Column: You are worth it
By Cressida Hamilton, executive coach at Chryse Coaching
COOs have a lot on their plate. They run from meeting to meeting (or hop from call to call to be more precise), start email clearance at six in the evening once off those calls, try to keep multiple parties happy, from clients to team members, and deal with one crisis after another on top of their ‘day job’. Yet, they are calm and pragmatic when talking about what they are going through. But it’s clear they are stressed, fatigued and struggling with personal resilience.
As a former COO, CAO and control officer, I understand. It’s a tough gig. The strength and skill of a COO lies in their ability to manage or avert crises. They are the glue that holds organisations together, keeping everyone happy while ensuring the smooth running of the operation.
Despite this, the COO is often undervalued and underappreciated, and the role can be considered a barrier to getting things done as well as a cost some organisations can ill afford.
So as a COO, how do you demonstrate your value to stakeholders, businesses and strategic partners? Having been in this space, here are three things I have learned:
– Dictate your role: The danger of the COO role is becoming consumed with managing every crisis, leaving little time or energy to be strategic. This is a mistake. Be clear on what your role entails and be the driver of it. Take the lead in creating and driving strategic change. Create and use good diagnostics and intelligence to enable the CEO and partners to make good business decisions. Be accountable for the people strategy, from recruitment to offboarding, and hold others responsible. Be clear on what you own and drive the change required to move the organisation forwards.
– Ensure your mandate is clear: One of the most common reasons for the failure of the COO role is a lack of clear mandate and visible backing from the CEO and/or partners. If the CEO is seen to waver in their support for, or worse, undermine the COO, the role will fail, and the incumbent will feel demoralised and demotivated. Agree with your CEO what you are accountable for and expect their support. This is most important when you face conflict with someone in the business. If your stance is right, you need to know the CEO will have your back.
– Communicate, communicate, communicate: You must communicate your success. Not what you did personally, rather, you must communicate regularly what has been delivered and how the role tangibly supports the business. This is not an ego trip. This is about communicating succinctly and factually what your role has achieved in a language the business understands. Averted or minimised an operational loss? Highlight it and be clear on why it could have been a significant issue. Increased process efficiency through automation? Talk about the impact of that change and how it enables more sustainable revenue generation. Remember that people have short memories. If you are mired in crisis management and don’t communicate everything else you do, you run the risk of your role being seen as transactional and reactive.
The final thing to remember is the community you have around you. Talk to your peers, share stories and words of wisdom and advice. Relationships with your peers in the industry and organisations like The Drawdown are here to support you, champion your cause and make you feel less isolated. This is vital in today’s virtual world, so use them and value them.