COO – The CXO who keeps it ticking



Among all CXO positions, Chief Operating Officer is one of the highest ranking leadership positions in an organization. The COO is a part of top management and is responsible for the daily operation of the company. This CXO position is considered as the second in command in the organization to the highest CXO position in the company’s leadership ladder, Chief Executive Officer.

Unlike other CXO positions, it is not easy to define the job responsibilities of a COO. The role is defined in relation with the higher CXO position, CEO. The style of management and leadership, power and responsibility of a COO changes from organization to organization. It is difficult to discern whether the COO who has been successful in one company would be successful in another company. The selection of COO resembles to the selection process of leadership positions like Vice President or Chief of Staff.

The roles and responsibilities of a COO –

The prime goal of this CXO position is to ensure that the company is running in the most efficient manner. The COO also sustains the operation of management system. Essential functions at this leadership level are –

  • Provide day to day leadership and management to an organization in a way that reflects the mission and core values of the company.
  • A COO is responsible for the sales, profitability, cash flow, and business goals of the organization.
  • At this leadership level, the COO is responsible for measuring internal and external processes of the company. The COO provides accurate, complete and timely reports on the operating condition of the company.
  • Development, communication and implementation of growth strategies and processes.
  • Work with management team to ideate plans for operational infrastructure of systems, processes and personnel to meet the desired rapid growth objectives of an organization.
  • At this CXO position, a working professional motivates and leads a high performance management team.
  • The COO stays in direct contact with top management of clients and acts as client-care officer.
  • Raise additional capital to enable the organization to meet sales, growth and market share targets.
  • Nurture the organization and foster a success oriented and smooth working environment in a company.

A COO contributes to the organization by performing above KRAs. However, this CXO model ends up fulfilling lot of responsibilities and performs different roles as required. This is how a COO works for an organization –

  • As the executor – As an executor, this particular CXO leads execution strategies developed by the top management team. The need to fill this leadership position is prevalent in organizations that are operationally intensive.
  • The change management agent – COO leads change in the system of management in an organization.
  • The Mentor – As a person at higher leadership level, he plays the role of a mentor to the management personnel in the organization.
  • The Partner – It is important to take the ownership of an organization and function more like a partner.
  • The other half – The COO complements the experience, knowledge and leadership style of the senior CXO. If the CEO has an intimidating influence, then COO imbues a calming effect and vice versa. It is all about instilling a sense of balance in the organization.
  • The heir of the organization – Whenever a company is looking to hire a new CEO, the board looks upon COO as the most eligible candidate.
  • As the MVP – At times, this CXO position is handed over to an employee as a promotion. This happens when the top management feels that the person is too valuable to lose.

What the CEO expects from a COO –

Both the CXO positions work together and complement each other in the operation of business. A COO who is second in command to CEO owes the person at higher leadership level the following –

  • Respect – It is imperative for a COO to respect the CEO and believe in his strategic leadership.
  • Ego check – Both the CXO positions need to work in harmony. As both are on high leadership levels, ego may come into picture. A COO needs to check the ego at the door.
  • To keep an eye on execution – CEOs generally focus more on strategy. So, they expect their respective COO to focus on execution part.

A CEO ensures a transparent communication, clear decision right and shares the spotlight with COO.

This CXO position was not so prevalently known previously. However, in the last few years, prominent companies have announced new COOs. These include Microsoft, RadioShack, Airbus, Allstate, KPMG’s U.S. Subsidiary, Nissan, BellSouth and Apple.

A COO happens to be the person who runs the show. The absence of a COO leaves the company with a major hole in the organizational structure. The ramifications of not filling this CXO position are perilous and can prove to be detrimental to the company. It is imperative for an organization to hire a COO to ensure that management is properly monitored and strategies are effectively executed.