In Part 1 of “10 Key Things I Learned from Running Fleets,” we discussed the topic of sometimes your career chooses you. I do not know a lot of fleet managers that meant to become fleet managers, but myself included, most fleet managers are very happy with their decision to manage a fleet operation.
In Part 2, we will focus on the topic of “Leaders Learn from Their Experience.” If you have ever attended leadership classes, they will tell you that leadership is an acquired set of skills and no one is born with these attributes. Certainly, in my case I have -- and continue to -- acquire my leadership skills through close observation, training and the practices summarized below.
4: I Learned About Being a Manager from My Managers
I have always said (sometimes tongue in cheek) that everything I know about managing people was learned from my managers. I have learned especially “what not to do” to be a good leader. People must know their leader is genuine and cares about them personally, is fair in all employment decisions and dealings, and helps the team to become successful by fostering a culture centered on core values and continuous improvement. A good leader is like a successful coach who serves others’ needs first for the health and success of the organization.
My career as a fleet management professional is rather unique as I served at every level of a fleet organization including a driver, technician, lead technician, supervisor, manager, director, group director, and vice president. This career path gave me a perspective on how each position contributes to the overall success of the fleet organization – and how having good leaders is essential.
Good leaders speak the kind truth to each employee and let them know where they may need to improve. I remember a people metric from Stephen Covey’s “The 8th Habit” that always stuck with me as a leader: “Only 37% of the team understands the direction of their organization”. This means, if a leader’s team was playing football, more than 60% of the players would try to score in the opponent’s endzone.
Hence, a good leader has strategic plans in place, measures what matters, makes timely decisions, holds everyone accountable, and communicates successfully up, down, and laterally across the organization.
5: Find Dedicated Professionals Willing to Share What They Learned
As an amateur in fleet management, I learned early on that networking with my peers was going to be the secret to my overall success. The great thing about the fleet management industry is it is a small world where most people move up, down, and laterally throughout the industry ranks between fleet managers and suppliers.
The other thing I learned was fleet peers were always willing to share what they learned to help others become better as fleet professionals. I learned (and I am still learning) every fleet professional has a different way of doing things that may work in his/her organization.
Additionally, the fleet industry is filled with free publications and a myriad of industry events (probably too many) that serve to educate and improve a leader’s fleet skills over time. If a leader is not tapping into this vast network of fleet professionals, they could be missing out on the valuable knowledge available for free.
I also learned early on the power of becoming an avid reader and student in the fleet industry. This helped cultivate an appetite of continuous learning that eventually led me to pursue a master’s degree in organizational management (MAOM) which helped me excel in my leadership skills. Along with academic credentials, I achieved many specialized certifications in fleet management that helped my career path. If I could depart any words of wisdom to a fleet professional just starting their career it would be to never stop learning. Take time every single day to read and hone your leadership skills – or, as Stephen Covey calls this, “sharpening the saw” -- to become a better fleet professional.
6: Model the Example As You Lead Others
As a fleet professional, we are tasked with talking they talk and walking the walk. The entire organization we lead depends on both actions, and for that matter, inactions. When times become challenging, leaders must remain level-headed and remain positive around their team. Leaders must be honest, ethical, and professional and always model the behavior of the organization they lead.
If the leader is bad and undisciplined, then the organization will reflect these pejorative values in the culture. On the other hand, if a leader is positive, principled, motivating, and fosters an environment of trust, then teams will perform at their highest levels.
Foremost, a leader must be able to speak clearly and articulate the company and fleet vision to all stakeholders. I learned from great leaders the power of communicating the desired strategy or message repeatedly. Everyone in the organization learns at a different pace and the leader must become the Chief Reminding Officer (CRO).
Lastly, team members pride themselves in being part of a successful movement and it is up to the leader to define the direction. I found that creating a strategic theme that everyone can relate to works to drive team engagement toward success.
Thanks for reading, and tune in next week for “10 Key Things Learned from Running Fleets, Part 3: “Employee Want to Be Successful”. To read my other blogs, click here.
About the Author: Steve joined RTA in 2020 to support product design, provide consultations to customers, share best practices with clients, and more. Steve’s background includes being a Fleet Management Consultant with Mercury Associates, Vice President of Coca-Cola and Republic Services, and Director of Fleets in Utah and Georgia. He has served on many industry-leading boards and has been recognized for his achievements, including being twice nominated for Automotive Fleet magazine’s Manager of the Year, being inducted into the Government Hall of Fame, and receiving the Legendary Lifetime Achievement Award for his fleet management career.