During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent supply chain disruptions, the benefits of change were not always obvious, especially when you consider the tremendous amount of upheaval that has been created requiring the modification of fleet policies and instituting new operational and safety procedures. It is during times of change that you have the best opportunity to enhance your stature with senior management. You must know your company’s business by fully understanding its corporate products and services. This will gain management support for key fleet initiatives and showcase your contribution to the company’s bottom line. Your management of the fleet must strive to be “company impactful” rather than simply “fleet impactful.”
Five Corporate Strategies
- Practice Goal-Oriented Fleet Management: Become goal-oriented in all aspects of fleet management and use metrics to continually benchmark attaining these goals. A results-orientated focus on achieving specific objectives and managing fleet operations helps facilitate these results.
- 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.
- Focus on the Internal Customer: Your primary goal is serving end-user departments and drivers. They establish a cooperative, working relationship with all internal departments associated with fleet operations and are proactive with their needs. Recognize that the managers and drivers you support are key to your success.
- Create a Network of Interdepartmental Allies: One strategy to elevate your stature with senior management during dramatic change 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 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. 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.
- Cultivate the Skillset to Turn Strategy into Tactics: It is one thing to enunciate fleet strategies for cost containment and productivity enhancement and 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.
Five Ways to Advance Your Personal Skillsets
- Adaptable to Change: While good fleet managers adapt to change, great fleet managers thrive because of it and are willing to recommend change — even if it impacts them negatively. Fleet is ever-changing and great fleet managers adapt to the change instead of fighting it. 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.
- 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.
- 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 lack the ability to effectively communicate 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, and each group requires special finesse and different level of communication.
- Keep Management Informed on Fleet Performance: A corollary to being an excellent communicator is 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.
- 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.
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