Developing your second in command

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One of the most important tasks you will ever face as a manager in marketing (or manager of anything) is developing your second-in-command. With a strong second-in-command, you can do things like travel to speak at events, do advanced research and development, focus only on your top priorities for maximum productivity, or even go on vacation.

Without a strong second-in-command, you will forever be in the weeds, keeping the trains on the rails, and frustrated at your lack of personal professional growth. You’ll also never go on vacation for more than a day.


Here’s a simple test to determine whether your second-in-command is strong enough. Suppose you got a notice that you just won an all-expenses-paid two-week dream vacation to the place you’ve always wanted to go – but you have to leave tomorrow. Could you go? Is your marketing team structure set up well enough that your second-in-command could simply pick up and run with the ball for a couple of weeks? If the answer is no, then you need to invest in your second-in-command.

How do you invest in your second-in-command? Developing them requires both knowledge and practical application. Knowledge should come from training and writing down everything (or in this day and age, recording training videos). I do this for my team at SHIFT Communications; I’ve made an entire training library of step-by-step videos with screen casting software.

Practical application only comes from actually doing the work – and delegating every possible task to your second-in-command. This doesn’t have to be an immediate, all-or-nothing proposition. When Buddhist monks on Mt. Hiei prepare for some of their most grueling trials (such as 9 consecutive days without food, water, or sleep), they work up to the experience. When runners prepare for a marathon, they don’t knock out 26.2 miles on the first day. Preparing your second-in-command requires a similar mindset for preparation. Give them a little more every day. Let them run small programs and ladder up to bigger and bigger programs and campaigns.

Measure your progress by asking yourself the dream vacation question repeatedly. Check yourself to see how much closer you are to a “yes” every week, until you reach a point where you feel yes, your second-in-command could keep the trains running for a couple of weeks without you.

With luck, not only will your second-in-command be ready, you’ll also get that dream vacation.

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