Avoid Becoming the C-Oh-No

Hour Glass

photo by: sideshowman

Avoid Becoming the C Oh-No

The $25 million nonprofit organization has never before had the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO).  You’re the first in hopefully a long line of generations to come.

On your first day you walk into the newly built Leeds Certified corporate office, are led to your nicely appointed new office and are left to face the array of on-boarding meetings and activities.  Critical meetings with stakeholders provide you with your orientation to the culture and the landscape of the organization.

Three ideas that may prevent us from moving from the COO to the C-Oh-No:


Listen, observe, remain open, watch your body language, smile, maintain eye contact, build rapport, build relationships, blah, blah, blah, aaaaaahhhhh!  You’ve read every “First 90 day, 120 day, week, hour, minute, second” book or article you could lay your eyes upon — you sit in your first couple meetings a tightly wound bundle of strategies and tactics.  Bottom line is this: you simply want to show your value.  Communication is paramount as is being authentic.  In the early days of your tenure the important part of communication is your ability to listen.  Your biggest concern should not be “will I have the right answers”, it should be “will I have the right questions”.


Those days in college of scrambling through the stacks (when they actually had books sorted by the Dewey Decimal System) come in handy in your new role.  It is important to understand the history and past of the organization.  You don’t need to dive too deep — it is simply to gain some clarity between the past and present. In terms of operations, the present is built on the decisions of yesterday.  Developing this context of the present will be useful in leading a pathway to the future and achieving the strategic plan of the organization.


A friend recently shared this advice, “find their biggest pain point and solve it — that’s an early win.”  As a leader you will have to become adept at identifying opportunities — for the organization, staff, partners and the community you serve.  At times it will call for the commitment of resources (time, people or money), or it may call simply for strong advocacy for a position or action.  Don’t seek “wins” as much as you seek impact — not all will be earth shattering individually but when combined can represent dramatic organizational impact.

Interestingly once the on-boarding tide of activities peters out your calendar and time are yours to control for the most part — which can be a new sensation.

Where will you spend your time and what will you focus on?