Fleet managers may well be the most unappreciated and misunderstood top-level managers in most organizations. Why is this so often true?

The root of the problem lies within ourselves. Fleet managers are generally humble to a fault,work too hard for little or no credit, and yet have one of the public sector’s most demanding and comprehensive jobs. What other department impacts so greatly the quality of life for the citizens who live and work in the areas we serve?

A quote often attributed to Nelson Mandela, but actually written by Marianne Williamson, particularly speaks to the false humility practiced by many, not just in our industry:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.We are all meant to shine, as children do.We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Recognizing Excellence
I applaud Government Fleet Magazine’s efforts to “shine the light” on some of our best leaders through its Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year program. I also commend other recognition programs that focus on entire fleet operations, such as the 100 Best Fleets program and the Best Practices Awards initiated this year by California Fleet News, as well as the fleet certification program developed by Fleet Counselor Services. In addition, the American Public Works Association (APWA) selected fleet services as the first area to develop in an individual certification program.

Obviously, this “shining of the light” on continuously emerging excellence in our industry has had great impact, but we can do much more as individual fleet operations. First, we must have a written business plan — the only way to keep all stakeholders aware of and able to assist in its fulfillment. Second, we must adopt best practices.We know what they are; it’s time to stop making excuses for why we cannot utilize the best but, instead, strengthen our resolve to do so. Third,we must have written service level agreements with our customers. A recognized best practice, it is still often only a “gentlemen’s agreement,” rather that a living, breathing document of expectations on both sides, to make the partnership work at the highest level. This is not a legal document, but it is our best tool for educating customers on the breadth and depth of what we do.

Leading the Way to Better Policy
Finally, we must use our positions as leaders to create and enforce better policies for fleet and fuel utilization. Our highest cost is asset ownership and, if we are the stewards we are called to be, we must continuously tackle this difficult topic, ask tougher questions and shine the light on the proliferation of vehicles requested, but not needed, to fulfill the mission.

This is an exciting time to be a part of this industry. In my 19 years (and counting) of service to and participation in the vital fleet services arena, I have never seen as much excellence and awareness of the need to change “the way we’ve always done it.” One of my favorite quotes is “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” It’s all about the determination that we can and will be the best at what we do. It’s about finding a way, not an excuse. Let your light shine!

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