HR & Management

Developing a second line: Who runs your business when you’re not there?

5 min read

12 March 2018

Building your second line, identifying and then developing managers, is a crucial element in freeing yourself from the day to day of your operation, and is one of the most challenging tasks for any business owner or leader.

I’ve seen it many times – a business owner wants to step away, but doesn’t have a strong second line. In some instances, there isn’t even one person that could be left at the wheel to make bosses feel at ease and happy that the company is in safe hands.

Unfortunately, very few business leaders have experience in developing a second line. Many learned on the job to be managers themselves. They never thought to get personal development in their skill set, nor the mindset required to be an effective leader of people. As a result, they are ill-equipped to choose the right people for management or give them the training and support they need.

So, what happens? They pluck their best employees from the role they excel in and thrust them into positions where most feel lost.

If the individual is a natural leader they may do ok. But what if they go power crazy? Micro-managing, giving orders, being a boss not a leader – you can quickly have an unhappy and under-performing team. The business owner ends up with even more people pain than before he/she promoted the manager.

Putting this situation right is one thing I’m passionate about. I want more business owners to see the benefit of building great teams and developing a great second line. It’s what I did every day of my 27 years with McDonald’s – and I loved it! But I’m aware that not everyone feels this way about managing people. Maybe I wouldn’t either if I hadn’t had so much time and money invested in my development as a manager by Macs.

We ask so many things of managers. We want them to be boss, coach, mentor, supporter, and motivator. Every single day. It’s hard, and even though they do their best, are they really giving your employees everything they want from a manager? Everything they need?

How do you know?

To find out I did a bit of social media research, asking employees about bosses they loved and hated – the sort of boss they would want to be, the sort of people they see in management roles. I discovered three things employees want more than anything

First and foremost, they want open and honest communication. They want to understand where the business is headed, what the vision is  and be kept up to date with how things are going. They also want to be respected and valued as individuals, and as contributing members of a team. Last but not least, they want to know what’s expected of them and be trusted to get on with it.

Identifying the right people for a management role is the vital first step. It’s about finding people who understand the importance of these three employee needs. Ideally, they’ll share your values, will be good with people and command respect rather than demand it. They won’t always be the best in their role – that is important to remember. Then it’s all about training and developing them.

If you have the time and skills to do this yourself, then great, if not, then external help will be invaluable. For many business owners this means sending their new manager on a course for a day or a week, which is better than nothing. Having come from a business that excelled in developing managers, I would recommend a more long-term approach, ideally with a trainer/mentor, who will hold your manager to account for practicing what they learn.

The McFreedom System® was developed by Marianne Page, who started her McDonald’s career as a restaurant manager where, yes, she flipped burgers and fried fries, before joining the training team in Hamburger University and moving on to more senior leadership roles within the business. By putting such a system in place, business owners can free up their time to grow their business. To learn more about The McFreedom System® pick up a copy of Page’s new book Simple, Logical, Repeatable, available on Amazon.