COO Roles and Responsibilities

May 14, 2024 | COO Insights, HR/Talent, Leadership

Chief Operating Officers are the second in charge after the CEO. A COO should have a background in being a business owner, running a business from the top, and day-to-day operations. Below is an informative article about COOs, and what the typical experiences are.

As reported by Forbes on August 9th, 2021, by John Knotts.

The Making of a Chief Operating Officer

According to, the average salary for a COO in the United States now ranges from roughly $250,000 to $700,000 a year. Looking at various job boards, I also found many COO positions that pay way less. These positions typically are starting COOs that work for smaller companies and are normally hired as glorified operations positions. So, what does it take to become a COO that commands a bigger salary? What skills are required to become a COO?

The COO of a company is normally the second in charge of the company. When the CEO is absent, the COO steps in and takes over. Thus, one of the first things a COO should have experience being a business owner, president, or CEO at least once, if not a few times. A good COO should know how to run a company from the top.

Of course, a COO is functionally over operations in a company, even if they are not really running the department. Normally, there are directors and managers that work for the COO that run the day-to-day operations. Sometimes, these are vice president positions, but VPs usually work under a president. Many companies get this structure confused all the time.

That being said, COOs typically have an extensive operations background, ideally with at least five different companies and in several different roles and positions — including in a leadership capacity as a director or vice president. They might also have been a COO for a smaller company to start out.

In operations, typical COO experiences should include the following functions:

  • Program and project management.
  • Design and development.
  • Manufacturing and installation.
  • Service and support.
  • Supply chain and logistics.
  • Fleet management.
  • Quality control and process improvement.

Many of these functional areas have professional certifications, like Project Management Professional, Business Analyst, Lean Six Sigma, etc. It can take someone a long time to be competent across end-to-end operations and that is why a COO position usually requires around 15 years of professional experience.

The COO for a company is the architect, instigator and change champion for the company strategy. This means that a typical COO will probably have an MBA in some type of strategic business leadership area and strong experience in change leadership — if not a change management certification. While the CEO ultimately owns the company strategy and strategic direction, a strong COO will lead the development and implementation of it.

Great COOs understand how all other roles and functions (e.g., marketing, sales, finance, human resources, technology, etc.) affect operations. Typically, the COO will have worked with, or in, these areas at one time or another. The title Chief Operating Officer (note: It’s not “Operations”) denotes that this person is focused on making sure everything in the company works in concert to deliver customer value 100% of the time. The job of the COO is to break through all the various business silos to ensure an effective operation.

Lastly, COOs — good ones — act as a coach, mentor and trainer to the CEO, other functional leaders and their own operations personnel. Having a strong coaching and consulting background, perhaps with a reputable management consulting company is another valuable experience.

Additional COO Resources

The Chief Operating Guide: Vision, Plan, and Execution

COO’s Guide to Leadership Styles

Building a Strong Leadership and Management Culture


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