Next-Gen Fleet

Be Your Fleet's Storyteller

May 26, 2016

by Facundo Tassara - Also by this author

Being a good leader is no longer good enough. In fact, being a good leader is status quo. I am not saying you can close your eyes in a room full of people and randomly select a person who just happens to be a good leader. Leadership cannot be taught, but don’t be fooled — it can certainly be recruited. In order to be a good leader, you must also be a good storyteller.

Start From Day 1

You (the leader) come into an organization and your first challenge is to set the direction, explain how you’ll get there, and then get people to embark on the journey. So, week one is over at your new job, you have it all figured out, your raise your sword, and "CHARGE!" Well, if this your approach, the only person who will be charging is you, with your unpacked boxes, toward the back door. Luckily, early on in my career, someone sat me down and said, “Even if you have the best idea in the world, if safety is not the issue, don’t act — observe!” I truly believe that bit of advice has shaped who I am as a leader and taught me to listen more than I talk (I hope my wife doesn’t read this), and taught me to ask more than I insist.

Excellent, so now you are the leader, you have the attention of your staff, they believe in the mission, you’ve observed, you’ve listened, you’ve asked. Mission accomplished, right? Not quite; you have only just begun. You have now reached the hardest part: execution and leading through actions (and I don’t mean your actions). It is so easy to say we are here and we need to go there, but without the how, it’s difficult to gain traction. Leading through actions is different from leading by example. When I refer to leading through actions, I am pointing to the actions of the organization you are leading. Certainly if change occurs under your leadership, the actions of your organization will speak from themselves. Ok, so now you have to be thinking, “I do all of this and I’m in the clear?” Almost, but not yet. This is when the storytelling quality needs to shine!

Tell Your Story & Follow Through

Leaders in fleet often struggle when they arrive at this point. Telling fleet’s story to city leadership, the all-important city managers, the purchasing directors, finance, and budget is a must. As I mentioned before, it’s not enough to be a good leader, you have to be a storyteller and go outside of your organization (division or department), and engage your customers and the folks you want backing you.

I will never forget my elevator speech to my city manager in — of all places — the elevator at City Hall. We shared the elevator from floor 11 back down to the lobby. In that short time, I made my pitch, which included some of these keywords: sharing, downsizing, automated motor pool, and alternative fuel. As we walked towards the parking lot, I pointed over at some spots and sealed the deal by saying, “And all of that would go right there for everyone to see.” This occurred about one year ago, and I am currently working on a proposal that delivers on all of those things I had mentioned. However, that conversation did something more important than deliver a plan. I had the city manager’s attention, and I let him know that his fleet is the real deal. Let’s face it: You can be the best fleet out there but unless you are telling your story and bringing in the heavy hitters, good leadership on your own little island just won’t cut it.

I challenge you to do something you may not like: Step off your island and start storytelling. We all know funds are limited and you need to be selling (storytelling) how great your team is and what you can do to help improve the day-to-day delivery of services in your organization. Don’t think for a minute someone else will do it for you. As a matter of fact, your counterpart over in Department X is most likely engaging city leadership right now, asking for a little more money next year for a special project. And guess who may have to ultimately fund that project? Fleet!

Comments

  1. 1. Dave Hamby [ May 27, 2016 @ 06:57AM ]

    This is a great plan that works. In the short time that Facundo has been at Norfolk Fleet, the difference in the way we deal with the rest of the city and the way the rest of the city looks at us has improved greatly. The by product of this has been increased moral within the shops and an increase in the participation in suggestion on how to improve service to our customers, how to save money and ways to increase productivity. Norfolk Fleet is a great place to work and the future looks bright.

  2. 2. Keith Leech [ May 27, 2016 @ 10:06AM ]

    So true Facundo. I've also found that it's critically important to educate the City Manager, and those holding the purse strings of the potential financial consequences associated with not making data driven decisions that are dependent on a significant ongoing commitment of resources to run a fleet cost effectively like a business. The light bulbs usually comes on when you remind them of the current replacement value of your fleet and the investments needed to maintain an optimal fully funded fleet replacement plan.

  3. 3. Kelly Reagan [ June 07, 2016 @ 05:25AM ]

    Facundo - great article and well articulated my friend. Being an effective communicator is no longer an option, it is a requirement. It is the key to getting things done and requires constant effective communication every opportunity you get with the administration, yes even in an elevator, just as you did. I got a real chuckle out of your story. Always be ready to state your position in 30 words or less. Doing this takes courage, perhaps stepping out of your comfort zone but will deliver real dividends for your organization.

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