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A few months ago the then Home Secretary Amber Rudd made the headlines when she branded her then cabinet colleague Boris Johnson a backseat driver. Both honourable members now out of their jobs for various acts. Now anyone who drives any form of vehicle will fully understand the implications of having more than one drivers for one vehicle. This statement was used to depict the sometimes fluctuant comments from members of the cabinet dictating the direction of the country as we manoeuvre the Brexit negotiations.

I am of the view the election is done and the result is clear, yet if we are to get the best deal for the United Kingdom then we need all the elected and non elected politicians to fully support the driver and ensure we reach the same destination in one piece. Think about this for a second, what would happen if you are trying to navigate from point A to B with your entire team giving you contradicting directions. It’s a car crash waiting to happen.

The Oxford Dictionary gives the definition of a backseat driver as a passenger in a car who gives the driver unwanted advice or a person who is eager to advice without responsibility.

Now the Brexit negotiations will require non partisan and vehement efforts from all parts of society speaking with one voice with the ultimate aim of building a United Kingdom that’s global and embracing the world while actively promoting the limitless innovative talents within the United Kingdom.

Backseat driving though is not a challenge that only those in politics face, it’s a matter and challenge we face in business, social spheres and personal lives. It is a challenge that if not monitored and controlled is bound to result in problems. As a people we have a tendency of enjoying control and when we don’t know what’s happening and have no control over what’s happening we panic and that only makes the situation worse.

Sometimes we treat life as if we’re in charge of it, pulling the strings that ultimately make things happen. But we’re not driving the car of life any more than the person on the passenger seat is driving the car. Life is unfolding and as it unfolds, through it all our choices and actions stir us in a certain direction.

Backseat drivers are funny in fiction only; in real life, it’s hard to overstate the irritation they can provoke. Their unsolicited advice however well-intentioned carries the underlying text that they don’t trust the driver to handle the situation on their own.

Letting the captain of the vessel stir the ship is not by any means implying that those in leadership or driving positions should not be given advice or suggestions of the direction of their travel, on the contrary being a co-pilot means one understands the time and place for their advice.

Consider this behind every great achievement is a great team. Ideas and dreams need people of all walks to come together and tirelessly work towards making them a reality. It is however very important to ensure all those in the team understand their role and fully support the person in the driving seat. Your driver could be anyone with a leadership position and role to take you from this place to another.

We all need to remember that it is very easy to criticize and offer advice from outside yet it’s only those in the hot seat who can actually tell how hot it gets.

I recall the famous speech by Theodore Roosevelt (TR), Man in the Arena. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”. Citizenship in the Republic by TR.

Giving the men in the arena or the driver in this case your support will ensure that as a team you achieve your goal. You arrive to your destination. The designated driver for that trip or journey is the person in charge, the leader and all those willing to arrive safety at their destination need to give constructive views and support to their leader. If the passengers, then feel the driver is incompetent and not able to effectively maneuver the vehicle then action must be taken to replace the driver through legal and constitutional routes.

In some cases, it might just be a matter of asking your better half if you can exchange places and drive the car. This process may prove to be a little more complicated when considering the position on Prime Minister, CEO or senior leader in a big organisation. Even more important is understanding the perfect timing; there will not be any benefit in seeking a change of leadership mid voyage or before taking a tricky turn. Walk the journey then find the perfect moment to seek change.

There is no greater weapon in a company’s arsenal than a great team. When firing on all cylinders, effective teams have the ability to increase efficiency by taking on more complex tasks (think “two heads are better than one”), improve communication by facilitating open discussion and cooperation among team members, maximize output by leveraging each team member’s strengths, provide opportunities for personal growth, and act as a support mechanism for staff.

Unsurprisingly, teamwork at the workplace has also shown to increase innovation and creativity by allowing team members to bring unique and distinct perspectives to the table. When leveraged, effective teamwork drives company growth and boosts performance and success by tapping into each individual’s unique strengths and attributes. Leadership skills are often sought after by many employers; they not only show that you have good interpersonal skills, they also show that you have the ability to co-ordinate, motivate and shape a team. 

The Prime Minister needs to use her leadership skills to harness the energy, talent and skills with her cabinet working with other parties and business to negotiate the best deal for the United Kingdom.

Not all teams are created equal. For instance, an overbearing team leader or personality clash between teammates can stifle progress and bring productivity to a halt. A pioneer in organizational behavior, J. Richard Hackman discovered that what matters most to team cohesion isn’t behavioral; rather, certain “enabling conditions” which are a robust structure, supportive atmosphere, and compelling direction. These conditions must be met for for teams to reach their full potential. While the criticisms the backseat driver issues can intimidate and sometimes confuse the driver unwanted authorities are often acting out of their own fear of the unknown, says Pasadena psychologist Ryan Howes. They offer unsolicited advice in an attempt to combat their own feelings of powerlessness like the realization that they cannot fix the situation if the driver makes a mistake.

Instead though of acting out of self preservation, the members of any team may be best placed to support the driver and give constructive feedback so as to make sure they do not derail the plan and result in wreckage. As you go through your daily lives, consider your role in all you do, are you becoming a backseat driver or are you a driver with a few backseat drivers within your car. Either way ensure you make clear who is driving the car and what direction the car is moving. While you at it make sure your team understands the key value they bring to making that vision a success. Someone once said “It’s easy to be a backseat driver. It’s even easier and safer to be a backseat driver when you’re not even in the same car.”

Joseph Chivayo
Joseph Chivayo
Joseph Chivayo Bio Father, Husband and Citizen of the world. Highly focused, professional and passionate with exceptional leadership and communication skills. Joseph Chivayo has a burning desire to make a positive difference and finds strength in prayer and exercise. He is a Business Analyst, Community Advocate, Personal Trainer, Entrepreneur, Model and Motivational Speaker. Follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook @bodyandmindguru