This post originally appeared on my external blog, “Social Media Strategery.”
Who gives that big social media presentation if you can’t make it? If you get pulled into another big project and can’t take on that client meeting, who do you send in your place? If you’re on vacation, who picks up where you left off? Who do you rely on to help you implement your initiatives?
These are questions that every executive should already have answers to as most organizations are already set up this way. You rise up through the ranks, you gradually accumulate more and more staff, funding, and authority, and are given management training. However, most of my readers aren’t in these sorts of positions – they’re more than likely serving in a different role where they’re given a similarly broad set of responsibilities, albeit limited funding, no staff, and even less authority. Welcome to the world of Community Managers, New Media Directors, Chief Community Officers, and Chief Social Media Strategists.
And for these people, answers to these questions are a little less clear, but even more important. That’s because the people who have ascended into these sorts of roles are often the people who have started the social media efforts. They’re the ones who have put their butts on the line to even justify the creation of a position like this. However, while they may have finally broken through and are now able to focus 100% of their time on their organization’s social media efforts, they generally haven’t been given the same level of support (in $$ or staff) as people with similar leadership positions. That’s why these people MUST learn how to identify, develop, and empower their second team.
What’s a “second team” you ask? I was surprised that I didn’t find many references to it online – it seems that it’s a term that was use primarily here at Booz Allen. So I’ll just give you my definition based on how we use it here.
Others may define it differently, but what it boils down to is this – who are the people whom you trust and depend on to do the work that you do and do it just as well, if not better, than you do? When someone asks for your help and you can’t help, for whatever reason, who’s the person you feel 100% confident recommending instead? These people, regardless of where they fall on the org chart, are your second team.
I rely on my second team to handle everything from developing and delivering briefings to ensuring quality client delivery across our entire social media portfolio, and I can honestly say that without them, my company’s social media efforts never would have scaled beyond what one person could do during a fraction of their day. It’s because of this second team that our social media efforts have scaled across the organization while still allowing me to take time off, have a baby, and do a better job of balancing my work and personal lives. And this second team wasn’t created on an org chart or via an email from the boss – it was created through good old-fashioned respect, cooperation, shared goals, and passion.
So how can you identify, develop, and empower your second team? Here are five helpful tactics that I’ve used:
- Diversify your people – your second team doesn’t have to be people under you on the org chart. They just have to be the people whom you trust and who believe in what you’re trying to do. They should also fill in your weaknesses with their strengths. That’s why I love working with Jacque Myers – she’s never afraid to tell me that I’m wrong.
- Stick your neck out for them – I want to create a culture of innovation among the people I work with, and for that to work, we need to not be afraid of taking risks. I often tell people to use their best judgment, but don’t worry about asking for approval for everything. If you get into a sticky situation, just direct it to me and I’ll take care of it. People can’t take risks if they fear for their jobs. Remove that fear as much as you can.
- Give them enough rope to succeed (or hang themselves) – Give them big picture initiatives and let them figure out the details on their own. Allow them the freedom to make it their own – after all, you don’t really have any sort of hammer to “make” them do it, so you have to rely on stirring their sense of ambition and initiative.
- Give them the credit – While I may ultimately end up being the one to actually give the presentation or submit the final product, I also realize that I had to rely on other people to get it to that point. Make sure others realize the role that they played and that without them, you wouldn’t have been able to deliver what you did.
- Put them out front – As the primary social media “evangelist” at my organization, I get lots of opportunities to brief very senior members of the firm, to give firm-wide presentations or to work on some very exciting new initiatives. As much fun as these opportunities may be, give some of them away. That presentation next week? See if you can tell the organizers that you can’t make it, but that you’ll be sending one of the top members of your team in your place. Then coach up that person and give them the tools/training/confidence they need to knock it out of the park.
These are just five of the tactics that I’ve used – regardless of which ones you use, remember that the best second teams are created out of leadership, respect, and inspiration, not by org charts and memos.
Great advice that ties in well with any good leader – need to grow and empower your future leaders.
It’s a great idea but maybe “second team” should be called something else. Nobody wants to be second.
Once again great post Steve. maybe you should roll with your second team this weekend in Fantasy so the rest of us can catch up.
@Joe I understand that nobody wants to be second but I don’t think it’s a negative connotation as long as you respect the person that’s in front of you.
Steve, awesome post…and I do agree with Joe. Maybe call it the “Wing Team?” That way they will feel like they are standing right by your side, not behind you, and will give their all, representing you like they should!
Last night I heard Ken Langone speak, co-founder of Home Depot, and he made the point that he called all of his “employees” -> “associates” so they would aspire to be greater than less.
Perhaps a label like “program team” that eliminates the impression that there’s a hierarchy at work. Everyone knows that there’s a person in charge, but if they all feel they’re contributing at the top level, there’s a sense of buy-in that you can’t get otherwise.
Thanks for the feedback everyone – glad you liked the post. When I first heard the term “second team” here, I too thought it was a little off-putting, but I guess over time, I just got used to it. Plus, here, it’s viewed very much like a compliment – when a VP whom you respect, tells his peers and other people across the firm that you are a member of his second team, it’s akin to him telling everyone that he trusts you implicitly to do great work. But yeah, I can definitely see the point about it almost having a negative connotation.