Cover of Riding Shotgun by Nathan Bennett and Stephen A. Miles
Riding Shotgun
The Role of the COO
Nathan Bennett and Stephen A. Miles

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2006
208 pages.
$32.95

Cloth ISBN: 9780804751667

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The role of Chief Operations Officer is clearly important. In fact, it has been argued that the number two position is the toughest job in a company. COOs are typically the key individuals responsible for the delivery of results on a day-to-day, quarter-to-quarter basis. They play a critical leadership role in executing the strategies developed by the top management team. And, in many cases, they are being groomed to be—or are actually being tested as—the firm's CEO-elect. Despite all this, the COO role has not received much attention.

Riding Shotgun: The Role of the COO provides a new understanding of this little-understood role. The authors—a scholar and a consultant—develop a framework for understanding who the COO is, why a company would want to create this position, and the challenges associated with successful performance in the COO role. Drawing heavily on a number of first-person accounts from CEOs and other top executives in major corporations, the authors have developed a set of strategies or principles to inform individuals who aspire to serve in such a position. The executives who share their experiences in this book are from some of the most established and important companies in today's economy: AirTran; American Standard Companies; Amgen; Adobe Systems, Inc.; Autodesk, Inc; eBay; Heidrick & Struggles; InBev; Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company; Mattel, Inc; Motorola; PepsiCo; Raytheon Company; Starbucks; and many others.

Excerpts from the Book:

On focusing on success

"The primary goal I set for myself on how I define what success looks like for me is am I working at a company that matters? Am I working with somebody who I think affects positive change? Am I providing a benefit to my family? Am I enjoying myself? Why would I put a limitation on my enjoyment? There is an old view on Wall Street that says, 'They love you until they don't.' I am going to stay happy until I am not."—Dan Rosensweig, COO Yahoo!

On the relationship between the CEO and COO

"Deep down, you have to trust each other and you have to like each other. If you don't like each other, and/or don't trust each other, it may work, kind of, but it will be at a fifty percent level at best."—Craig Weatherup, Director, Starbucks, and former Chairman, Pepsi

On the challenges of transitioning into the COO role

"If you can't conceptualize the strategic objectives or help drive that or participate in that, I don't think you are going to succeed. But, equally, if you can't translate that into an executable plan, you are not going to succeed either."—Shantanu Narayen, COO, Adobe Systems

Additional Quotes:

"Miles & Bennett tackle an important and drastically under-researched area: the role, personalities, fit and success factors of COOs. We've seen several COOs who have been total winners, but it's striking how different the models of success can be depending on role, personal competencies, business situation/cycle/type, team strengths, and CEO strengths. The authors have done a very nice job of tying all of this together."—Jim Williams, Partner, Texas Pacific Group

"The lessons reported in this book will be very useful to Boards, Heads of Human Resources and CEOs as they consider succession planning and organizational design."—Dale Morrison, President & Chief Executive Officer, McCain Foods Limited

"The job of COO is becoming more important as companies and their boards look internally for succession alternatives. One question they face: Will the organization continue to run as the number 2 becomes the number 1? Riding Shotgun will help answer this and many more questions about the COO role in today's corporate structure."—John Berisford, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, The Pepsi Bottling Group

"The COO plays a critical leadership role in most businesses, but its particularly true in the natural resources industry. Getting the right person on board and making sure that they are set up for success is critical. The information presented in this book is long overdue and will certainly help CEOs and Boards successfully design and implement the COO position."—Charles (Chip) Goodyear, Chief Executive Officer, BHP Billiton

"With the recent emphasis on enterprise performance and CEO succession planning, this book is a must-read for board members and executives who want to drive leadership capability and ensure sustained performance in their companies."—Carlos Cardoso, Chief Executive, Kennametal Inc.

"Under a weak CEO, the job is nothing short of agony. Under a great CEO, the COO's job is the best in the world-grounded in execution and performance metrics."—Paula Rosput Reynolds, President and Chief Executive Officer, Safeco Corp.

"The takeaways in this book are critical to anyone whose work touches that of the COO—CEOs, boards, top managers—COOs themselves. That said, a great deal of the lessons herein will help any one more effectively manage their relationship with their boss or their number two—wherever they sit in an organization."—Kevin Cox, Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Quality, American Express Financial Services, Inc.

"What makes for a successful relationship between the CEO and chief operating officer? Why do there seem to be so many examples where it just doesn't work as intended? Miles and Bennett offer well thought through perspectives on the factors which influence the success or failure of the chief operating officer role in today's corporation, supported by candid interviews with a number of well-known leaders. The result is a highly readable book which will help those considering creating such a role to go into it with their eyes wide open."—Lucien Alziari, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Avon Products, Inc.

For more information, please visit the Riding Shotgun website.

About the author

Nate Bennett is Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Management, College of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology. Stephen A. Miles is a Partner in Heidrick & Struggles, International Leadership Services Practice.

"The critical role of COO has received little of the attention it deserves. Bennett and Miles illuminate the potential and the perils of beingnumber two. A must-read for anyone aspiring to make the leap, and for those who recruit, oversee, and coach them."

—Michael Watkins, founding partner, Genesis Advisers and author of The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels

"The relationship between the CEO and COO is critical to the success of any company. This book gives a variety of perspectives on this leadership dynamic in a highly enjoyable read."

—Bruce Chizen, CEO, Adobe Systems

"As organizations and corporate boards look to solve critical succession issues or strive to become more focused and efficient, they often think of creating or recasting the COO role within their respective organizations. Done correctly, the results can be magical; done incorrectly, and the fallout can be devastating for any organization. This book is the first of its kind and long over due. Riding Shotgun carefully lays out the questions that need to be answered and the critical success factors to ensure that the person who is going to assume the role is set up for success. Every Board Member, HR Executive, or CEO who is considering the COO role in their organization should read this book!"

—Tom DiDonato, EVP Human Resources, American Eagle Outfitters Inc.

"Miles & Bennett tackle an important, and drastically under-researched area: the role, personalities, fit and success factors of COOs. We've seen several COOs who have been total winners, but it's striking how different the models of success can be depending on role, personal competencies, business situation/cycle/type, team strengths, and CEO strengths. The authors have done a very nice job of tying all of this together."

—Jim Williams, Partner, Texas Pacific Group

"The lessons reported in this book will be very useful to Boards, Heads of Human Resourcesand CEOs as they consider succession planning and organizational design."

—Dale Morrison, President & Chief Executive Officer, McCain Foods Limited

"The job of COO is becoming more important as companies and their boards look internally for succession alternatives. One question they face: Will the organization continue to run as the number 2 becomes the number 1? Riding Shotgun will help answer this and many more questions about the COO role in today's corporate structure."

—John Berisford, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, The Pepsi Bottling Group

"The COO plays a critical leadership role in most businesses, but it's particularly true in the natural resources industry. Getting the right person on board and making sure that they are set up for success is critical. The information presented in this book is long overdue and will certainly help CEOs and Boards successfully design and implement the COO position."

—Charles Goodyear, Chief Executive Officer of BHP Billiton

"With the recent emphasis on enterprise performance and CEO succession planning, this book is a must-read for board members and executives who want to drive leadership capability and ensure sustained performance in their companies"

—Carlos Cardoso, Chief Executive, Kennametal Inc.

"Under a weak CEO, the job is nothing short of agony. Under a great CEO, the COO's job is the best in the world—grounded in execution and performance metrics."

—Paula Rosput Reynolds, President and Chief Executive Officer, Safeco Corp.

"What makes for a successful relationship between the CEO and chief operating officer? Why do there seem to be so many examples where it just doesn't work as intended? Bennett and Miles offer well thought through perspectives on the factors which influence the success or failure of the chief operating officer role in today's corporation, supported by candid interviews with a number of well-known leaders. The result is a highly readable book which will help those considering creating such a role to go into it with their eyes wide open."

—Lucien Alziari, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Avon Products, Inc.

"It is easy to create unforeseen problems in deciding to utilize the COO positionand still other problems with poor execution of that role. The experiences and observations shared here offer sound guidance for avoiding many pitfalls."

—W. Frank Blount, former Group President of AT&T and former CEO of Telstra Corporation