The term Commanding Officer (CO) has long been associated with military hierarchy. At the top of the military ladder is the position of Commander in Chief. Commanders at each level are often referred to as the “superior” of levels below. In my experience dealing with the best and the brightest who serve our country, very few commanders see themselves as superior.
In fact, effective COs celebrate the equality of those in their charge. They know success comes when everyone feels empowered to lead and take their share of responsibility. Further, they believe in humility, respect, empathy, and integrity every bit as much as discipline. The same is true in business.
A Chief Operating Officer (COO) could be viewed as the business equivalent of the military CO. In some companies, the COO is the individual in charge. But the best COOs (and CEOs) also know they need to create a culture where everyone shares the attributes of a strong COO.
If you don’t have a Chief or a commander title, you can choose to act like a COO or a CO no matter where you are on the ladder. Here is what great COOs and COs do, according to four Chiefs, Alexander Tuff, Ryan Caldbeck, Jeremy Bromberg, and Mark Hamade.
- Ask good questions
- Be transparent and open
- Strive for alignment with effective communication
- Be a life-long learner
- Surround yourself with life-long learners
- Plan the work and work the plan
- Improve everything you touch
- Focus on details
- Control your ego
- Be data driven
- Lead by supporting
- Keep your cool
- Be resourceful
- Be practical
- Be unassuming
- Be a great listener
- Be a free thinker
- Be a clear communicator
- Be strong with numbers (analysis, metrics) and letters (writing)
- Have an appropriate sense of urgency
- Develop a great eye for detail
- Be passionate about company success, and know that personal success is an outcome of company success, not the other way around
- Advocate for employees at all levels
- Advocate for good ideas, regardless of where they come from
- Be energetic, even if quietly
- Be a master integrator
- Champion continuous improvement in everything
- Don’t let allow perfect to get in the way of progress
- Be a team player
- Build trust
Their advice is spot on, and in line with everything I know and teach about being Chief. Who needs the title anyway?