6 Key Operations Director Skills and Why They're Important
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 25 May 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
The director of operations in a company has an important position that requires them to possess a particular set of skills. These skills allow them to ensure that the daily running and long-term strategies of an organisation proceed smoothly. If you're hoping to get a position as an operations director, understanding the key skills and how to improve them is going to be very useful. In this article, we explain what a director of operations is, list some key skills to develop, why they're important and explain how you can improve them.
What is an operations director?
An operations director is an executive-level professional within an organisation who's responsible for its daily operations, in addition to the implementation of some long term strategies. Other names for this position include the chief operations officer (COO), director of operations or business operations manager. They typically work closely with an organisation's top-level managers and executives to develop and implement key goals and objectives, which the operations director then directly oversees. They can also have a prominent role in budgetary matters, acquisitions and external negotiations.
6 key operations director skills and why they're important
Here are six operations director skills that are useful to develop if you aspire to this position and why they're important:
Like many managerial and leadership positions, operations directors benefit from having excellent communication skills. These allow them to collaborate with other managers and executives, liaise with external contractors and oversee the internal daily operations of the organisation. Their communication skills include both written and verbal communication, as COOs typically use both regularly. This generally allows them to give clear instructions to departmental managers and team leaders, carefully listen to any issues and negotiate with external contractors and others.
A director of operations benefits from being very organised. Since they're typically in charge of the daily operations of an entire organisation, good organisational skills means that they're more likely to ensure that work proceeds smoothly and minimise potential issues. Good organisation can therefore increase the company's efficiency, reduce potential conflicts and minimise waste. There are certain skills which contribute to organisational ability, such as attention to detail, structured thinking and the ability to develop good working relationships with others.
3. Industry knowledge
A director of operations' experience tends to give them a lot of in-depth knowledge of their industry. This knowledge and expertise are traits they can apply to their job to increase effectiveness. Industry knowledge can include things like relevant laws and regulations, technical expertise in certain processes and an understanding of the market. Since daily operations can affect almost all aspects of a business, it's important for a COO to understand the context of their work and how their decisions can affect other parts of the organisation.
Analytical skills are another important contributor to an operations director's ability to do their job well. Since they supervise daily operations and strategy implementation, the ability to analyse what they see, including a significant amount of company data, allows them to make more informed decisions.
They can also analyse suggestions and proposals for implementing new ideas to improve existing processes. This requires the director of operations to understand the context of a proposal, critically evaluate its potential effectiveness and then develop a prediction of what its effects are going to be. Analytical skills can therefore allow operations directors to make sound judgements.
Any organisation is likely to encounter some operational problems occasionally. A director of operations is responsible for the smooth running of organisational operations and any problems that arise. Problem-solving skills allow them to do so effectively. A key component of problem-solving is being able to evaluate the issue, which is why critical thinking skills are useful for considering a problem and developing potential solutions. Another contributor is creativity, which can also help the COO to develop a workable solution that minimises any disruptions.
Problem-solving skills can also play a key role in conflict resolution. The daily operations of an organisation can involve the work of many individuals and ensuring that they're all collaborating effectively is a key part of smooth operations. If an incident occurs, the operations manager can find a swift resolution through impartiality, problem-solving and effective communication.
6. Decision making
As a senior decision-maker, the director of operations benefits from the ability to make sound decisions that are both considered and decisive. Decision-making ability derives from a lot of other skills, such as critical thinking skills and industry knowledge. COOs also benefit from sound judgement, as a decision often means considering multiple options and choosing the most effective or appropriate of these. An operations director considers both the immediate and long-term consequences of their decision and how it affects both staff and the entire organisation.
Another contributory factor to good decision making is the ability of a director of operations to remain impartial. By setting aside personal bias, they can make more effective decisions for everyone involved and ensure that everyone understands their reasons for taking it. The ability to remain unbiased also reinforces other skills, such as communication, problem-solving and conflict resolution.
How to improve your operations director skills
If you're hoping to get a position as an operations director and want to upgrade your skill set to increase your chances, consider following the steps below:
1. Assess yourself
A thorough and objective self-assessment is a good starting point for skills development. This process allows you to identify any gaps in your skill set, in addition to highlighting some of your strengths. There might be some factors that you're already aware of, whereas there are others which may require you to think and recall past situations. For instance, you could try to remember situations where a particular skill would've been key to overcoming an issue.
Reflecting on your past like this can help you to identify both your strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, you can try to think about a competent COO you worked with in the past. Try to assess their skills and compare them with yours. Consider whether they had any skills which you lack and think about how they handled a particular situation. Assessing yourself can also be a good exercise for practising impartiality, as it requires you to objectively analyse your abilities and this can be useful when you eventually become a director of operations.
2. Request evaluations from others
Another way to evaluate your skill set is to ask others. If you're currently employed, you could ask a supervisor or colleague who knows you well. Ask them which skills they think you possess and which they believe you could improve. You could also ask friends or family if you believe they would have some good insights. You can then compare these assessments from others with your own self-assessment and see if there are any patterns. This can allow you to develop a list of skills you have, skills you lack and skills you want to improve.
3. Look for development courses
A straightforward way of acquiring new skills is to find a suitable course. A course could be in-person or online, and some of them might even be free. Your skills evaluations mean that you know precisely which skills you want to develop, so this can guide your decision when choosing a course. There are also other resources that you might consider, such as online video tutorials, speaking with experienced individuals or even reading books. For instance, if you mainly lack industry knowledge, then reading about your industry and how it operates might be sufficient.
4. Seek greater responsibilities
Whether you're hoping to become an operations manager at your current place of employment or elsewhere, it can be a good idea to approach your supervisor and request additional responsibilities. Thanks to your skills evaluation, you know what kind of additional responsibilities to ask for. For example, if you want to improve your communication skills you could ask for more responsibilities relating to inter-departmental work and cooperation. If you want to improve your decision making or leadership skills, you could offer to mentor a new hire or even lead a small team.
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