What can you learn by Riding Along? You don’t even have to do the Undercover part. Just GO. Hop in the truck (or the assembly line or the phone bank) and say, “Show me what you do. I am here to learn.” One of my best biz buddies is a master of the Ride Along. I wrote about him…and how to make the most of your time in the field. If you don’t go, you won’t know…

“His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with.”

Abraham Lincoln’s reason for relieving General John C. Fremont from his command in Missouri – September 9, 1861

President Lincoln wrote these words to the man he was appointing to replace General Fremont. The new General would make no mistake about what was required of him: Get out there and circulate among the troops.

Elected by a minority vote, with no executive or management experience, Abraham Lincoln took office shortly after seven Southern states succeeded from the union. It was a disastrous time in our country. His predecessor, James Buchanan left the White House declaring, “I am the last United States president.” Yet, President Lincoln led the country to the end of the Civil War, and to an undivided nation.

Lincoln was an extraordinary leader. He was a hand’s on leader, and by his concern, compassion and direct involvement, he earned the trust and respect of the American people. Particularly, the Union soldiers.

Lincoln understood what the soldiers were going through on the front lines. In 1861, he spent more time on the battlefields than in the White House. He visited the wounded, he counseled with the Generals and he saw first hand the results of his and their decisions. He was kind and affable and wholly supportive of the troops. He acknowledged them as performing “the hardest work in support of the government.” And the soldiers loved him for his appreciation of their sacrifices.

In his book, Lincoln on Leadership, Donald T. Phillips, writes:

“One of the most effective ways to gain acceptance of a philosophy is to show it in your daily actions. In order to stage your leadership, you must have an audience. By entering your subordinate’s environment – by establishing frequent human contact – you create a sense of commitment, collaboration and community….Many leaders in today’s complex work settings would argue that they can’t spend the amount of time Lincoln did with his subordinates. But, then again, they’re not trying to win a war. Or are they?”

Bill Raymond is a big fan of Abraham Lincoln. Bill is the president of Frank & Lindy Plumbing in lovely Peekskill, New York, and a first-rate trainer and life-long student of business. He gave me a copy of Lincoln on Leadership because we share an appreciation of the Great American Statesmen.

Bill has Lincoln-esque leadership skills. He’s a hand’s on manager, and he isn’t afraid to get in the game. He is a firm believer in The Ride Along.

How do I know what’s happening in the field if I don’t Ride Along with my techs? It’s expected that I will get out there and get in the game.

The techs are really the ones who pushed me into Ride Alongs. I tried imposing new sales techniques and customer service standards, and they would say, ‘You don’t know what it’s like out there! That will NEVER fly in the real world.” But, I wasn’t getting anywhere sermonizing from the training room. So, one day I put on a service uniform and hopped into a truck with one of my techs.

Prepare to be SCARED!

“Here’s what I discovered. As a manager, what you THINK is happening out there, well, it’s not. It’s downright scary what goes on in the field. And it’s not that the techs aren’t trying, or willing to do the right thing. It is just an incredibly difficult position. We need them to be sales professionals with great communication skills. We need them to have finely honed technical skills. We are asking our techs to be superhuman.

“Customers are stressed when they call a plumber. Nobody likes to deal with the hassle and expense of a plumbing emergency. A tech has to convince a frazzled, stressed, irritated individual that $1,000 or more is no big deal for a water heater? You can’t just sit back