What To Do When You Are Not In Charge

You need to find ways to be happy as a #2
You need to find ways to be happy as a #2
Image Credit: Bram Booth

Remember the day when you were made an IT manager? What did you think? Did you think that now that you were in charge, things were going to be different around here? What I suspect that you have learned since that day is that you really are not the one in charge. Yes, you do have a say in what your team works on, but there are other people in your organization who are really calling the shots. This means that you are at best a #2. Can you learn to deal with that?

What Does A #2 Do?

I think that at least in our minds, our IT manager training has taught us what we need to do when we are the ones in charge. What’s been missing is to make sure that we have the IT manager skills that are needed to do a good job when we find ourselves in the #2 spot. The good news is that when we are playing the role of a deputy to someone who is #1, this role can be both a rich and a rewarding role for us.

When you are a deputy, getting the most out of the role is going to take some finesse on your part. You need to realize that you have access to the person who is in charge. At the same time, if the result of their decisions is that things go bad, then you won’t be the one who gets blamed for it. In this role you need to be comfortable calling out your boss when you think that he or she is making a bad decision. At the same time, because you are a deputy you will need to be willing to carry out your #1’s plan.

One of the most important tasks that you have to make sure that you are always ready to carry out is having the ability to step into your boss’ shoes. There are a lot of different reasons why your boss may not be available at some point in time, but when it happens it’s going to fall on you to step up and take care of things. You may not have had all of the experiences that your boss has had, but you still need to be able to fill in for him or her when required.

What Makes A #2 Good?

We always want to be successful in whatever role we are playing. When we find ourselves being a deputy to someone else, we need to be willing to bury our ego. The skills that you bring to the table should always complement the skills of the #1 person. Since you won’t be spending time in the spotlight, you will need to make sure that you can take satisfaction from the wins that you can achieve behind-the-scenes.

One of the toughest parts of being a good deputy is that it is going to be your responsibility to always be promoting the boss’ plan. You’ll need to be able to do this even when you disagree with it. However, in private you will need to have the courage to tell the boss when you think that he or she is making a mistake. Publically, you’ll need to collect all of the information that you possibly can so that you can protect your boss from any unnecessary surprises.

When you are someone’s deputy you need to understand that you will not be getting any glory or praise for yourself. No matter what you think about your boss, you are going to have to make sure that you are not afraid of them. This is because it’s going to be up to you to challenge them when you think that they are making a mistake. While you are a deputy your career will continue to advance. You need to be very careful that you are not trying to compete with your boss. Being a deputy is not a complete career – you need to view this as being a temporary position. The goals that you accomplish while you hold this role need to align with what your boss is trying to accomplish.

What All Of This Means For You

We all dream about being the person who runs the show. However, in real life more often than not what we’ll discover is that someone else has been given that responsibility. What we are being asked to do is to be a deputy to the person who has the #1 spot. It turns out that this is a tricky job and we need to take the time to find out how to do it correctly.

A deputy role can be a rewarding role if we do it correctly. You’ll have access to the #1 person. You’ll also have to be confident enough to call them out when you think that they are making a wrong decision. When your boss is not available to do their job, it is going to become your responsibility to step in and carry out their role and do some IT team building. Your skills should be a complement to your boss’. You will need to be able to promote your boss’ plan even when you don’t agree with it. Being a deputy is a temporary position; however, while you hold it you need to make sure that what you are doing lines up with what your boss wants to accomplish.

The challenge of being a #2 is that this position does not come with a lot of instructions. We need to understand that our job is to support the person in charge no matter what they are trying to accomplish. The good news is that their successes will be our successes also.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If your boss makes a mistake, do you think that it would ever be a good idea for you to take responsibility for it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If I was to ask you what it takes to make a really great team, what would your answer be? Lots of ping pong tables? Probably not. What makes people want to both join and then stay with your team is something that is much more difficult to create: workplace culture. You need to understand how to use your IT manager skills to create a workplace that people will want to participate in. Now the big question is just exactly how do you go about doing this?

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