The Making of a COO (feat. Cameron Herold)

Jan 31, 2023

The relationship between a CEO and a COO is akin to that of yin and yang. Each leader uses their unique abilities and interests to help the company grow, all while staying in their own lane.


The key is to find a truly compatible counterpart, build a foundation of trust and honesty, and have confidence in the other person’s ability to get the job done without having to constantly check-in with each other.


Cameron Herold is someone who truly understands this dynamic from having accumulated 25+ years of corporate management experience, built two $100 million companies before the age of 42, and founded the COO Alliance. He has also written several business books, including his new book about unleashing the power of the second-in-command.


In this episode, Cameron shares the DOs and DON’Ts of hiring (and if necessary, firing) a COO, common misconceptions, and challenges, and two things COOs can start doing tomorrow to become the leader they’re meant to be.



COO is hired. Now what?


There is a reason Cameron chose a yin and yang symbol for his new book, The Second in Command.


Ensuring you have an effective partnership between CEO and COO involves 4 key elements:


1. Clarity on the unique ability areas of each executive


2. Defined swim lanes and ensuring CEO doesn’t want to work on any of the COO’s areas, and vice-versa


3. Fully trusting and liking each other


4. Mastering the art of handling disagreements and concerns


Often, the CEO comes up with more project ideas than what can be realistically accomplished in a given period. It is up to the COO to help the CEO slow down while assuring that their many ideas are being saved for consideration at future project planning meetings.


Once you get these 4 elements right, the dynamic duo becomes unstoppable.



What makes a good COO?


A good COO understands the needs of the CEO. What is the CEO looking for in a partner? What is their communication and leadership style like?


Having these answers helps the COO show up accordingly and make the company iconic. According to Herold, they do so by not only implementing various systems and structures, but also by strategically objecting to the CEO’s ideas when appropriate.


The CEO isn’t necessarily going to like these objections, but it’s important that the COO helps them confront the brutal facts anyway, Herold explains. Others might not have the courage to step up to the CEO and tell them why some of their decisions, actions, or ideas might be wrong.


In this episode as well as in his new book, Herold shares specific ways that the COO can have these kinds of conversations with the CEO.



What are 2 ways the COO can improve tomorrow?


The COO title makes it immediately clear that the COO deals with operations. What’s not apparent is that the COO also focuses on the following two tasks upon joining the company:


1. Growing people – instilling confidence in their people so they can rise to the challenge of the work delegated to them


2. Showing vulnerability – admitting they don’t have all the answers and asking lots of questions helps create an environment of psychological safety


According to Cameron, many COOs are not displaying these critical leadership qualities, but doing so can tremendously increase their effectiveness.



Cameron also shares…


  • The mistakes that almost bankrupted one of his companies
  • Why most COOs have no desire to ever become a CEO
  • Why the COOs need a peer group of their own



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