Fleet managers need to balance an understanding of the industry with the ability to communicate with team members. - Photo: Government Fleet

Fleet managers need to balance an understanding of the industry with the ability to communicate with team members.

Photo: Government Fleet 

During the 2024 GFX session "10 Essential Management Skillsets Required for Success in the Digital Age," industry consultant Bob Stanton addressed the widespread myth of multitasking and its implications for fleet management professionals. This segment of the session shed light on the cognitive limitations individuals in fleet face and offered insights into how fleet managers be better connected not only within the industry but with their team.

The Myth of Multitasking and Staying Connected 

Multitasking is often perceived as a valuable skill, especially in fleet management, where juggling multiple responsibilities is common. However, Stanton clarified that what many people might consider multitasking is actually task switching. 

"We have a limited cognitive capacity," he said. "We don't really multitask, and this results in switch costs; that's why we're so concerned about distracted driving because we really can't drive and do something else at the same time."

When we switch tasks, our brains slow down, we make more mistakes, and our efficiency drops. This cognitive load leads to increased errors and reduced productivity, directly impacting fleet operations

Stanton also introduced the concept of "continuous partial attention," a new social status characterized by the constant need to stay connected and not miss anything. For fleet managers, this state can be detrimental, leading to increased stress and a decreased ability to focus on the present moment. 

This can further decision-making and relationship-building with team members and stakeholders. Stanton noted that many fleet managers are guilty of formulating their responses while someone else is speaking rather than listening fully, which undermines effective communication and relationship development.

Digital Literacy and Upskilling in Fleet Management 

In the context of an evolving fleet management industry, Stanton emphasized the importance of digital upskilling and how, as new technologies emerge, staying current with digital literacy is crucial for managing fleet operations efficiently. 

"You need to not reject that but lean into it instead and learn as much as you can," Stanton said. "And try to get in some really good training if you can."

Stanton also explained the need for training, whether through government programs, vendors, or OEMs, to avoid stagnation and mediocrity in the workplace. He added that critical thinking and continuous learning should be highlighted on resumes for those looking to get hired. 

Stanton said that this reflects an individual's ability to analyze issues objectively despite inherent cognitive biases. And acknowledging and managing cognitive bias is essential for objective analysis and critical thinking, especially in fleet management

"We all have our opinions. We all have things that we agree with, and we don't agree with whether it's in your workplace, whether it's political, whether it's your religion," Stanton said, adding that these biases affect our perception and decision-making.

However, Stanton stressed the importance of recognizing these biases and seeking feedback from peers to ensure objectivity. This collaborative approach helps in making well-informed decisions and avoiding pitfalls associated with confirmation bias and cognitive bias.

"We have more information at our fingertips than anyone in history and yet we communicate more with our thumbs than we do with our mouth."

With this comes a need to embrace complex problem solving and understand where information is coming from and if it is accurate. To help answer these questions Stanton advised asking questions that don't simply have a yes or no answer or a question that you think you already have the answer to expecting a certain response. 

"Be fully aware of your emotions and your assumptions," Stanton said. "It's not personal, it's just business. If I had learned that when I first started, I would have been a lot better off."

The Challenge of Conflict Management and Effective Communication

Conflict management is a crucial but often misunderstood and avoided skill in fleet management. According to Stanton, effective conflict resolution involves differentiating between kindness and niceness. 

"We all want to be nice, but we're not all necessarily kind," he said. "Kindness is an outward flowing exercise; niceness really isn't that way. And when we have those conversations with our employees, we want to be kind and open. It's a learned skill. 

Stanton explained that this is all part of corrective conversations where fleet managers know how to give honest, productive feedback while being kind. Proper conflict management leads to positive outcomes and can transform challenging conversations into opportunities for growth.

"Wouldn't you like to have conversations in your organization, whether it's with a peer, an employee, or someone from upper management, where you both win when you both come out successful?" he asked. 

In order to do this, Stanton advised not only practicing these techniques but teaching them to staff. Improve active listening; have confidence, clarity, compassion, curiosity, compromised credibility, and courage. 

"We have more information at our fingertips than anyone in history and yet we communicate more with our thumbs than we do with our mouth," he said. "I mean, what was wrong with that picture?"

About the author
Nichole Osinski

Nichole Osinski

Executive Editor

Nichole Osinski is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She oversees editorial content for the magazine and the website, selects educational programming for GFX, and manages the brand's awards programs.

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