The Power of Being a Number Two!

By Paul Joiner

First a Story


As Ryan Drake pulled into the parking lot of the office complex, he felt something was very wrong. Today was the dreaded “first day back” from a well-deserved two-week vacation. What he saw took him by surprise.  About 25 of his fellow employees congregated by the flagpole on the front lawn of the Powerland office building. At first he thought it was a fire drill or perhaps a bomb scare. But then he noticed other employees standing on the inside of the building looking back out through the windows. A hostage situation he wondered?


Ryan parked his car, grabbed his briefcase, and quickly headed for the group that encircled the flagpole. He spotted Fred, who works two cubicles down from him on the second floor.


“Fred, what on earth is going on?” Ryan asked.


“Oh, hi, Ryan. Welcome home, missed ya. Anyway . . . just so you know, you’re one of us, not one of them,” Fred said, pointing to the groups of people peering out the building through the windows on the third floor.


“By them you mean the executive staff?” Ryan inquired.


“Yeah. We’re holding a walkout. The sixth one in two weeks. It’s a protest of sorts.”


“That explains the black armbands and the pile of burning message pads,” Ryan said. “And do I hear someone singing the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’?”


“Yeah, that’s Olive. She’s over there lying across the hood of Pat Powerland’s car. Olive is the only one who knew the words to the anthem.” Fred adjusted the volume setting on a large bullhorn hanging around his neck, held it up to Ryan’s mouth, and continued, “Go ahead, if you have something you want to say to the ‘zecs,’ just let ’er rip!”


Ryan looked up into the building and recognized the them. Most of the senior and executive staff of the company looked down at the protestors. He spotted Martin, the company’s CFO, shaking his head. Nora, from distribution, was crying all over her Monday cat sweater. Someone was holding up a sign that said, “Get to work! Break over!” And David, the newest young executive, put his nose up to the glass, breathed hard, and began writing something distasteful in the fogged-up window.


“Look at that!” screamed Violet. “Do you see what David wrote?”


Ryan squinted, “I can’t make it out. I mean . . . three floors up . . . it’s kind of hard to read . . . .”


“This is an outrage!” Fred chimed in. “I say we moon them! Ready? One, two, and . . . !”


The tired protestors let out a united groan. “We tried the group moon last Wednesday, and it didn’t get us anywhere except on the cover of the inter-office newsletter,” sighed Violet, burying her face in a steno pad.


“What is all this about, Fred?” asked Ryan.


“Support staff versus top staff!” Fred cried. “We do all the work, and they get all the credit!”


“That’s not fair and certainly not always true,” Ryan said passionately. His comment incited the mob as they circled around him. Then the anger spewed forth.


“We’re the ones that answer their phones!”


“Set their appointments!”


“Take the minutes and email the notes!”


“Keep their schedules!”


“Proof their really bad English!”


“Three-hole punch their briefs!”


“And shred their documents!”


The crowd went nuts when document shredding was mentioned! Fred placed his mouth up to the bullhorn, “Yeah, let’s hear it for the Document Shredders, Local 469!”


Ryan scratched his head, “Document shredders, Local . . . ?”       


“Fred thought we should unionize those of us who shred documents,” Violet mumbled.


Olive suddenly stood up on the hood of Pat Powerland’s Mercedes and started belting out, “We are the wind beneath your wings . . . !”


Ryan was not an executive at Powerland Properties, but he knew that his position was crucial to the success of the operation. His selfless support of those in leadership above him is what made him such a trustworthy asset as a senior project manager to Pat Powerland.


“Look you guys,” Ryan shouted. “What are you complaining about? Do you think you are the only ones who hold supporting roles at Powerland? Most of us are in a number-two position. I’d say 99 percent of the people staring back at us from inside the building answer to someone in a position higher than their own!


“It’s not just receptionists, secretaries, warehouse workers, and clerical and customer service staff! It’s also vice presidents, project managers, supervisors, executives, and senior employees, too! You see, most every one of us is paid to help empower and support someone in a higher level of responsibility.”


The crowd began to relax. Protestors looked around at each other with confused faces and worried sighs. Ryan took off his sport coat, loosened his tie, grabbed the megaphone, stood on top of his briefcase, and addressed his angry coworkers.


“People, listen to me! Being second to someone in charge is nothing to be ashamed of. Hear me out when I say that for every great Number One there are usually one or more powerful Number Twos!”


“What’s a Number Two?” crackled Elmer the cafeteria custodian. “That sounds like bathroom humor to me!”


“A Number Two is me. It’s you. It’s all of us here at Powerland Properties . . . except for Pat Powerland himself because he’s the Pat of Pat Powerland,” Ryan reasoned.


“So we’re supposed to throw out ‘We’re number one! We’re number one!’ after we were forced to chant that idiotic phrase at last year’s asinine sales conference?” questioned Norma, who supervised the clerical pool.


Ryan began to work the crowd. “Don’t confuse being number one at what you do with being a Number Two. All of us should determine to be the best at what we do. We should rise to the top of our job description . . . no matter what it is . . . great or small! If your boss asks you to staple, what should you do?”


“Wear safety goggles?” came a whimper from within the crowd.


“No,” replied Ryan, “staple like you are the only one in the world capable of stapling! Staple like it’s your calling! That staple is not just a device to hold papers together. No, that little metal bracket represents steadfastness, quality, pride, skill, and trust! Your Number One should be able to shoot those papers through the universe and that staple should not . . . no, it should not be moved!”


Amens and hallelujahs resounded from the once-angry mob.


Ryan hit a fever pitch. “Every one of us needs to take pride in what we do . . . in who we are . . . and who we work for! We are significant! We are vital! We matter! We, my brothers and sisters, we are the ones that put the POWER into Powerland!”


“Let’s get back to work!” screamed Violet, discarding her black armband and stepping back into her sensible shoes.


“I’m right behind you,” shouted Fred as he tightened his belt.


The cheering on the ground was joined by their counterparts above hanging out every window of the office building! And as the small band of protestors shed their armbands, stepped over a smoldering bonfire of office supplies, and followed Ryan arm-in-arm toward the entrance of the Powerland Properties building, something amazing happened: The powerless Number Twos became powerful. For the first time, they embraced their significance.


And then something else incredible happened: The Number Twos were recognized by the “zecs.” Yes, as they approached the entrance of the building, they were welcomed back with a ticker-tape parade of shredded documents being tossed from the windows above.


Olive took the hand of Ryan and belted out her best Bob Dylan, “The answer, my friend, is blow’n in the wind . . . the answer is blow’n in the wind.”


 And as the swirling streams of shredded paper fell from the third floor and floated around the returning prodigals, the Number Twos saw how even shredding documents had come full circle to benefit them. They discovered that sometimes even the most menial task ends up being used in a celebration in your honor.


Now a Lesson




The world is filled with people like you and me who work supporting someone else. It could be a department manager or the head of the organization. You may be number one at what you do, but you are a Number Two at the office. (Or, to make this more complicated, to your staff you are Number One, but you are Number Two to your boss, your Number One!)


There is nothing wrong with working for, supporting, or strategically undergirding a Number One. In fact, you may have the most powerful position at the office by being a Number Two.


But to see your support position as a position of greatness, you must have the right perspective on the significance of what you do.




Do you walk into work each day feeling POWERFUL or POWERLESS?


The degree of empowerment you feel you have in your job manifests itself on how you show up each day and view and perform the tasks at hand.


If you are like most of us, you’re feeling either powerful or powerless.


Do you feel powerful? You do if you know what you do matters. You make a difference, and you are significant and greatly needed. You’re plugged-in, generating change, energizing the team, and shining brightly in your job. You understand, connect, and manage your Number One; and the flow of energy spills over into your work.


Or, do you feel powerless? Something seems wrong. You can throw on the most commanding outfit in your wardrobe, carry that intimidating attaché case, hold firmly on to your impressive Monte Blanc pen, and you still feel unconnected, weak, incapable, and ineffective. You’re dressed for success, but in reality, just fashionably failing.


So why do so many Number Twos feel powered-up while others feel unplugged and powerless? It’s easy to blame your Number One—and there could be some culpability—but your power as a Number Two is not generated from anyone else but you. That’s right. The power source is within you.


I believe the source to being a powerful Number Two lies in two key areas of your position: the perception and practice of your role.




Powerless Twos usually have a wrong or misguided view of who they are and the supporting role they play. This distorted view can take many faces—a servant, lackey, minion, gofer, underling, subordinate, or “just a pretty face” round out the list of usual suspects in the Powerless Two irregulars line-up.


Powerless Twos see their work as secondary, less important, and not as essential as their Number One’s work. A blurred view of what they do can be a result of poor training, a dysfunctional work environment, career failures, bad office dynamics, and/or an inattentive boss.


On the other hand, Powerful Twos have a healthy perception of their position. They see the importance of what they do and how it fits into the scheme of the organization. They have discovered and defined the purpose of their job and have found significance in the position they hold. They understand their role as a Number Two and strive to support, enable, and equip their Number One.



Powerless vs. Powerful Perceptions of a Number Two


Powerless Twos view their work as secondary in importance to their Number One’s work.

Powerful Twos see the importance of their job as crucial to the productivity of the entire organization.


Powerless Twos do not recognize the role they play in the overall success of the company.

Powerful Twos connect their duties to the eventual success of the company.


Powerless Twos believe that their work is hidden in the shadow of their Number One.
Powerful Twos find confidence in the strength they provide to the overall structure of their company.


Powerless Twos see their job as a stepping-stone instead of a destination.

Powerful Twos understand the importance of embracing their present position as an important investment for their future.


Powerless Twos seek recognition for the position they hold instead of the value they add to their position. Powerful Twos find significance and recognition in the proficiency in which they perform and propel their position forward.


Powerless Twos are controlled by entitlement.

Powerful Twos grasp the reality that job equity is earned through faithful and consistent service.


Powerless Twos confuse personal acceptance with professional performance.

Powerful Twos distinguish between personal significance and professional significance.


Powerless Twos focus on the emotion of the office instead of the motion of the office.

Powerful Twos comprehend the personal dynamics of a working environment and focus on their work, not their feelings.


Powerless Twos pursue a personal friendship with their Number One.

Powerful Twos seek to develop a working partnership with their Number One. (Friendship is a bonus!)


Powerless Twos desire to be understood by their Number One more than seeking to understand their Number One.

Powerful Twos regard understanding how their Number One thinks and operates as their top priority.


Powerless Twos make mental records of the negative and forget the positive aspects of being a Number Two. Powerful Twos find ways to turn negatives into positives and focus on the benefits of their job.


Powerless Twos expect to be motivated by their Number One instead of being a motivating force.

Powerful Twos realize that motivation to succeed must first come from within.


Powerless Twos believe their professional happiness depends on their Number One.

Powerful Twos believe they are responsible for their professional fulfillment.


So how do you view your job? Think about it for a moment. Do you see it as a vital and important part of the company? The correct perception of your role as a Number Two is vital to the mental health of your job significance. If you have a low opinion of what you do, then a lack of confidence, a poor sense of value, and a low view of your contribution and importance will follow you into the office each day.





Powerless Twos cannot only be plagued with faulty perceptions of their job, often there is a degree of bad work practices as well. Some of these practices show up in how they operate, while others manifest themselves in the motivational aspects of their job.


Powerless Twos are “me” focused instead of being focused on the needs of their Number One. The view of the relationship with their Number One is often reversed from what it should be—feeling that it is the duty of their boss to empower, encourage, and support them instead of the opposite.


A degree of entitlement, competition, and game playing can also adversely affect the Number Two’s success. When a Number Two tries to manipulate, outmaneuver, or regulate their Number One’s operating style, then the outcome will be anything but positive.


The biggest error of a Powerless Two is to not be a student of their Number One and learn how to adapt to their life approach (Adventure Style). Powerless Twos do not understand who their boss is, how they think, and how they approach their job.


On the other hand, Powerful Twos practice a healthy perception of their position. They see the importance of what they do and how it fits into the scheme of the organization. They have discovered and defined the purpose of their job and have found significance in the position they hold. They strive to support, enable, and equip their Number One, understanding that this is their role as a Number Two.


Powerless vs. Powerful Practices of a Number Two


Powerless Twos demand respect because of their Number One’s position in the organization.

Powerful Twos command respect because of the professionalism they bring to the position they hold in the organization.


Powerless Twos expect their Number One to conform to their work style.

Powerful Twos study the work habits of their Number One and adjust accordingly.


Powerless Twos view the leadership and personal weaknesses of their Number One as continual sources of frustration.

Powerful Twos consider the weaknesses of their Number One as opportunities to be of valuable help that will bring strength to their Number One’s effectiveness.


Powerless Twos are primarily focused on their needs.

Powerful Twos are students of the needs and wants, as well as the operating and leadership style, of their Number One.


Powerless Twos try to change their Number One.

Powerful Twos present ways to nurture and grow the potential of their Number One.


Powerless Twos seek credit from coworkers for work done for their Number One.

Powerful Twos are confident that others will see the imprint of their contribution in the success of their Number One.


Powerless Twos compete with their Number One.

Powerful Twos understand that when their Number One wins, they do, too.


Powerless Twos look for their Number One to find solutions to their problems.

Powerful Twos are resourceful and seek solutions to their own problems.


Powerless Twos’ quality of excellence diminishes when feedback from their Number One is not received for past accomplishments.

A Powerful Two maintains a high standard of excellence no matter the acknowledgment, or lack of it.


Powerless Twos operate with a “work for reward” attitude.

Powerful Twos discover ways to enjoy the personal satisfaction and value of their position.


Powerless Twos are happy to “talk it out” when problems arise.

Powerful Twos are eager to “work it out.”


A Powerless Two waits to be empowered.

A Powerful Two looks for ways to support, equip, and empower their Number One to success.


So, as a Number Two, are you powerful or powerless?


I believe that is up to you.


Power-up with the suggestions above. Change your mindset about your Number One and you will discover the importance and significance of what you do.




Two Wrap It Up


Powerful Twos have a correct view of the position they hold.


Powerful Twos practice correct work procedures.


Powerful Twos’ power comes from within, not from without.


Powerful Twos are students of their Number Ones.


Powerful Twos are focused on the motion of the office, not the emotion of the office.



Affirmations for Number Twos


My job is not just a stepping-stone—it is a destination.


When my Number One succeeds, I do, too!


I can find personal satisfaction and value from my job in my performance.


The imprint of my work marks the success of my Number One and the organization as a whole.

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