At the absolute peak of the corporate ladder sits the chief executive officer (CEO). They’re responsible for completing the final sign-offs, setting strategic direction, and representing the organization in the public eye.
Right next to the CEO you’ll often find the chief operating officer (COO). This person helps keep the company culture alive and well, and ensures that day-to-day operations are on the right track. In short, they’re the person who makes sure the organization stays afloat most days. Needless to say, meetings with COOs are a little bit more than just important. They’re mission critical.
- What is the purpose of a COO meeting?
- What to expect during a COO meeting
- What to include in your COO meeting agenda
- 5 tips for a successful COO meeting
- Free COO meeting agenda templates
What is the purpose of a COO meeting?
As with most meetings with executive leadership, these meetings are vital for setting strategies, completing organizational planning, problem solving for large challenges, and managing budgets. Since the COO has their hand in almost everything that goes on in the organization, you can expect them to be present for final approvals or major presentations about the company’s financials, growth, competitive outlook, future hiring plans, and product roadmaps.
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What to expect during a COO meeting
- The meeting should be brief. COOs are out there touching base with every department, all day long. Try to sum up findings within a few minutes, unless discussing high-priority topics.
- Attendees should be well prepared. The less time COOs spend ironing out details, the more time they can provide to other issues. Bring the high-level details and a strong rationale for “why” that information matters.
- The meeting will have a specific goal. COOs don’t often get involved in brainstorming meetings, so their time is typically spent reviewing results, providing approvals, or offering feedback on specific topics.
- The meeting will be structured. To get through the many topics a COO needs to review, a thorough meeting agenda and defined list of meeting attendees will be necessary to keep the meeting moving efficiently.
What to include in your COO meeting agenda
Every meeting needs a purpose. COO meetings tend to be shorter, so it’s important to make sure that the number of objectives for the meeting align with the amount of time allocated to the meeting block. COOs can’t afford to go overtime, so consider booking separate meetings for topics that are either too different from each other or that need to have more time allotted to each sub-topic.
The COO is very involved in ensuring operational success across the full organization, so try to look for wins from every department if possible. What did the company do well? Who was involved? How did we get there? Understanding the processes and teams that are most successful will help the COO make better future decisions when optimizing operational flows. The more quantifiable these wins can be, the better! For example, rather than saying that “the product team increased the efficiency of package design,” you could say, “the product team decreased the average time to design a package by 5 days over the last two quarters.”
The updates portion of the meeting is for any other ongoing activities. In this time, you may want to include significant shifts in competitor or industry practices, progress updates on high-priority projects, or results of process optimization experiments across the organization. Generally, this time is used to share any new knowledge that has been learned by another team within the organization for the purpose of improving or better managing ongoing operations.
4Metrics and OKR progress
Most companies have a set of organization-wide objectives and key results (OKRs) that they aim to achieve each year. In some cases, this is even broken out by quarterly or monthly OKRs. The COO is responsible for setting strategic programs in place that will improve efficiency and maximize productivity and growth for the organization. In each meeting, try to bring a few progress updates on high-priority projects or ongoing testing initiatives. It’s very important to bring both positive and negative metrics to the COO, as agile businesses can quickly shift the direction of low-performing projects to something that may be more successful for the company. But, of course, organizations can only do this if the right decision-makers are informed and prepared for the change.
Roadblocks are anything that is preventing current work from ongoing. Is growth slowed by a vendor or agency contract that has yet to be signed? Are projects waiting on the hiring of a support team for new company initiatives? Is strategic information being delivered to lower-level teams in a timely fashion so those teams can make their own decisions that align with the company’s objectives? These are just some of the things to think of when considering what is needed to further drive the company’s growth. Informing the COO of these roadblocks can lead the team to create effective action items that appropriately address each roadblock.
Action items are the tasks that each person in the meeting commits to completing after the meeting. When creating the meeting agenda, you may already have an idea of the action items that need to come out of the meeting. In this case, these are the action items that are closely tied to the purpose of the meeting and why you’re there in the first place! However, also make sure to leave a bit of time to plan for other action items that arise during the meeting discussions. You may find yourself discovering a new idea for further research or remembering another strategic item that is related to the meeting topic which needs to be actioned.
5 tips for a successful COO meeting
- Avoid including personal updates
- Use critical thinking
- Work as a team
- Define clear goals and objectives
- Ask for meeting feedback
1Avoid including personal updates
COO meetings revolve strictly around the operational success of the company. Spending the meeting time discussing organizational-level activities will enable focused decision-making for big decisions that will affect multiple teams. Individual updates for each person are better left to one-on-one meetings or team standups, where it makes sense to share more details about each ongoing project or challenge.
2Use critical thinking
It may seem obvious, but few people recognize the value of true critical thinking. During your meeting discussions, try stress-testing each of the possible decisions before committing to one. Ask the group if the idea is feasible for the budget, time, and scope. How will the affected teams feel about this change? Does this change align with the organizational strategy set out for the year?
Connecting your possible decisions to the greater impact of them within the company will help ensure that whichever decision you go with will be well aligned for the company.
3Work as a team
While the COO is the final decision maker in these meetings, all participants have important information to bring to the table. Consider group discussions for the impacts that possible decisions have on each team or department. Having an opportunity for each team or department representative to present some wins and challenges will help the COO make informed decisions that best support as many departments as possible.
4Define clear goals and objectives
By now, you know your meeting needs to have a purpose. From this purpose, the meeting will also need to have clearly established goals and objectives. Are there specific decisions that need to be made? Are there specific people who are required to present? Is there a specific strategic objective that this is a part of?
Not only is it important for the meeting host to understand what these objectives are, but it’s also great to include these in your meeting agenda for attendees. This way, attendees can prepare ahead of the meeting and bring informed, insightful contributions.
5Ask for meeting feedback
After the meeting, ask for feedback from your attendees! As the meeting host, it can be difficult to accurately assess how smooth or bumpy the meeting really was, so reaching out to your attendees for feedback is a great way to get the real picture. Consider asking them about the content (was it valuable?), time management (was it on time?), time of day (what time works best?), and any other insights you’d like to pull. Mixing multiple-choice polls and open-ended questions is a great way to get your attendees thinking about the meeting quality while also allowing them to freely express their individual thoughts and feelings about it.
Free COO meeting agenda templates
There’s no doubt that the COO has one of the most important jobs in the organization. They are involved with every department and have a say in almost every new initiative that gets deployed. Since COOs have busy days trying to stay afloat with every ongoing project, it’s important to have well-structured meetings that are brief, insightful, and focused on decision-making.