Do You Have a Significant Other?

Interesting title for this week’s Wake-Up Call, don’t you think? Well, if you’re a CEO or business owner or in a senior leadership role, then you had better have a “significant other” working directly for you.

So who is a “significant other” and what do they do? A “significant other” is someone who works directly for you who is willing to give you solicited and unsolicited candid, objective advice and feedback to help you meet the challenges of your senior position. This individual would either confirm your decisions or plans, or flat out tell you “you’re wrong” and here’s why and an alternative.

Why is this important? When you’re the leader or in a very senior role you are ultimately held accountable for the final results. Having once held the position of President & COO of a $2.5 billion publicly traded company, and then President & CEO of an operating subsidiary, I know first-hand what it is like to be in a senior role. I was fortunate that during my career at USLIFE I worked closely with two senior associates who kept me focused and on task. They were direct reports, but they functioned as a super-charged sounding board. They enjoyed the role and were good at it and I was lucky to have had them work with and for me.

In most organizations, many of the members of a senior team are reluctant to be that direct with “the boss”. They like their jobs and at best will “talk around” issues. In the best run companies the leader wants that feedback and creates an environment in which they get it – in a respectful and professional way – as part of the way they conduct business as a team.

A “significant other” as I have described here is a rare breed, but they do exist. So my question to you is: do you have someone like this on your team? If so, great; use them. If not, go find one. It’s just that important.

Here are 5 key ground rules you need to follow to have a valuable and workable business relationship with your “significant other”:

  1. Have a clear description of what their role will be and the measurable outcomes you would expect them to achieve.
  2. They must have skills that complement yours and fill any voids in your skill set.
  3. There must be mutual respect and trust—as the leader you will have to take the first steps to build this relationship.
  4. There must be a “genuine” willingness on your part to take feedback – both solicited and unsolicited – in a direct way.
  5. A “genuine” commitment on the part of your “significant other” to offer feedback/advice that is based on fact, and is shared in a professional and respectful manner with you and only you – no grandstanding performances in meetings or behind your back would ever be permitted.

So there you have it. Don’t be fearful or insecure about how you find and manage this very valuable people resource. Avoid a rookie or someone who will just listen to you or allow you to bully them. Find a great #2 and make them your #1.


Productivity Book Chris Ruisi

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