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专栏 - 向Anne提问

当二把手的好处

Anne Fisher 2014年07月22日

Anne Fisher为《财富》杂志《向Anne提问》的专栏作者,这个职场专栏始于1996年,帮助读者适应经济的兴衰起落、行业转换,以及工作中面临的各种困惑。
公司的第二把交椅并不总是个次好的位置。一位副董事长就此撰写专著,探讨如何利用好二把手的位置。

    亲爱的安妮:我很想知道您和您的读者对这件事怎么看。我的一位密友兼同事——就叫他鲍勃吧——一心巴望着,或者至少是希望能被任命为我们部门的头儿。可是,首席执行官一职最终落到了另一个对手头上,而鲍勃只得到了向老板汇报工作的第二把交椅。

    我明白这个结局让他失望透顶,他现在干脆打算离职,这在我看来是极大的失策。我一直努力说服他,当二把手对他来说也是个好机会,这个任命很值得接受(至少在最近几年内都是值得的),不过我觉得他听不进去。请问您怎么看这个问题?——一位忧虑不安的旁观者

    亲爱的旁观者: 这是个有意思的问题,不过,如果不了解更多细节,这也是一个非常难以回答的问题。总部位于伦敦的全球广告和营销巨头萨奇广告公司(Saatchi & Saatchi)的副董事长理查德•海特纳指出:“在这个层级,接班计划应该是透明公开的。谁将出任下一任首席执行官不该是个让人惊讶的决定。”

    而事实上它确实令人惊讶(至少对鲍勃来说是如此),这在海特纳看来不是个好兆头。他的疑惑是:“鲍勃曾经和首席执行官谈过他的期望吗?如果一番交谈下来,他觉得老总已经承诺这项职位非他莫属,然后却把这个位置给了别人,那就是严重的失信,他可能真应该脱身而去,另谋高就了。”

    如果情况并非如此,那海特纳先生就十分同意你的看法,即虽然鲍勃本人目前还没意识到,但他确实获得了一个千载难逢的机会。海特纳自己曾深思熟虑过当二把手的种种好处:几年前,他主动辞去了萨奇广告公司欧洲、中东和非洲区首席执行官一职,出任母公司副董事长。

    他在自己的著作《顾问:阴影下的领导艺术》(Consiglieri: Leading from the Shadows)中写道:“我决定出任副手,不再当那个永远在奋力工作、永远在做决策的首席执行官。当二把手是我的首选。事实证明这是我职业生涯中的最佳决策。”

    在《顾问》【Consiglieri,一个可追溯至中世纪的意大利语词汇,后来因电影《教父》(The Godfather)而一炮而红】一书中,他描述了两种他称为“C”高管的管理者:一种是充分利用二把手位置为当一把手做准备的人——比如蒂姆•库克,他在苹果公司(Apple)长期担任斯蒂夫•乔布斯的副手,最后才出任首席执行官;另一种是看重二把手这个位置独特价值的人。

    海特纳显然属于第二个阵营。一方面,他喜欢“有时间深入思考问题,这是大多数首席执行官都做不到的。如果你天生就富有求知欲,好深思,又喜欢在幕后影响公司战略和重大事件,那就没有比二把手更好的工作了,”他说。

    “但对多数人来说,当二把手好像没什么出息,没法像一把手那么位高权重,也拿不到高不可攀的薪水。不过,二把手也不必承受跟最高职位相伴的无休无止、令人痛苦的压力,还能更好地掌控属于自己的时间,”他补充道。海特纳自己就利用空余时间在伦敦商学院(London Business School)教授市场营销。

    Dear Annie: I’m curious about what you and your readers have to say about this situation. A close friend and colleague of mine—let’s call him Bob—was expecting, or at least hoping, to be named head of our division. Instead, the CEO position has gone to someone else who was also in the running, and Bob has just been offered the No. 2 job, reporting to the new chief.

    I understand that it’s a disappointment, but he’s thinking about leaving the company, which I believe would be a big mistake. I’ve been trying to convince him that being second-in-command could be a huge opportunity for him, and well worth taking (at least for a couple of years), but I don’t think he’s listening. Your thoughts, please? — Concerned Bystander

    Dear C.B.: Interesting question, and a tough one to answer without knowing a few more details. “At this level, succession planning should be transparent,” notes Richard Hytner, deputy chairman of London-based global advertising and marketing behemoth Saatchi & Saatchi. “Who is next in line to be CEO shouldn’t come as a surprise.”

    The fact that it apparently did (at least to Bob) strikes Hytner as a bad sign. “Did Bob discuss his expectations with the CEO?” Hytner wonders. “If he came away from that conversation having been promised that the job was his, and it was then given to someone else, that is a serious enough breach of trust that he probably should quit and go elsewhere.”

    If not, however, Hytner agrees with you that, although he may not realize it right now, Bob has just been given a terrific opportunity. Hytner has done a lot of thinking about the unique advantages of being No. 2: A few years ago, he voluntarily quit his job as CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Europe, Middle East, and Africa to become deputy chairman of the parent company.

    “I decided to become a deputy instead of an all-singing, all-dancing, always-deciding CEO,” he writes in his book Consiglieri: Leading from the Shadows. “Being second [was] my first choice. It proved the best one of my career.”

    In Consiglieri (an Italian word for adviser or counselor that dates back to the Middle Ages but was made famous by The Godfather), he writes about two types of what he calls “C” executives: Those who have taken advantage of the No. 2 role to prepare themselves for the top job—think Tim Cook, who was Steve Jobs’ longtime deputy at Apple before becoming CEO—and those who value the position for its own sake.

    Hytner is decidedly in the second camp. For one thing, he likes “having the time to think through a problem deeply, which most CEOs do not have,” he says. “If you are curious and contemplative by nature, and enjoy influencing strategy and events from behind the scenes, then there really is no better job.

    “The problem is that being No. 2 looks like failure to many people,” he adds. “You don’t have the status and overt power, or the stratospherically high pay, of the top job. But you also don’t have the miserable, nonstop pressures that come with it. And you have a lot more control over your own time.” Hytner uses some of his freed-up schedule to teach marketing at London Business School.

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