Tell me about a Steve Jobs, and I can show you a Steve Wozniak. Show me a Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO, Comcast and look no further than Stephen Burke his Senior Executive Vice President. Explain to me the magnitude of the Civil Rights Movement lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and I can talk to you about Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Bayard Rustin. When you think about the greatness of President Abraham Lincoln, and I ask you to research William Seward, his Secretary of State. If the greatest basketball player of all times is Michael Jordan, then I would say he never won a ring until Scottie Pippen matured as his sidekick. Get the picture? It may take one to lead a great business, but it takes two to sustain and grow it.
My new book, It Takes 2: Who is Helping You Lead?, provides leaders with the tools to find the very important second man or “2Man” for their staff. The term 2Man isn’t gender-specific, so it can be applied to a man or a woman. The role they fill and the responsibility they carry is determined by what you need as the leader of your business. A 2Man is the person on the executive leadership team, whose job is to add value to the organization, execute the mission, and bring relief to his or her senior leader. As you look at some of the most successful organizations and businesses in history, you will see that each great leader had an influential and brilliant 2Man. Whether you are a Creative Director, Grace Coddington, who was the secret weapon behind Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue (the inspiration for the movie The Devil Wears Prada); Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s late-night sidekick who became famous for the line, “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” or Charles Munger, Warren Buffet’s right-hand man––all of these individuals are or were considered 2s who helped their businesses achieve great levels of success and fame.
So if these unique individuals are essential to helping you lead your business, the question is…How do I find them? Below are some key considerations to consider for your search. First, it is crucial to see the role of the 2Man through the lens of partnership. The people on your support team must be seen as being essential to the mission of the organization. They must be the best at what they do and be willing to work alongside you, thereby freeing you of some of the high level responsibilities you carry. Members of a support staff don’t seek recognition because they are excited about the company being the best that it can be. You must see them as a part of your team and they must know how to play their role for the overall benefit of the company.
Second, the 2Man must exemplify certain qualities or character traits. Here is a list of some qualities to look for:
- Humility. They are able to put others’ needs before their own without expecting to receive credit or applause for their accomplishments.
- Healthy. Only healthy, emotionally secure people can be humble. If they are people pleasers and/or insecure, they will not be healthy enough to help you carry the weight of the business because they will be more concerned about being liked than executing your objectives.
- Obedient. Executive leaders must be able to complete the tasks assigned quickly and efficiently.
- Organized. As the leader and visionary of the company, you may suffer from ADD but your 2Man can’t. They must be able to execute key tasks on time and with precision.
- Resourceful. They are able to leverage relationships and networks to get the job done faster than anyone else. This brings immediate value to your business.
- Resilience. They have tough skin. They are able to recover quickly from difficulties.
- Submitted. Bottom line, they able to executive challenging missions for the sake of the company.
- Strategic. They are strategic in both thinking and time management.
- Excellent. They pay attention to details. They are concerned about the overall outcome and appearance of you and your company.
- Example. Being an example of the culture of the company is one of the greatest assets they can bring to your organization. You won’t have to babysit your 2Man. You need someone on your staff who has the traits, core values, and excellence that you want others to exhibit.
- Confidentiality and Loyalty. These qualities are so important that they trump all the others. If a candidate bad mouths a former employer in the interview, I recommend you pass.
- Motivation. Find out why they want to work for you and listen closely. Is this a stepping stone to something else? Are they struggling financially and just need a job? Are they willing to do anything, or is this the only position available? If so, this isn’t the right motivation for a top level executive.
Here are a few skill set questions to consider:
- Did they demonstrate a unique skill set in their previous work that can complement your strengths and weaknesses?
- Have they demonstrated success in their previous jobs?
- Do they truly understand what your company is about, who your competitors are, and the opportunities that can help you to accelerate quickly?
- What did others say about them when you conducted a background and reference check?
These are just a few areas to focus on when attempting to find the right 2Man for your business. My final suggestion is to ask yourself how does your potential 2Man make you feel. Corporate executive and author Richard Hytner says that a C-Suite leader should make you feel one of the following: “liberated, enlightened, authentic, and decisive.” If, once the interview stage is over, you haven’t felt any of these things, then your search must continue. The role of the 2Man is critical. Your #2 can make your life much easier and position your company to grow exponentially, so choose wisely.
About the author:
Ramone Harper is the founder of BNB Consulting and Associates, a management and consulting firm that assists leaders to identify, interpret, and strategically transform their visions into realities. He is also the Author of, “It Takes 2: Who is Helping You Lead?” For more information www.ramoneharper.com