A chief operating officer, commonly referred to as a COO, is one of the top positions available at the executive level of an organization. The role of COO is different from other executive positions because there are no common responsibilities that companies share. Instead, the COO often takes their duties at the discretion of the Chief Executive Officer, or the CEO. The role changes depending on both the person and the position. Not only can the role change from organization to organization but the role can even change when there is a change in leadership as well.

Moving Up

The COO often works their way up through the organization or, like Robert Bratt, through a series of organizations. Oftentimes, the COO is the second in command should anything happen to the CEO or if the CEO retires and moves on. The position is commonly used as breeding ground for leadership successors. In these cases, the COO will learn the ropes by taking on more responsibility and the CEO will act as more of an adviser to the executive staff.

How does a COO become a CEO?

In the situation that COO is being groomed to take over the role of CEO, there are several things that need to give way for the transition to happen. The move needs to be for the right reason, such as providing support to other members of the executive committee or to provide leadership that a CEO does not have time for. The COO must also fit between the role of COO and CEO. For this to happen, the two people in these positions are generally required to have a positive relationship as well as a healthy amount of respect for each other. This relationship operates as a partnership and the match should be natural rather than forced. The timing must also be considered if the COO is going to take over the top position as CEO. The timing needs to be as organic as possible and it should only come at a time when both parties feel the transition is right. Anything else might look like a coup and may cause instability within the organization.

Succeeding as COO

For a COO to succeed, their power relations with the CEO must balanced. The partnership between the COO and the CEO is vital for the success of the COO. Anytime there is a breakdown in trust between the two can lead to serious complexities in everyday operations. For this to happen, an organization needs to have the right person in the position of the COO. This position is very versatile the candidate needs to fit in the CEO as well with board of directors. It also works best if the COO has the leadership skills needed to lead the entire executive level as well as the management of the organization.

Being a COO is a position that carries a lot of respect. The best COO for an organization will be one that has the right skills, personality and timing to fit into the company’s culture as well as their future ambitions.