Are you leading from the driver’s seat or the trunk?

Someone whom I’ve always thought of as a mentor once told me: “Andy, always make sure you are in the driver’s seat”. With this, she meant that if you want to achieve anything, you must ensure things are under control and you must know what the next step is. I’ve always kept this advice in mind.

Over the past several years, I have done well in sales. The main reason for this is that I’ve learned to ensure that we always determine the next step with the customer. This way, I can be certain that things stay in control, and that I’m selling from the driver’s seat, not the passenger seat or the trunk. Let me explain a bit:

As you know, there are several possible places to be in a car:

  1. The driver’s seat. This is obviously where you are in command, and choose the desired direction.
  2. The passenger seat: This is where you can see where you’re going; you can influence the choice of direction, but you can’t make the final decision.
  3. The trunk: Here you can’t influence anything, and can’t even see where you’re headed.

In a sales setting, if you leave out the agreed next step you end up in the passenger seat or even the trunk. You have no idea if and when the collaboration will continue. This allegory can be adapted to many quite different areas, including leadership.

Recently I spoke to a customer who told me that quite many employees had recently left the company. The customer had recently taken up the position of human resources director in the company, and one of his first tasks was to arrange discussions with the persons leaving. In most of these discussions, the departing employees told him that even if they were happy with the work itself – as most of them said they were – there had been no regular discussions on feedback, skills development, or career possibilities. The HR director felt disappointed since this situation could have been avoided by a more proactive leadership approach, by leading from the driver’s seat.

Developing employee experience one discussion at a time

So how do you ensure you stay in the driver’s seat when leading a team? For me, the best tool for this is regular one-on-one discussions with my team members. These discussions have helped me to address both pleasant and more difficult topics. Given that the discussions are held on an ongoing basis, leadership has been more proactive and has made it possible to address matters before they become a problem. The employee experience is developed one interaction and discussion at a time.

Regardless of your situation and particular ambitions (career development, better sales outcomes, or leadership development), my advice is to make sure you’re in the driver’s seat. As well as increasing the likelihood of success, it’s also much nicer to operate from there.

Humbol is an application that helps team leaders in holding regular and more rewarding one-on-one discussions and ensuring you always stay in the driver’s seat and systematically develop employee experience.