Park this in the back of your mind

Michael Cizek:

There is a silent movement happening all over the country. It largely goes unnoticed because of its simplicity, but it has a dedicated following. The movement? Backing your car in.

It may sound simple, but backing your car can say a lot about the person who drives it.

Ever since I was sixteen, I’ve backed my car in because that’s what all the “car guys” at school did. But in parking this way for years, I’ve learned that it’s not just cars guys who should back in—leaders should back in. Why? Leaders are called to vigorously plan, do what is best for others, and be confident in themselves—actions that are taken when backing your vehicle in.

By backing your car in, as a leader you will learn how to…

Plan for the Unknown

When I finally find a spot in a busy parking lot (bonus points if it’s close to the entrance), I pass it first to see if the spot is clear of pedestrians and shopping carts. I can then back into a known situation. When it’s time to leave, I can fully see my surroundings and safely pull out instead of backing into unknown traffic. Choosing to back in (planning) alleviates risk of a collision (failure).

Whether it’s parking or leading others, the best leaders understand the importance of planning. The first three habits in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey describe planning:

1.     Be Proactive (Don’t wait to react to problems, but be proactive in planning ahead to avoid them)

2.     Begin with the End in Mind (Envision your future and make everything you do revolve around getting you there)

3.     Put First Things First (Know each task’s importance and urgency, and spend your time only on the highest priority tasks)

Planning keeps everyone working towards the same goal, alleviates misunderstandings, and maximizes efficiency. By backing in, leaders have successfully planned for an unknown future parking lot situation.

Provide Safety for Self and Others

In the Midwest winters after WWII, the wisest drivers would back in. If the battery died in the sub-zero temperatures, it was safer and easier to jump the car with the engine facing the street.

But cold weather isn’t the only prime time to back in. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that accidents involving cars backing into traffic, known as a backover collisions, account for an estimated 18,000 injuries and 292 fatalities annually. This happens backing out of both parking spaces and driveways.

When driving a vehicle, you are charged with the safety of others in and around your vehicle. When leading a team, you are charged with the safety of those in, and impacted by, your team.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that basic human needs must be met before being able to focus on higher needs. One basic need is safety. If the people we lead do not feel safe, we cannot expect them to perform. We must make sure that our team feels safe in all aspects of life: physically, mentally, financially, socially, and spiritually. For example, discussing personnel issues in a private environment provides safety from embarrassment, while praising team members publicly provides job security.

Backing in keeps you and everyone around you safer—an action every leader should take.

Grow in Self-Confidence

When I catch a ride with a friend, I’ll sometimes give them a hard time when they park head-in. The common response is that backing in is too difficult. The ironic part? It is often more difficult to back out of a space safely than it is to back in. Most people simply lack self-confidence, but their driving abilities fully enable them to back in.

If we can’t lead ourselves, how can we be expected to lead others?

What if we decided to have confidence in our abilities?

To become more self-confident, I say “we will” not “we will try to,” practice being comfortable with the uncomfortable, come prepared, and do what I say I’m going to do. If all else fails, I fake it ‘till I make it.

Having confidence in your ability to lead (park) will give you the ability to overcome adversity (back in).

The Bottom Line: Intentionally backing your car in might sound trivial, but it showcases leadership. Backing in shows that you are a planner, put others before self, and are confident in yourself.

This is also the sort of thing firefighters and EMTs, or prospective firefighters and EMTs, do.

Of course, there’s always a cynic in every crowd, shown in this Facebook comment:

“…(bonus points if it’s close to the entrance)…” ~ why? Because “leaders” are lazy SOBs? You wanna be a leader, park farther away and walk. Set a better example than the clowns who spend 5 minutes driving around, looking for a spot 50 feet closer than all the empties farther out. Also, by doing that, you don’t have to mess around with backing in or out and delaying the cars around you. You can pull through 2 spots and already be in position to just pull straight out.

Now THAT’S leadership and planning.

… and someone who may or may not be kidding:

I back in for one reason: so that I can make a fast get-away (just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that people aren’t really after me)


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