Congratulations to Maggie Cole, director of Environmental, Safety and Health for Monsanto, who was named the 2012 Fleet Executive of the Year by Fleet Financials magazine. (See the cover story in this issue.) Over the 11 years Fleet Financials has presented this award, exclusively sponsored by The CEI Group and DriverCare, I have observed a common denominator possessed by each year’s award winner. Namely, they all empower their fleet managers and recognize them as subject-matter experts.
A great fleet executive creates a vision, articulates the vision, and empowers their fleet manager to implement the strategies to achieve this vision. Exceptional leadership means inspiring and motivating fleet managers to become great fleet managers. To do so, a fleet executive must be a strategic thinker. They must have the ability to develop and communicate a strategic vision based on data analyses and total cost of ownership. A strategic fleet executive takes a long-term view of fleet and embraces long-term planning.
They are goal-driven and “big-picture” oriented. This trait requires being forward thinking. The strategic fleet executive has the ability to visualize emerging industry trends, and can visualize a plan of action before these changes negatively impact the corporate fleet. They are proactive instead of reactive.
Enabling fleet managers to expand their professional expertise and do their job without micromanaging is the mark of a leader. This is an important point, because being a leader is more about serving than being served. A true leader is a team builder, who coaches his or her fleet manager to achieve strategic goals by removing obstacles (or perceived road blocks) to success.
Goal-Oriented Fleet Management
Great fleet executives are innovative, think beyond the current fleet situation to anticipate future issues and opportunities, and are willing to let their fleet managers be proactive. Similarly, great fleet executives have an open mind. They recognize the fleet manager is the subject-matter expert and are open to the new ideas they present.
Conversely, these fleet executives are open to opposing perspectives and alternative ideas because they recognize that fleet and asset management have ever-changing dynamics.
These fleet executives are goal-oriented in all aspects of fleet management. Great fleet executives empower the fleet managers who report to them to develop and implement innovative initiatives to drive cost out of fleet operations and establish metrics to monitor performance. They gather input from their fleet manager and involve them when making fleet-related decisions. They create an environment that fosters self-motivation.
They monitor metrics developed by the fleet manager to benchmark driver productivity, vehicle downtime, and fleet utilization. Great fleet executives are committed to achieving results and empower their fleet managers to achieve these goals.
Good Delegators & Mentors
In the most fundamental sense, great fleet executives are simply good managers, who happen to have the fleet function report to them. Great fleet executives delegate responsibility (and authority) to their fleet managers and empower them to accomplish self-determined tasks needed to achieve corporate goals. Great fleet executives focus on strategic planning versus tactical implementation of fleet policies and procedures.
Another important trait of a great fleet executive is that they are a mentor to those who report to them. They encourage their fleet manager to regularly attend fleet management seminars and industry conferences to stay abreast of best practices. They, likewise, prod their fleet manager to be an active member of industry associations and volunteer to serve on committees and task forces.
A complementary trait of a great fleet executive is acting as a protector of all employees who come under their management umbrella. This feeling of security enables subordinates to become better at their jobs, to always be willing to learn new tasks and take on new projects, and allows them to make mistakes without fear of unjust repercussions. This trait enables the fleet executive to be empathetic. They understand the complexity and demands of a fleet manager’s job, while empathizing with the needs of employees who drive company vehicles.
Listening to Their Fleet Managers
Over the years, I have observed that all of the Fleet Executive of the Year award winners have a superb ability to communicate the ideas they conceptualize. They clearly articulate their thoughts to convey goals to their fleet managers. They build communication not only from the top down, but also from the bottom up. Each day, they “put on the fleet manager’s shoes” to better understand day-to-day fleet management and are cognizant of the support fleet managers need to accomplish corporate strategic goals. Not only does this trait involve effective communication, but it also requires effective listening. In the final analysis, a great fleet executive must be a good listener. They understand the value and the importance of listening to their fleet manager since they recognize that he or she is the true subject-matter expert.
Do you have what it takes to be a great fleet executive?
Let me know what you think.