A wing man, wing woman, wing person. That person who’s “got your back”. Supports you. Can step in at any moment to assist, and if needed, take charge of a situation. You trust this person with your business, your reputation and sometimes even your Netflix account.

You might be thinking why I should have one? In today’s flat organisation structure it is rare to have a formal 2IC. So there is, even more, reason to have a wing person.

Reasons include…

  1. Having a sounding board to vet ideas, approaches and challenges
  2. Finding a person who supplements your development areas, and
  3. Having a trusted person for those times, you physically can’t be there to lead.

Across the leadership roles that I have held, I have designated someone to be my wing person. I am not talking about a formal delegation on an organisation chart such as Vice President or Chief of Staff. I am referring to the working relationship you create with someone which enhances what you and your team can deliver.

What makes a good wing person? 

My advice… do not find another ‘you’! Sure, you might be awesome, but hiring in your image means you are not bringing anything new to the table.

Diversity of thought

Your wing person should offer a range of skills, experiences, and beliefs that are different to your own. It is important to share values and principles, but having a different opinion or approach often broadens your vision and minimises the chance of being blindsided. You want someone to challenge your thinking, and not always be the “yes” person.

Supplement your development areas 

Assuming you are clear on your strengths and weaknesses then seek out a wing person who plugs the gaps. For example, if you are not competent with numbers, find someone who is. If you have a bias towards action without knowing all the facts, then find someone who is more planned in their approach. Think Maverick and Goose. It is also important they understand what yours and their strengths are, so they can be aware of any specific gaps they need to fill.

Can step in and step up

The final and most important quality of all is trust! You need to have implicit trust (not blind faith) that you are both working towards the same goals.

I once had to take two full weeks away from work for health reasons. My recovery was aided in knowing that I had a competent wing woman in place taking care of the team and program of work.

So have a think about it. Do you need support? A new perspective? Someone you can trust to be there when you are not? A flock of birds has a greater flying range in formation than a single bird does on its own. You are better and stronger to fly together than to travel alone.

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