puzzle, it’s still a core function, and one that is very important to operations. Internally, sale skills are often used at the executive level in the form of negotiations.
As the chief of operations, the COO is the person handling the negotiations for raw materials and logistics, making the art of sales an important skill to have so they can negotiate a deal that is profitable for the company.
But sales aren’t just about negotiations and price, part of a COOs role is to sell themselves to other employees, it is important that other employees respect the COO and recognize them as a leader and someone that can be followed in order to keep the company moving forward.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR ADVICE
It’s true, even the people who are in charge have people that they go to when they need to hear someone else’s perspective. By asking your peers for advice, even in a leadership role, it shows that you are fostering an inclusive environment and that you value the ideas of your employees, the success of a business is ultimately about collaboration, you never know when someone is going to suggest something you haven't thought of yet.
If you’re looking for ways to fast track your career path or expert consulting services on how to be a good COO 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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