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Why You Need a Second-in-Command

Why You Need a Second-in-CommandCaptain Kirk had Spock. Bill Gates had Steve Ballmer. Steve Jobs has Tim Cook. Every business leader, executive, indeed, every manager needs a right-hand. A back-up. A second-in-command. There are lots of reasons for that:

  • Someone in charge when you travel or are out for whatever reason
  • Someone who complements your strengths and fills in weaknesses
  • Doubles effectiveness for certain tasks / responsibilities, like when you're "double-booked" in meetings or for simultaneous events
  • It's always good to have a strong "bench"
  • Reduces stress on the organization and improves its effectiveness
  • Succession planning
In my experience, a second-in-command is the most important person in your organization. The rub is they're very hard to find. They're even harder to find when you're not looking. It's actually shocking how many key managers, executives, and business leaders get how important it is to have a back-up.

Personally, I think having a second-in-command improves the effectiveness of every organization and is well worth the cost. Every key manager or leader should have one. As for finding that unique individual, it's just like a specialized executive search.

5 Tips for Cloning Yourself

  1. Know what you're looking for. First, you need to decide if you're truly trying to find a clone of yourself or someone who complements your weaknesses. They're usually two completely different people and the direction you take depends on your priorities, goals, and specific situation.
  2. Know where to look. No, this is not obvious. There are times when you want to cultivate someone from within your organization or elsewhere in the company. Other times it's better to bring in a fresh perspective from outside. If that's the case, then you've got to figure out what type of company to raid - a direct competitor or perhaps a company further up the food chain.
  3. You get what you pay for. This is one hire you don't want to skimp on. If you do, you run the risk of investing precious time and resources in someone who isn't going to cut it. In the long run, you stand to lose far more than you might save from cutting corners. Either hire someone who can substitute for you or don't. But don't do it half-way.
  4. Look. Most managers don't have right-hand people because they're not looking. They don't see the value, it's not a priority, or they have some macho iron man thing going on. Well, there is tremendous value. It'll never be a priority until you really need someone and then you'll be in panic mode - not a good thing. And if it's the macho thing; grow up.
  5. Motivate him. Once he's on board, make sure he's motivated, engaged, and challenged. Some executives are coy about identifying their second-in-command. Don't be. It's dumb. If he's your back-up, make sure he has that authority and everyone knows it.
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