What to Look for in a Chief Operating Officer

Once you’ve decided when to hire a COO, it’s time to start thinking about what you want your COO to accomplish. When searching for a potential chief operating officer, you need to know which personal characteristics lead to successful hires. But how do you know what to look for in a COO?

As a purpose based executive search firm, Y Scouts looks for executives who share a company’s reason for working. But there are many other qualities that are important in a chief operating officer. To help your search process and decide what to look for in a COO, here are five attributes a great COO should possess.

1. Cultural Fit
If you’re trying to figure out what to look for in a COO, start by analyzing your company’s culture. Try to find a candidate who shares your company’s values. If your COO is passionate about your company and what you do, they will succeed in the position.

A chief operating officer also needs to be able to work with employees at all levels of your company. If you hire a COO who fits in with your company’s work environment, he or she may find it easier to communicate with current staff members.

2. Leadership Ability
Often times, a chief operating officer is one of the most high-ranking executives in the company. Because they will be responsible for such an important aspect of the organization, it is important that your COO has the ability to lead.

Somebody with excellent leadership ability can communicate with employees at all levels of the organization, which is critical for a COO. Because the COO will oversee many other employees, they need to be able to work with them effectively.

3. Broad Work Experience
A successful COO needs a wide range of experience. A chief operating officer with previous experience in operations and leadership is an asset to any company. Because they have experience leading others and being lead, they understand both the business and operations sides of a company. This makes them a more effective leader.

4. Trustworthiness
Because a COO is a high-ranking executive, you should be able to trust them with all sorts of business matters. You need to be confident that he or she is capable of running operations to the company’s standards. By searching for candidates you can trust, you’ll be more likely to find an effective chief operating officer.

5. Humility
While it is important that a COO is confident in their actions, it is also important that they can ask for assistance when necessary. A COO should not be the only one responsible for the company’s success, and they need to be able to seek advice or help from others when it benefits the company to do so. No one expects a chief operating officer to be all knowing, so willingness to ask for advice or assistance is a critical skill for a COO.

Even the best COO is likely to make a couple of mistakes on the job – no one is perfect. A humble COO who is willing to admit their mistakes is important. If the COO is willing to admit his or her faults, the company can grow as a result of any mistakes.

You might be interested in these other posts about hiring a COO:
When to Hire a COO
How to Hire a COO
15 Extraordinary COO Interview Questions
What to Pay a COO

How did you decide what to look for in a COO? Let us know in the comments.


Y Scouts is a purpose-based, performance-proven leadership search and development firm focused on transforming how people and organizations connect to work that matters. When you’re ready to hire a new leader, Contact Y Scouts. If you are looking for your next leadership role within a purpose-driven, performance-focused organization, please join the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

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How to Find a COO

What to Look For in a COO

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“If you need a passionate leader, the approach Y Scouts takes will attract the right talent.” – Kevin Fallon McCarthy, McCarthy Law

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