Drive by management is not a complex management style to understand, but it can be tricky to manage for many employees. For some it’s too much to manage and results in them walking out the door. For others, they simply learn to manage up.

In a nut shell, the drive-by manager provides works, but offers little input and feedback to assist you in moving forward and completing that work. Perhaps they pass by your desk, giving you assignments with little background information, and sometimes little lead time, and then disappear before you have time to ask critical questions. Or maybe you’re an employee or contractor who works from home. Or your time poor manager can only meet with you for short periods of time and that time is generally spent dumping a long list of to-do items upon you. The drive-by manager is not necessarily a bad manager, but they do leave you with the personal responsibility of ‘figuring it out’.

Now this style of management is not suited to all employees yet it is necessary for some business models. And if you are a manager and this is exactly how you delegate responsibilities, how do you go about selecting the right type of employee for you and your organisation?

Understandably you need an employee that is qualified and experienced at delivering on the key variables of the job. You could probably source a reasonable sized pool of applicants at this point. What is essential is recognising that they are self-driven and confident enough to back their own judgement without your constant direction. This is where the candidate pool shrinks. The employee you select needs to be comfortable in being able to think for themselves and drive results. For some, being able to prove their abilities and only seek counsel when necessary is the ideal working scenario.

Importantly your self-driven employee needs to be the master communicator. They need to understand the best time and method of communicating with you. Are you glued to your phone? Perhaps you have time to respond to a short email, but a two hour meeting is near impossible. The smart subordinate will recognise this is an ideal way to gain fast clarifications or communicate fundamental information in a timely manner with you. Intuitively your employee will also know that a well worded question that demands only a two minute response can be asked as they pass your office. This may seem inane, but that two minutes could be the difference between work moving forward or staying stagnant.

Your perceptive employee will schedule a regular one-on-one thirty minute meeting with you once a week to ask key questions, establish priorities, discuss their priorities and gain the clarifications they need to keep their schedule moving at a rapid pace. No doubt if you’re busy and time poor, they are too. They are probably completing tasks for you that others have requested your department delivers upon as soon as possible. Figuring this out, your employee will additionally find their answers from others in the organisation. Alternatively, you can direct them to the best source of information.

As always in these fast paced working environments, deadlines continuously loom. The ideal candidate for a drive-by manager is some who puts the wheels in motion immediately. They recognise that with a loose brief that their visualisation of a task may not match what their boss visualised, thus have to start the task again from scratch. And who wants to be scrambling at the last minute? Time is required to allow both parties to review and discuss the finished product before it comes due.

Freedom and independence is what many of us seek in our job roles. The employee with a drive-by manager could find exactly that. Such a style of management is not always easy to manage. Those that can conquer the challenges that drive-by management brings, by learning to manage up, will prove themselves the highly valued right hand of their manager. Get the wrong employee though and you will find yourself in a cycle of high turnover. If you are aware of the key characteristics of the candidate that will suit your drive-by management style, interview the applicants that are competent at performing the required tasks, but gear your interviews to discover the working environment in which they excel and what drives them to get up and go to work each day.


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