Batman had Robin, Andy Griffith had Barney Fife, Colonel Blake had Radar.
Do you have a sidekick or second in command?
According to a recent article in Forbes, “Why Every Leader Needs A Second In Command,” by Ken Gosnell, there are some key reasons why it’s important for you to have someone you rely on at the top of your organization.
According to Gosnell, there are three key reasons why a number two can be valuable:
First, it can help mitigate the loneliness leaders often experience. Second, they can serve as an effective sounding board/thought partner. Finally, it’s important to have someone who is capable and prepared to step in when there is an emergency or other reason why you may need step away from the role even for a short period of time.
Given those benefits, why don’t more leaders have a second in command?
Leaders are often so focused on leading from the front, they may not feel they have the time to select and develop a talented successor.
It requires finding someone you can trust with important and sensitive information. And some leaders may fear that a second in command who knows too much may be a threat to their leadership.
If you can overcome these obstacles, you may find that the benefits of having a second in command vastly outweigh these concerns.
Here are three tips for selecting the right Robin to your Batman:
- Pick someone you trust.
Your Number Two is someone that you will share quite a bit with – strategy, thoughts about people that you find frustrating or have conflict with; perhaps future moves you wish to make. Ensuring that person is trustworthy and that they understand the importance of keeping all things confidential is key. If you have any concerns about that person, trust your gut.
- Be clear about roles and responsibilities.
When you have a tight relationship with a second in command, it’s most effective when they understand both what their role is, and what it isn’t. Confirm early on what your expectations are and provide feedback regularly to keep things well-aligned.
- Longevity counts.
Often times, someone who has been with you a longer time (a few years as opposed to a few months) knows you and the organization well enough to understand – sometimes intuitively, like Colonel Blake’s Radar – your style, preferences and values. Selecting someone who has longtime experience can ensure a good fit and fewer surprises.
It’s likely that this relationship will be the closest professional one you have inside your organization. As Gosnell wisely points out in the article, that can develop into something akin to a friendship. When trust is there, roles/responsibilities are clear and the person knows you well, a strong personal connection can make for an even stronger professional bond.
Question: What qualities do you think make for a solid Number Two?