The Coach's Corner

Second in Command

April 27th, 2015 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

One of the most impactful areas of my client work has been identifying the need for, and then finding and retaining a second-in-command — or what I call a “COO.” I just finished reading Larry Linne’s book, “Make The Noise Go Away,” and found it to be extremely on the mark and very practical (I wish he had written it years ago).

The easy-to-read, 100-page book is written in parable style, and it’s a great reference tool for both first- and second-in-commands. In addition to providing a wealth of solid ideas, it includes several handy and valuable checklists. I believe Linne hits all the sensitive, “elephant in the room” issues head-on.

The following are just a few thoughts from the book, to wet your appetite:

  1. Recognize the importance of continuous, open, candid communication that travels both ways. This sounds obvious, but seemingly small concerns often go unstated, are not dealt with, and grow into big problems over time.
  2. Identify what’s keeping the first-in-command awake at night. That person needs to tell the second-in-command, who needs to listen. If you’re the first-in-command, don’t assume the second already knows what issues are of concern to you.
  3. One of the biggest reasons for failure is that the second doesn’t understand the “values” of the first, and makes decisions that are out of alignment with those values.
  4. The second-in-command should find ways to make the company and the first-in-command look good.
  5. The second needs to spend time with clients/customers, and with prospective new clients/customers, too. My translation of this suggestion is that the second has to really understand the business deeply, or the first will not trust (or respect) the second’s opinions.
  6. When proposing new ideas (which is really important to the first), the second should not oversell, but should try to be balanced and present both the pros and the cons. I have seen far too many executives lose their credibility by understating or not mentioning the downsides.

Let’s stop there. If you’re an owner or CEO considering hiring a No. 2, or if you’re a No. 2 and you want to be the best you can be, I would highly recommend reading this book. Actually, I would suggest using it as a guide during the interview process; this isn’t a place where either party can afford to make a mistake. Never forget that hiring mistakes can be very embarrassing and costly.

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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