There is an ongoing perception by senior management that fleet management is not a complicated and sophisticated profession. As a result, one of the biggest challenges facing fleet managers is getting management to recognize and acknowledge their contribution to the company. Most fleet managers aren’t high up in the corporate hierarchy and must rely on their immediate management to properly represent fleet’s viewpoint, which often doesn’t happen. The end result is that management under-rates the contribution made by fleet managers.
Below are 10 ways to ensure management recognizes your contribution to the company’s bottom line:
- Create a Network of Interdepartmental Allies: One strategy to elevate your stature with senior management is to expand and build new relationships within the company. Interdepartmental cooperation is an integral part of how management views a fleet manager. You must establish a relationship with every department touched by fleet to address their needs, keep them informed, and gain buy-in with fleet policy. The more people you know (and who know you) increases recognition of your work and how it benefits the company. While everyone agrees it is important to network within the fleet industry; it is also just as important to network within your company. Your ultimate goal is to be the in-house subject-matter expert with whom management consults when making major decisions.
- Implement Goal-Oriented Fleet Management: You must manage the fleet from a strategic level focused on achieving specific long-term objectives using metrics to benchmark actual (not presumed) progress. Become goal oriented in all aspects of fleet operations, especially driver productivity and safety, and strive to reduce not only hard costs, but also soft costs, such as downtime and fleet-induced impediments to employee productivity. Use metrics to benchmark progress to achieve these objectives. The challenge for today’s fleet managers is to continue to find ways to add value to their company and the bottom line.
- Link Fleet to the Corporation’s Overall Mission: Develop metrics to show how fleet is helping achieve the corporate mission and goals. Besides demonstrating expertise in fleet management, you must demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of your company’s product line/services, sales/marketing objectives, and the needs of user groups. You must implement fleet programs that contribute to the achievement of overall company goals and facilitate support to user groups to successfully meet their objectives.
- Cultivate the Skillset to Turn Strategy into Tactics: It is one thing to enunciate fleet strategies for cost containment and productivity enhancement, it is another thing to achieve them. You must cultivate the critical skill of turning strategic goals into effective tactics to achieve these goals. You need to be more than just talk, you need to gain a reputation of producing results.
- Develop an Even Closer Partnership With Suppliers: Work with fleet suppliers to optimize their performance. Just as important, you must never stop learning and it is important to confer with suppliers to be on top of the latest products and services in the market. Many fleet managers make themselves inaccessible to prospective suppliers. By doing so, they are missing a wonderful opportunity to pick their brains to learn of new industry developments. You need to continually ask suppliers what they have seen among their client base that is successful. Could these practices be implemented in your fleet operation? If you are not continually learning about fleet management, about new products and services, it’s easy to become stale at what you do.
- Strive to be an Excellent Communicator: You must have excellent communication skills to effectively interact with senior management. You must develop the ability to conceptualize an idea and effectively communicate it. You may have a strong knowledge of fleet, but if you do not have the ability to effectively communicate this knowledge within the organization, you will encounter resistance to implementing new programs. Fleet managers deal with a diverse group of drivers, ranging from sales reps to mid-level managers to senior executives, with each group requiring special finesse and different level of communication.
- Keep Management Informed on Fleet Performance: A corollary to being an excellent communicator is the understanding that most executives are not fleet management experts. When communicating with senior management, only provide data critical to making a decision. Keep reports jargon-free and formatted for quick review and comprehension.
- Develop a Reputation of Being a Team Player: Gather input from others before making decisions and be committed to a team approach of running a cost-effective and productive fleet that is responsive to user needs. Similarly, learn how to build consensus, which means getting others to work with you rather than against you. Accept criticism without getting angry or taking it personally. Always maintain a professional demeanor.
- Avoid Obsolescence by Being a Life-Long Learner: Never become complacent; strive to improve your value to the company through continual education in developing new skills. Besides expanding your own professional skillset, do not hesitate to share this knowledge with colleagues and direct reports.
- Open the Closed-Mind: You must listen and give serious consideration to new ideas. You do not want to develop a reputation to being resistant to new thinking. Instead, you want to develop the reputation of being open-minded to new opportunities. Open-mindedness is the incubator to innovative fleet management, resulting in new processes, metrics, and technological applications, which will catch the eye of senior management.
Learn to Adapt to Change
If you want to gain management’s respect, develop the ability to adapt to change. You must be ready to change your professional direction, which may not always be the direction you anticipated or initially desired. Exhibit a can-do attitude even when management makes significant decisions affecting the fleet with little to no input from you. Fleet is ever-changing. You must adapt to change. Fighting change is always a losing proposition.
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