By Stacy Eads
April 16, 2024

Demystifying the COO & CMO roles

Dive into the essential roles of COO and CMO and how they drive success in modern businesses.

Welcome to the final installment of our 3-part series from my Scaling Up with Coach Stacy Eads column. 

Remember our big tip from last month: You want to surround yourself with people who WOW you! Your goal is to hire people into these C-Suite roles who bring more to the table than you know how to train on yourself.

McKinsey has a great article series detailing key functions for many leadership roles and how they support the overall goals and growth of the organization. Browse through my COO and CMO synopsis list to confirm if the expectations between your CEO and the supporting leadership roles are aligned for 2024.

After all, the further the entrepreneur’s company moves up the Mid-Market scale, the more C-Suite (Chief officers) they begin to hire. One of the most common questions I get asked as a CEO Coach is, “Okay, now what? I hired people smarter than me in the Chief Operating Officer role, but how do I know what they should really be doing every day … or what reports they should be providing me? Which things do I delegate to them, or which do I keep?”

This is common. You simply don’t know what you don’t know, right? There’s no shame in it. It’s all a part of the entrepreneurial journey learning curve.

So, let’s demystify more of these C-Suite accountabilities. In January, we demystified the CFO (Chief Financial Officer), including both an in-depth breakdown of roles and accountabilities, as well as Top 10 Tips to create fraud prevention processes in your company. Last month, we unveiled the top priorities of the CEO for 2024. Now, let’s tackle how the CEO interacts and relies upon the COO and CMO for everyday operations.

Role of COO

Forty percent of leading companies surveyed by McKinsey in 2022 had a Chief Operating Officer (COO), so not all growing firms embrace this particular role right away. When the Operations Manager role evolves beyond traditional ops checklists to become a true counterbalance to increasingly public-facing CEOs… you’ve got yourself a COO!

The Chief Operating Officer can provide detailed operational expertise for technological growth, employee empowerment, and organizational resilience. Many COOs are now contenders for the CEO position after a Chief Executive Officer retires or leaves the firm. In fact, 27% of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 CEOs in 2021 were promoted from a COO role into the CEO seat.

The Chief Operating Officer’s critical skills include anticipating change, collaborating with key functions, as well as effective board or leadership team engagement. They drive operational excellence culturally while managing stakeholder engagement. Their agenda encompasses elements like vision, plan and execution, organization, and talent. To be effective, COOs need to enhance skills such as anticipating change in volatile environments, collaborating across functions, and engaging effectively with leadership. 

Building a plan to enact the COO’s vision involves asking critical questions across operations, stakeholders, culture, and team, enabling the identification of gaps and challenges for prompt action. According to McKinsey, the COO’s role is pivotal in shaping organizational strategy, driving operational excellence, and preparing for unforeseen disruptions in today’s dynamic business landscape.

Role of CMO Marketing

In today’s fast-paced business environment, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) plays a pivotal role in driving growth by placing the customer at the center of decision-making. In fact, some CMOs have successfully created a brand persona for their ideal client who not only has a name and likeness but an actual real seat at the boardroom table!

Just imagine: Anytime the leadership team makes a decision, the CMO turns to the chair and asks the Ideal Client Persona how they would feel about that change, innovation, new product, or upgraded service line. Great, right?!

The CMO’s role actually extends across the entire organization, emphasizing that everything and everybody represents the marketing of the company. Successful CMOs go beyond just being the voice of the customer persona; they actively challenge the status quo and provide innovative ideas based on customer feedback.

Internal marketing teams in scaling organizations are not merely a functional aspect of logos, branding, websites, and social media messaging – but a truly holistic approach that influences operations. The team leader is ensuring alignment with the brand and creating value for the sales team. This CMO role has moved beyond its traditional focus on creativity and brand elements.

Today’s CMO must be as focused on financial metrics, return on investment, and profit and loss accountability as their counterparts in sales are, reflecting the shift towards a more strategic and numbers-driven approach to marketing strategy and results.

The growing role of the CMO involves keeping up with a rapid pace of change because annual innovations only provide a temporary advantage. Today, markets and technology are changing monthly, weekly, and daily all around us – annual simply won’t cut the mustard, and you’ll fall behind. CMOs must constantly plan for the next big thing to stay ahead of competitors and be incredibly tech-savvy in the age of AI (Artificial Intelligence). Overall, the CMO serves as an agent for change – challenging the leaders, advocating for the customer, and fostering a culture of continuous innovation.

Email me directly if you’d like to request a 30-minute personalized CEO coaching session about this month’s article topic: Thank you for completing our 3-Part Series on Demystifying the C-Suite Roles.

If your team needs a facilitator for your leadership retreats, please visit my website for more information on how to get started with my quarterly strategic planning accountability program:

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About Stacy Eads

Edmond native & UCO Alumna, Stacy Eads, is an award-winning “Most Admired CEO” who scaled her company as a Woman in Tech before becoming an International Scaling Up Business Coach. She now empowers other CEOs from $2M to $200M to embrace their leadership potential through quarterly strategic planning. Her talent is in high demand to CEO Coach, Train Teams, and Speak at Events in both the U.S.A. and Canada.

Stacy Eads’ career affiliations include 50 Women Making a Difference award, Circle of Excellence award, Torch Ethics award, Most Admired CEO award, Edmond Chamber & UCO Mentor, Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma Board of Directors, TEDx OKC Speaker Coach, and Ambassador Chairwoman for the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce.