Hello, and welcome to Fleet Chronicles’ first blog entry! I was inspired to write this blog because over my 25 years of experience, I have found that sharing stories, lessons learned, and best practices brings us together.
The connections we make through conferences, associations, and social media builds relationships that foster growth and success. Through this blog, I hope to begin a dialog with you, one that focuses on the day-to-day operational life of a large municipal fleet manager (overseeing 3,600 vehicles) by chronicling all of the strategies, success stories, and challenges ranging from data analysis, to staffing, to vehicle maintenance. Along the way, I hope I can pass on what’s worked for me to other fleet professionals facing similar challenges and situations.
Effective communication is just like diagnosing a vehicle — you’re only going to go as far as you’re able to communicate.
The daily challenges we face in fleet are real, and communication is at the core of everything we do. As a former heavy equipment mechanic, I love to be around the shop floor. There is something very fulfilling about tearing down a piece of equipment, identifying what failed, getting the new parts, putting it all back together and back on the road. Diagnosing a vehicle requires paying attention to every symptom, so you can fix it right the first time. If you skip a step in troubleshooting, misinterpret a symptom, or do not use the manual, it can make the simplest of problems complex.
Stay Connected With Your Team
As leaders, one the most important tools in your tool box is strong communication skills. For me, effective communication is just like diagnosing a vehicle — you’re only going to go as far as you’re able to communicate. No matter the size and complexity of your program, communication, whether it’s written or verbal, is essential to staying connected to your team. The folks in the trenches getting the day-to-day work done may miss out on what is happening or get secondhand information. I once heard the saying “In the absence of information, rumors will be spread and where rumors spread, morale plummets.” Speaking from experience, this can and does happen. So how do you communicate with your team? Are you actively engaged and truly listen? Do you make the time for your most important resource? Hint: it’s your team!
You can’t lead from behind your desk, so get out there! I advocate walking the floor and engaging staff face to face. Do you have geographically separated operations or multiple shifts? If so, dedicate time to visit each shop and shift monthly. As you get to know and talk to your team, you will find out how best to engage, connect, and provide information. I hold quarterly town hall style meetings with my entire team, providing a detailed overview of everything going on and what’s upcoming. I solicit questions and concerns in advance and address them in this forum. To disseminate information in between these meetings, we recently installed information monitors in all the shops that stream current events, safety messages,and recognition and organizational performance measures. We also publish a newsletter with articles that highlight employees, events, and accomplishments. While not everyone can afford to install monitors in the shops, newsletters, e-mails, and town halls are budget-friendly, easy ways to share and communicate information.
The fact of the matter is we are all busy, doing more with less, but staying connected with your team has to be at the top of your must-do list. It begins with open, honest, and consistent communication, which in turn, will open the door to a strong working relationship with your team, which will continue to grow by staying engaged, actively listening, and following through or “closing the loop” with your employees. Building this trust though solid communication will encourage employees to come to you with their ideas and challenges, which will lead to an effective and high-performing team.