My friend, Kathy Macdonald, an organizational\n\ndesign consultant, thinks of leaders as bus drivers. As she explains in\n\nthe workshops she teaches, bus drivers are the ones up front driving\n\nthe vehicle forward within sight of their passengers. Along the\n\njourney, they keep their eyes on the road and call out the stops.\n\nFriendly bus drivers go one step further; they provide a running\n\nnarration suggesting people look out the window to catch a glimpse of\n\nthis sight or that. \n\nConsidering leaders as bus drivers may be prosaic \u2013 after all, isn\u2019t\n\nleadership more glamorous? Couldn\u2019t a leader be likened to an airline\n\npilot? That\u2019s certainly more sexy even exciting. Kathy prefers the bus\n\ndriver because the driver is accessible, visible and communicative \u2013\n\nuntrue of today\u2019s pilots who, for security reasons, fly behind locked\n\ndoors and speak via intercom. Bus drivers are more like regular folks,\n\nright out in the open. They are one of us \u2013 an example that many\n\nmanagers can emulate.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nIn the Driver\u2019s Seat \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nOne reason that the bus driver analogy works is because it\n\ncomplements other leadership metaphors, which likes leadership to a\n\njourney through time and space. Movement, either physical or\n\nmetaphysical, is inherent in leadership and so we look to leaders to\n\nprovide not simply direction but also good company along the way. \n\nIt\u2019s the same with vision statements. These organizational directives\n\ntend to fall by the wayside because they are too remote from everyday\n\nreality. Employees cannot get their heads around what the vision means\n\nto them so they do what so many employees do when confronted with the\n\nunknown \u2013 they ignore it. That\u2019s why good leaders, ones in touch with\n\ntheir people, must strive to make the vision concrete and specific. \n\nAs with all difficult challenges, if you break it down into smaller\n\npieces you can size it up, surmount it and move forward. Managers must\n\ndo the same for their people. Here are some suggestions.\n\nDeclare the destination. The first thing good bus drivers do\n\nis announce where the bus is headed; they want to make certain their\n\npassengers have selected the right bus. Managers should do the same.\n\nWhile it might be tempting to smirk and say everyone knows where we are\n\nheaded, my response is don\u2019t be too sure. Just as some passengers may\n\nhave to get off the bus because they have selected the wrong one,\n\nemployees often do not understand where their organization is headed.\n\nWhy? Because no one has ever bothered to tell them. Never assume when\n\nit comes to vision statements; distribute them to your people. Go one\n\nstep further; explicate what the vision means to your department. For\n\nexample, if your organization aspires to be number one in its market,\n\nwhat does your department have to do to support that goal? Share your\n\nideas but be certain to invite suggestions from others.\n\nHand out maps. Change initiatives, like bus trips,\n\nsucceed when people know what to expect along the way. So hand out a\n\nmap. Your map is different from a roadmap but it contains plenty of\n\nroad signs. Your strategy is the interstate highway; your objectives\n\nare the cities and towns that you will pass along the way. The more\n\nspecific you can be, the better off you will be. Since vision\n\nstatements have long time frames measured in years, people lose focus.\n\nCreate milestones. Have you ever picked up a map in a\n\ntourist destination like Orlando or Hollywood and seen icons depicting\n\ntheme parks or popular sites? The icons are typically drawn larger than\n\nscale and pop out from the page to grab attention. Managers can do\n\nsomething similar by identifying major milestones, e.g., improved\n\nquality, new process implementation, new product launch, etc., and\n\ninvite the team to turn them into icons or 3D artworks. Post them in\n\nthe energy room, the place where your team gathers to think, plan and\n\ncreate. Seeing them on the wall will remind people what they are\n\nworking toward as well as helping to keep things light.\n\nThink small, too. One of the things that organizations\n\ninvolved in change overlook is the small stuff. Leaders, as is their\n\nnature and purpose, think big picture. They measure change in terms of\n\norganizational forces, often overlooking that change is a people-driven\n\nprocess. Without people, or without a leader who thinks like a bus\n\ndriver, they will get lost in the stars. \n\nKathy Macdonald suggests that managers think small, too. For example,\n\nimagine what the next 30, 60 or 90 days will be like. Ask people what\n\nwill be different and write down their answers. Choose your metrics and\n\nbe specific. For example, will people show up on time for meetings,\n\nwill people log fewer hours, or will calls to the customer care center\n\nbe fewer in number and shorter in length? Chart your progress against\n\nthese things and share the results with everyone. By attaining short\n\nterm goals, you boost confidence for achieving long term goals. Spread the good cheer. Work is hard; change is\n\nharder. But you don\u2019t have to act so serious all the time. When the\n\nteam reaches a milestone, including the small ones, acknowledge it as\n\nwell as the people who helped to fulfill it. For small milestones,\n\nconsider posting acknowledgements on the wall, plus treats for the team\n\nlike snacks, candy or fruit. For bigger milestones, ask people how they\n\nwould like to acknowledge the occasion \u2013 team dinner with spouses,\n\ntickets to a concert or sporting event, or perhaps some comp time. A\n\nlittle bit of recognition can do wonders for team morale and provide\n\npeople with the energy they need to keep on the journey of change.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nIn the Driver\u2019s Seat \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nTo be certain, navigating change is a great deal more difficult\n\nthan hopping a ride on a bus. Change is not a pleasant process; by\n\nnature it is disruptive. Few of us like to be jolted out of our comfort\n\nzone. But the reality is that life, especially life at work, is all\n\nabout shattering that zone. Managing a department of 10 people can\n\nsometimes seem more like central bus depot with people coming and\n\ngoing, deadlines looming and receding, and new challenges related to\n\ntime, resources and people arising every day. Finding sanity in such an\n\nenvironment is a challenge.\n\nThat\u2019s why considering leaders as bus drivers works so wonderfully.\n\nIt underscores their need to connect with their people. Driving a bus\n\nis not something that children aspire to do. It pales in comparison to\n\nbecoming a firefighter, police officer or an astronaut. But many who do\n\ndrive buses are individuals who enjoy the company of others. They also\n\nlike the sense of autonomy that comes with piloting their own ship (so\n\nto speak). \n\nBut most of all good bus drivers are cheery, likeable sorts who enjoy\n\npointing out where the riders are going and how long it will take to\n\nget there. While so much of leadership is aspirational and challenging,\n\nit is reassuring to share the journey with a friendly \u201cdriver,\u201d one\n\nwho\u2019s willing to point out the milestones along the way. Humble, yes,\n\nbut more fun and memorable. All aboard!