In the first two parts of this three-part series, we discussed how sometimes your career picks you and how leaders learn from their experiences. In Part 3, we will discuss my favorite career learnings from running fleets.
7. People Want to Be Accountable
We work in a competitive work environment and fleet management is no different.
Just like a sports team, to be successful we must keep score, and everyone must know their role on the team and work in unison within the rules to become a winning squad. As a leader, I have found most people come to work wanting to do a good job, and if they are not, then it is probably their leader’s (or a previous leader’s) fault. A clear example that helped reinforce the importance of a leader’s role came when fixing a transit bus and finding a beer can inside the transmission bell housing. I wondered what went on at this manufacturer and its employee leadership that caused this action to their customers?
It is the leader’s job to help employees realize their value and potential in the organization. People desire to be held accountable for their assigned tasks and activities. More so, they want to know that their co-workers are also being held accountable.
I remember a crazy statistic that said only 17% of workers know how their role contributes to their organization’s success. Leaders must fix this by implementing mechanisms to promote organizational accountability.
There are several tools I use to create an environment of accountability.
First, it starts with a clear strategic plan that is aligned with the larger organization’s goals and objectives where my team has direct involvement in their destiny.
Next, the plan must articulate its “Big 3” objectives with individual goals and tasks to accomplish the Plan. As a fleet manager, I learned early on that making the objectives fun and memorable helps to get everyone on board, such as creating a theme like the “3-Cs” which included 1) Cull-the-herd (right-size the fleet), 2) Comply with Procurement contracts, and 3) Cost compared to plan. I also used RPM, which focused on Reliability, Productivity, and Maintenance focus. At RTA we use a similar strategy framed around our getting to the moon (e.g., Building a Platform, Liftoff, etc.). The more graphic and memorable a leader can make their vision, the better.
8. Employees Like Knowing How They Contribute
As a people, we are naturally competitive and want to be successful. I have learned that myself and those whom I have worked with over the years have a desire to be successful by knowing how they contribute to the organization’s bottom line.
There are many ways to work as a team to ensure you are contributing to the organization’s success. I have found that Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are among the best measures of success. This starts when managers work with leadership to understand the high-level direction of the organization. Then you can align your goals with leadership’s goals, and then assist team members to align their goals to yours. Full alignment from top to bottom achieves the ultimate success. Top-performing organizations understand this concept.
9. Managers Help Themselves By Helping Employees Succeed
As a manager, you are helpless if you try to do everything yourself. I learned early on from running fleets that team member participation and pride were critical factors to organizational success. Each manager must learn to trust, delegate, and empower their team members.
How is this best accomplished? As previously mentioned regarding KPIs, I recommend managers and team members create individual SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based) goals to define how each employee connects to individual tasks within the organization’s set goals and timelines.
I learned that data was my friend early on in my career and I spent a great deal of time collecting, correcting, and analyzing information to build an accountable organization. The power of good, quality data can never be underestimated in fleet management. I learned that data (e.g., accurate mileage) would make or break me as a fleet leader (as well as my team) so I harnessed this power in everything we did to become a successful organization.
10. Part of a Winning Culture
Employees desire to belong to a successful culture that is recognized as a winner throughout the industry they belong to, and fleet management is no different.
During the launch of RTA’s “The Fleet Success Show”, we listed “Intentional Culture” as one of the critical four pillars that define fleet success. This was not by happenstance. Without the implementation of an intentional culture, managers are basically feckless to accomplish success.
We define an intentional culture as, “purposefully deciding the type of environment you want for your fleet and taking the ownership to shape that identity”. Certainly, defining and describing the tenets of an Intentional Culture could be a complete blog post (or more) of its own. An intentional culture consists of these key components: Vision, Mission, and Core Values (along with measurements for success).
Establishing an intentional culture does not happen in a vacuum. Leaders must work hard with team members to define the vision, mission, and core values. Once agreed upon and implemented, leaders then must be committed to communicate these endlessly to team members, and even hire and fire to uphold these principles. A successful organization is only as good as its core values, and to be effective, the core values must be more than mere platitudes. Core values must be exemplified by leaders and team members to create a winning culture.
Honestly, it was hard to list only 10 things I learned about running fleets. With an extensive career that spans four decades, this list could include hundreds of things I learned over the years. A real leader can never stop learning about their craft and must continually strive to improve and become the very best fleet professional. One of the great things about this time we are living in is the number of endless resources available at a leader’s fingertips. Any leader can find virtually anything needed by using the Internet, utilizing online learning portals, and like myself - becoming a management book junkie. I love learning and applying what I learned as a leader to creating winning fleet teams. More importantly, I really like giving back and sharing what I learned with others so I can help them become a successful and winning fleet team.
About the Author: Steve Saltzgiver is the Director of Strategic Innovation at RTA. His primary role is to help RTA make fleets successful. Steve is a long-time veteran of fleet management, having directed two large corporate fleets of over 50,000 assets with budgets exceeding $1 billion annually, and two large state fleets. He has been recognized as a fleet management expert and consultant. Currently, Steve is a member of the RTA Executive Leadership Team and directly oversees the Product Management Group and helps lead organizational strategy. The RTA Product Management group’s primary responsibility is to create leading- edge products and services to aid fleets with a winning strategy to become successful.