When you think about where you work, does it instill a sense of pride in what you do? Ray Salisbury, fleet services foreman for the Village of Arlington Heights, Ill., believes fostering a spirit of teamwork is just one part of creating a work environment that inspires employees to be the best they can be. A tidy workspace they truly care for will also help boost productivity and by-in.
Salisbury says a current challenge he and his team are facing is working in an older facility.
“About 15 years ago, they re-did the entire public works facility with the exception of the fleet garage. I came here about seven years ago, and kept hearing ‘we always get forgotten.’ It was a challenge to address the kind of ‘feel sorry for me’ attitude with some of the guys.”
As time has gone on, they’ve slowly stepped up and made some improvements to the location. They’ve replaced an antiquated heating system, put in new LED lighting, and the floors have all been epoxy coated so any uneven surfaces have been leveled.
“We've cleaned up and organized the shop, and the team is actually feeling better about themselves and are prouder of the condition of the garage, so they're keeping up with it. They even came to me and asked if they could paint the shop.”
With a few of the mechanics retiring, he’s brought on a millennial to help out and was surprised by his attitude of wanting to make things better.
“We just emptied the entire room out completely, and went through everything and were finding obsolete parts that are probably 40 to 45 years old. They just got buried on the shelf and forgotten about and we totally turned that around.”
Not only has this improved the attitude of those who work in the department, but it’s also left a great impression on their customers as well.
Solving Problems as a Team
It’s highly unlikely you’ll never come across a problem that seems to stump you. These unique challenges offer opportunities to overcome and solve issues as a team and build stronger relationships.
“I think the brainstorming aspect of working with the guys is something that keeps things fresh and interesting. Fleet seems like it's always the place everyone comes when they are not sure how to do something.”
Giving your techs the opportunity to try something different than how they’ve usually done things and receiving input from all kinds of people, from those who run the vehicles to those who work on the vehicles, can open up new doors and breed creativity.
A challenge Salisbury knows he will face in the future is figuring out how to replace a few more techs who will be retiring in the next year or so. He says the issue lies not only in replacing those people, but changing the responsibilities of that position to better fit department needs and budget.
For example, having a full-time welder is becoming slightly obsolete. It’s important they are also skilled in other areas as well.
“We are asking ourselves what improvements can we make in the future when this person is gone or retires? What can we do in that area to increase the efficiency of the shop operation? Finding someone who's multi-talented and skilled for the price you're willing to pay…it’s a challenge for everyone.”
Notes on Leadership
Here are a few tips Salisbury has for fleet managers of all experience levels:
- Not everyone's like you, and not everyone you are supervising is going to do things the way you do. Take the time to try to understand how to best communicate so everyone is on the same page.
- You're going to get pulled at in every direction, no matter what you're doing at the moment. A lot of time is spent putting out fires. Some of those fires may seem insignificant to you, but they're significant to someone. Have empathy.
- Even if you don’t get done what you had originally planned to, reflect back on the day and realize you got things done even if it wasn’t what you had expected.