Updated: May 13
It’s easy to get overlooked as the COO; you’re the second in command and the CEO’s little brother doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. But at the same time, you’re higher than everyone else, only reporting the CEO and, in general, having massive control over the daily operations of the company.
This puts you in a very unique, and tricky, situation – how do you ensure that you’re performing your role to the best of your ability when your role is so inherently unique? Is it possible, in a role that is, by definition, singular, to reap the benefits of working in a team?
That is to say, can other COOs help you improve your game, even if they’re from other companies?
THE BENEFITS OF COMMUNICATING WITH OTHER COOS
1. SHARING IS CARING
The feeling of isolation is common, you may feel like you have no one else to talk to within your business. There’s the CEO, sure, but they’re most likely to busy for you to bounce ideas off of them. The whole reason they hired you was because they felt like they had too much work, right? Well, who else is better to discuss ideas with than people who do the same job as you?
COOs love it when other COOs share their ideas with them, and equally appreciate the feedback and support they get in return when they share their ideas. It’s a mutually beneficial exchange that can result in you both getting support for your great ideas and getting inspiration from others who may have found success.
Keeping regular communication with other COOs can also be great for building a network of reliable connections that can help you in the long run. Struggling to decide what you should do in any given situation? Call Ben from the car manufacturing company, ask him for some advice. Or maybe Suzie from that Marketing Agency, she might know what to do. Being a COO can be a lonely and self-driven job, so getting some support and reliable contacts can be incredibly beneficial in the long run. Your boss will likely respect you taking the initiative.
Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, has been quoted as saying “Feeling confident – or pretending that you feel confident – is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.” As a COO, you should have personal experience with the idea of creating opportunities. You rarely have a specific task set out, you’re the second in command of the business, so with the exception of one person, what you say, goes. Creating and seizing opportunities is within your job description, so you are well equipped to create opportunities amongst other COOs by sharing your ideas and receiving theirs.
2. LEARN FROM THE BEST, SO YOU CAN BE THE BEST
“In terms of anything that anyone would do, it’s always having that insatiable desire to keep learning and growing personally with an organization. That was definitely instilled. We’re always trying to solve meaningful problems. That’s what we do every day.”
– COO Terri Mock
It’s in the nature of the COO position that you’re going to have to be constantly solving a variety of different problems every day – it can be handy to learn from the best; it’s likely that they’ve had to deal with the exact same problems before and have discovered a quick and effective solution. In this way, you can broaden your skillset and be equipped to deal with a variety of different situations, always prepared, regardless of what the day throws at you.
There are a variety of ways to learn from other COOs – not just messaging them on LinkedIn and hoping for a response. Podcasts such as ‘Second in Command’ feature many different COOs that share their experiences tackling a variety of different problems at various different companies – viewing and studying these real-life examples can be invaluable to you as you deal with issues at your own company.
Forget all of the textbooks and fancy terminology – knowing all of the formulas and equations to determine every aspect of a business’ finances won’t help you in the long run; experience is what separates the good COOs from the greats, and learning from other people’s experiences can be what makes you an effective member of your company’s executive team.
The COO position is, unfortunately, often overlooked in favour of its “cooler” older brother: the CEO. As a result, you may find that there isn’t the same amount of literature that you’ll find for other executive positions – virtually every CEO has written an autobiography or some self-help book, yet, with the exception of Sheryl Sandberg, most COOs just simply don’t write about their experiences with the position.
So, it’s crucial that you reap the benefits of other people’s experience, whether through talking to them personally or engaging with them through podcasts, conference talks, etc. Additionally, building a network of other COOs can get your name known in the industry – maybe, one day, you’ll be the COO that’s featured on the podcast that the greenhorns seek out to learn from the best!
3. YOU’LL FEEL INCREDIBLY EMPOWERED
Like I said before, the COO position can be incredibly isolating, lonely, and intimidating. At times, you may feel like you have too much information to consider, too many tasks to complete, too many projects to manage, too many employee disputes to resolve, etc. Heck, maybe you should consider getting your own COO that you can delegate tasks to!
Imposter syndrome can run rampant within executive roles at a company – you can constantly feel like you’re in over your head and that you’re not good enough to keep up with the demands of the company. Don’t worry and believe me when I say this: you’re not alone. There comes a point in every COOs life when they have these feelings, and you’ll understand this greatly when you talk to others.
They’ll share their stories about how they felt like everything was lost, and they just wanted to give up; how they felt inadequate and not up to the monumental task set before them. But then they’ll begin to tell you about their success stories – how, against all of this adversity, they managed to pull through and do a great job. What could be more motivating than that?
An unknown entrepreneur has been quoted as emulating the same feeling: “To empower yourself, collaborate don’t compete. Success is never a one-man job. One of the smartest ways to move your mission forward is to network. Gather a team of people who have strengths to fill in where you have weaknesses.” It’s the nature of business to collaborate – you, as a COO that has to manage a collection of different teams, should know that all too well. So, even though you may be alone in your job within the company, that doesn’t stop you from building your own team outside of the company – a team of COOs that share a similar burden and can reassure you of your abilities.
By communicating with other COOs, and learning from others who have come before you, you can seriously improve your skillset and become a far better leader and member of the team. The benefits don’t just stop at work performance, however – the mental toll that comes with an inherently isolating job can be alleviated by talking to others who you can relate to and who will understand your struggles greater than anyone
Other COO’s know the struggle and can help you build invaluable skills you won’t learn anywhere else.
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