A company’s chief operations officer—or COO—is responsible for one of the most important aspects of business: its day-to-day operations. Because the current and future success of any business depends on it functioning like a well-oiled machine, making the right hire for the COO position is key.
But while many company leaders will focus on the traits they do want to look for in a COO, it’s equally important to know what you don’t want to look for, as certain traits or characteristics that may seem harmless in another position could make a candidate a poor fit for the COO role. To share their insights on the issue, the members of Young Entrepreneur Council discuss eight types of people you might want to steer clear of when hiring your company’s COO and why they likely wouldn’t be the right person for the job.
1. Someone Who Lacks Structure And Discipline
Hiring the right COO for your company might be one of the most crucial things you do that will either make or break your company’s success and culture. A person who lacks structure, discipline and the ability to grow with the company would be someone you would want to avoid. The right COO has to share your vision for the company, its goals and its growth in the same way you do in order for you to work as a unit to reach those goals and achieve that growth. A big skill to look for in a person is generally someone who is a leader and not a follower because that type of person tends to find a way to get things done and streamline processes in a constructive way. – Roman Smolevskiy, A+ Construction Pro
2. Someone Who Is A Mirror Image Of The CEO
The COO should complement the CEO’s knowledge, experience and style. Hence, the first thing to avoid is bringing in a mirror image of the CEO. While the COO has to have the ability to follow, there needs to be a balance. Not being ready to take on responsibility or refusing to accept blame makes them a poor fit. A COO doesn’t need to be a “yes” man or woman. One should be ready to engage in a healthy debate and shouldn’t be afraid to “agree to disagree” sometimes. When a COO thinks that they are a natural successor to the CEO role, it’s a disaster. The COO is expected to execute strategies decided by the management and, in many cases, handle special projects like change management, organizational development and more. Avoid someone who is not a good listener and who can’t inspire the team. – Vinay Indresh, Spacejoy
3. Someone Who Is Proud
The best COOs put the team first. There should be zero ego. These COOs usually find ways to highlight others. They tend to give the stage to others and train them to be the next COO. More so, a good COO will find ways to share the limelight with others, not prioritize their own pride. – Daisy Jing, Banish
4. Someone Who Leads With Emotion And Ideology
Avoid those personalities who lead primarily with emotion, assumptions and ideology—one might say, someone political in nature. There’s something to be said for a CEO rooted in subjective and emotional leadership, but a good No. 2—usually a COO—is curious and questioning, and grounds recommendations, decisions and actions in data (a solid understanding of finance is critical), more objective logic and fact-finding. A good COO doesn’t see their job primarily as guiding company principles (nor find fulfillment in it), but rather, aligning and calibrating them to reality and grounded truth. If a candidate is more interested in “evaluating” cultural values and starts making recommendations that aren’t grounded in data or fact-seeking, they’re probably looking at the wrong role. – Jake Goldman, 10up Inc.
5. Someone With No Success Stories
When hiring a COO for the company, I would avoid someone with no success stories. I would be interested in knowing the problems they encountered in their past work experiences and how they came up with the right solutions. Hiring a solution-oriented mind answers many questions for me. It showcases not only their skills and aptitude, but also their commitment and character. That’s a lot of items marked on my checklist. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
6. Someone Who Can’t Take Decisive Action
When I was in search of a COO, one of the most underrated capabilities I learned to look for was composure. A COO will inevitably be tasked with numerous dynamic priorities and will need to calmly direct those around them in the right direction to get the job done. Emotion is translated down from the leaders of an organization, and if the COO of the company is calmly managing many priorities, those reporting to them will be able to focus and deliver on goals. When searching for a COO, identifying an individual who is calm and decisive under pressure is paramount to success. An individual who cannot take decisive action in the face of multiple priorities can leave an organization paralyzed. A great COO has a combination of composure, decisiveness and strategic creativity. – Julian Hamood, Trusted Tech Team
7. Someone Who Obsesses Over Small Details
If you want to hire a qualified COO for your company, I suggest avoiding candidates who obsess over small details. COO is a big role; you have to keep your eyes on the entire company all at once. When you bring on someone who is easily fixated on one tiny problem, they could overlook countless larger issues. One way you can test for this during an interview is to create a list of common problems and ask the candidate to rank them by urgency. Then, ask the interviewee to talk about whether they would delegate to solve the problem or do something themselves. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
8. Someone Who Is Too Independent
When you’re a COO, the team has to be able to trust that you can manage people while still performing your tasks. Good people are the company’s greatest assets, and it’s the leadership team’s job to find, recruit and attract key members. That means the COO must take the time to know the people they’re potentially going to work with. As for hiring a COO, hire someone who’s managed the same size of team as they will be managing in your company. Hire someone who is collaborative, interdependent and can inspire people to keep the wheels turning because operations is the backbone of every company. If it’s not moving, neither will the company—and you need someone you can trust to keep the clockwork going. – Jay Dahal, Machnet