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What is the Role of a COO?

The COO is a title whose responsibilities and role is not always clear. Unlike other C-suite roles, the role of a COO has always been a little bit of a mystery. And, there is a good reason for that. But let’s start with what COO means and what they do.

What is Chief Operating Officer (COO)?

A COO, is the chief operating officer or chief operations officer. This title is among the top-ranking executive positions and also part of the C-suite in an organization. A COO is a second-in-command after Chief Executive Officer or CEO. The COO reports to the CEO and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company. This position is more common at companies that have heavy operational activities such as manufacturing companies or transport service companies such as airlines. The responsibilities of a COO vary depending on the industry as well as the company. And their role changes according to the needs of the company.

Read: CEO vs COO vs CFO – Roles and Responsibilities

Which is why a COO is required to be multifaceted and adept in various skills, rather than excel in a few. This ensures that they are able to address and solve many different problems and are able to handle many different tasks. The COO is rarely one type of person with a certain skill set. COOs come from various different backgrounds and various career progression experiences.

COO Roles and Responsibilities

But here are a few skills COOs are usually expected to have;

  • Exceptional leadership and communication skills
  • An understanding of basic business functions like human resources, finance, sales, marketing, etc.
  • Strategic planning and business development skills
  • An understanding and knowledge of data analysis
  • Exceptional decision-making and problem-solving skills

Visit: Global HR Leaders Program (HRLP)

A COO is responsible for –

  • Overlooking aspects like,
    • Production
    • Sales
    • Marketing
    • R&D
    • Daily activities of executives
  • Implementing processes
  • Developing and implementing operational and business strategies
  • Leading change initiatives
  • Executing the directives of the CEO
  • Executing and maintaining policies and company culture
  • Building core teams
  • Set and achieve company goals for growth
  • Evaluating employee and company performance

Now here is what makes every COO unique and why there isn’t always clarity as to what a COO does. A COO’s job description is largely based on their CEO. The tasks and job at hand is illustrated in relation to their particular CEO. This makes this role situational and very unique.

Read: What is a Senior Leadership Role?

Types of COOs

While a COO has various kinds of responsibilities, there are also various types of COOs.

  • Some COOs are meant to help implement the CEO’s vision.
  • Some are appointed in order to make that CEO more effective in their own role.
  • COO’s are also appointed with the specific directive to eventually take the CEO’s place.
  • Some COO’s are brought in to mentor a younger CEO-founder who might not have the experience required for the job.
  • Most COOs are hired to complement the CEO’s skill set.

Whatever the role of a COO, it is certain is that the COO and the CEO must work well together. A great CEO-COO relationship can achieve everything they set out to do.


Q. Who is a COO?
A. A COO is a chief operating officer or a chief operations officer. They are the second-in-command after the CEO. A COO is among the top-ranking executive positions and also part of the C-suite in any given organization.

Q. Why is a COO role not well-defined?
A. Every COO is unique because coo job description is defined in relation to their CEO. It is specific and situational to the CEO.

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