I’ve always been amused when kids fight over the front passenger seat. Maybe it’s because when I was growing up, I never had a shot at the front seat, since I’m the youngest of three, and the only girl. I was always relegated to the middle seat in the back with the hump. But that’s a story for another day.
Kids are under the illusion that the “shotgun” seat holds more importance than the back seats. Actually, the only seat that really matters is the driver’s seat, because it’s the seat that controls the journey.
In business, this is often the case as well.
In almost every interaction, someone is in the driver’s seat, and someone is riding shotgun. The person in the driver’s seat is the one controlling the agenda, and often the outcome. The shotgun participant is responding and reacting to the driver.
When coaching my clients, one of the skill sets we strengthen is the ability to drive interactions. This is important because it empowers us to have more control over our agendas, rather than being a slave to the agendas of others. We work on this skill set through situational analysis, role playing, and with the use of tools that are part of Successful Culture’s TransformU™ Growth Program.
For example, suppose you are managing a difficult – but strategically important customer. In other words, firing this customer is not an option. Instead, you must develop strategies to minimize any unpredictability or volatility that this customer may cause in your organization, or your personal life.
Asserting control over communications is a great first step to contain the negative impacts of this customer (In my next column, I will discuss Containment Strategies).
Here are 9 steps that can help you occupy the driver’s seat in any of your business relationships:
- Proactively establish regular meetings.
- Develop specific agendas for each meeting.
- Ask for feedback on your agenda ahead of your meetings, and also ask the customer to add any additional items.
- Get approval of the agenda prior to the meeting.
- Be as prepared as possible for each agenda topic.
- Drive the agenda and stay true to it.
- If the agenda goes off-topic, send the other issues to a parking lot, with a commitment to address them at a later time.
- Wrap up the meeting on time.
- Follow-up with an email that summarizes any key take-aways and action steps.
Remember: when you are riding shotgun, you have no control over the direction of where you are headed. You are in a reactive state, and are a slave to someone else’s agenda. If you want to be in control of your interactions and outcomes, Strive to Drive.
You won’t always be able to set the agenda, but being aware of the difference between the Driver’s Seat and the Shotgun Seat will already shift your mindset and your outcomes.
Good luck with these steps, and let me know how they shift both your stress levels, and your outcomes.
What other strategies do you use to minimize the impact of difficult people, and difficult conversations?
Please share with us.
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CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”