A cross-functional fleet sourcing team is typically comprised of the fleet manager and representatives from other departments involved with fleet, such as procurement, sales, operations, HR, finance, and risk management. In an ideal world, the ultimate fleet sourcing decision will balance an economic solution with the required service levels, while fulfilling the needs of all stakeholders.
However, in the real-world, procurement’s process-driven, sourcing approach collides with traditional relationship-driven fleet supplier selections. Procurement argues its process methodology makes supplier selection more objective and transparent. The counterpoint states procurement may be very good at buying, but often does not understand the subtleties of service relationships and the importance of a “cultural fit” between fleet and the partner fleet supplier. While sourcing groups increasingly recognize the importance of service, they have difficulty quantifying it and often view it as an intangible. Procurement prides itself on being facts oriented by stressing that data is its friend. In other words, subjectivity and intangibles have no place in procurement deliberations.
Nevertheless, for a fleet manager to be a successful on a sourcing team, he or she must embrace the procurement process and avoid being defensive when past fleet decisions are critiqued. A fleet manager must professionally accept constructive criticism, because when team members only have secondhand experience in fleet management, there will be a lot of second guessing of your decisions. It is important to remain professional because the quickest way to lose credibility with a sourcing team is by too aggressively defending the incumbent supplier and not being open-minded to considering change. The fleet manager must also avoid being perceived by other members of the team as being too “emotionally attached” and not engaging in fact-based deliberations. In a team environment, a fleet manager must be a good listener who is amendable to other perspectives and is open to new ideas.
The fleet manager plays an important role on a sourcing team, in addition to being the fleet subject-matter expert. At almost every corporation, the in-house fleet manager interacts with all cross-functional groups, such as legal, HR, risk management, operational groups, and sales, which makes their contributions to the sourcing team extremely valuable since it provides a “global” view of the corporation as a whole. During an RFP analysis, the fleet manager needs to articulate a pro and con, fact-based discussion when analyzing sourcing options. The fleet manager must present the “fleet” perspective during these sourcing deliberations, since he or she is the most qualified person on the sourcing team to understand the consequences of an ill-advised decision.
Four Principles of “Leading without Authority”
To gain greater influence on a fleet sourcing team, one suggestion from people I know in procurement is that a fleet manager practice the below four principles of “leading without authority.”
- Lead with Questions. If you are not in charge of the sourcing team, lead it with questions that must be asked. By asking the questions that aren’t being asked, you can change the course of an entire deliberation. It is important not to be strident or appear to be too emotionally attached to particular topics. Instead, start the conversation with the question: “Have we considered … ? ” Another way to present a counter-viewpoint, without appearing argumentative, is to ask: “What have we possibly overlooked?”
- Lead with Bravery: It is easy to feel intimidated if you are a lone dissenting voice. This is where it is important to speak up and “lead with bravery.” Team members will not buy into your position if you seem unsure of your conviction or cannot present convincing non-confrontational rebuttals to opposing views.
- Lead by Answering “Why” Questions: When you’re consistently answering the “why” questions for others on the team, people will value your insights. Take the initiative to answer questions such as: “Why is this important?” “Why are we doing it this way?” The foundation of leading without authority is to leverage your ability to have a positive influence on other team members.
- Lead with Enthusiasm: Be passionate about your position. Even if you’re not in charge of the team, you can always strive to raise the energy in the group to rally members to your position.
It’s Critical to be Open to New Possibilities
To be successful on a sourcing team, you need to be open-minded about exploring all available service channels and partners. However, open-minded doesn’t mean being open-headed. You must listen and entertain new ideas, but also temper such a practice and attitude with pragmatism and industry knowledge. You should share your in-depth industry knowledge with the team through insightful analysis. Always conduct yourself in a professional manner. Be open to ideas from anyone on the team. While you may be the fleet expert, someone else may have a better idea.
Let me know what you think.