Backseat drivers are a pain aren’t they? With their opinions about what you are doing wrong; what you should have done or how you should have done it (the later demonstrates signs of passive aggressive behavior). Backseat drivers cause frustration because their perspectives are strongly influenced by their perceptions, which are often far from reality.
Similarly, it is difficult to lead or manage teams from the backseat. To be effective in any leadership role, to truly understand what is going on requires jumping in the front seat, at least for a portion of the drive.
Here are some tips on becoming a more effective front line leader:
1. Get out of the office and in the trenches.
Spending time with those on the front lines is not only a great way to gain perspective of the business, it is also one of the only ways to gain the respect of those who work for you or with you. Spend some time in the trenches to understand the business.
2. Manage through observation.
Never make judgements without first observing what is happening. Shop your own business, ask questions, witness interactions. Observations are the only way to gain a first hand perspective of the environment.
3. Make your own judgements.
Along the lines of using observation, make sure to make your own judgements. I am sure you have found that often the perceptions or judgements made by others, despite their role in the organization, may not always be correct. How does this leave you feeling about them, or their opinions? The most effective leaders make their own judgements based on fact, observation and experience. Don’t be swayed by others.
4. Participate, don’t dominate.
Teams are effective when they make decisions together. Although you may want to provide them some direction, you do not want to make decisions on their behalf. Participate in team discussions and problem solving; support their decision making, don’t dominate it.
5. Growth through acquisition.
By gaining a better understanding of how the organization functions, you acquire new skills and a broader perspective. In essence, both yourself and the team improve by acquiring these new views. Growth for the team comes from acquisition.
Whether you manage teams directly or indirectly, applying these five steps will help you become a more effective leader. Coincidentally, by becoming more engaged in the front lines you will be more effective from the backseat. Just remember to keep your opinions to yourself.
© Shawn Casemore 2013. All rights reserved.