By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
As a leader, you need to remember this – leadership and conflict walk side-by-side. You can try to avoid conflict, but you cannot escape it. If you are unable or unwilling to address conflict in a healthy and productive manner, then you should not be in a leadership role.
It is essential that for the health and performance of your organization that conflict be accepted and addressed through comprehensive and effective conflict resolution processes. Unresolved conflict often results in loss of productivity, the stifling of creativity, and builds barriers to cooperation. Conflict management can be the biggest driver of change. Organizations that encourage people to raise issues often find that doing so leads to innovation. By learning these skills, you can reduce conflicts in the workplace.
A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat; whether the threat is real or not. The reality is that the root of most conflicts is either the result of poor communication or the inability to control one’s emotions. Differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes.
Clear, written communication has proven remarkably successful at keeping conflicts to a minimum. When disputes arise from miscommunication and misunderstanding, it is (usually) management’s fault for not having the policies, procedures, and processes in place that prevent such conflict. Write and publish your procedures in such a way that everyone has access to them. Clearly and publicly make it known what behavior(s) will and will not be tolerated.
Establish a dialogue. Keep the conversation relevant and on task – don’t let it devolve into a griping match. Stay focused on a positive outcome and remain aware of the common goal. Talking, dialogue, and negotiation create genuine and productive two-way communication. Each position deserves respect and consideration, so do not play favorites or get involved in the drama.
Understand each position and negotiate. It is critical to understand the motivations prior to weighing in and help those around you achieve their objectives. Broker a compromise – once one side makes a concession, it is likely that the other party will respond in kind. By approaching conflict with the perspective of taking action to further their goals, you may find fewer obstacles and less resistance.
View conflict as an opportunity. There is tremendous teaching and learning opportunities hidden in conflict. With disagreement, there is potential for growth; individually and with colleagues. Smart leaders look for the upside in differing opinions.
Conflict can also affect change. Review policies that may be outdated or overly cumbersome. Consider assigning the parties to a team that reviews the policies that caused the conflict and report any suggestions that can improve the policy.
Bottom line…conflict is everywhere, but the good news is that conflict can be extremely productive for organizations. Resolution can normally be found in conflicts where there is a sincere desire to do so. However, when all else fails, resolve the issue not by playing favorites, but by doing the right thing.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
You know who I am talking about. That irritating employee who alienates their colleagues while consistently managing to find clever solutions to the pressing issues or problems that arise in the organization. The one who is high-performing (and likes to take all the credit) and STILL has the time to grate on every nerve you have.
Sound familiar? Every company, organization, or group has at least one of them that most managers handle badly. Many managers don’t want to “rock the boat” when projects are running smoothly, or vehicle downtime is below the goal threshold. This means that their response, when or if it finally comes, is often ineffective. They don’t understand or they underestimate the cost to the organization in terms of staff morale or retention.
So, how do you manage that talented blockhead?
The trick is being able to tap into that brilliance while minimizing the damage. You may not always have the option of getting rid of them, so let’s look at ways to retain and use that talent better.
Listen closely to what is going on
This doesn’t mean spy on your people, but listen to them when they talk about difficulties they may have with certain individual. If you hear from more than one employee about the same person, it’s time to pay attention and plan out your strategy.
Begin the intervention early
If you are listening, you may be able to start working with the “problem child” early. This could mean pairing them with a counselor or peer that can help them relate to their colleagues and begin to share the values of the organization.
You can provide an opportunity for attitude improvement. Try reviewing this employee’s interpersonal skills more often and tell them that their needs to be consistent improvement. Let them know they are a valuable member of the team and do great work, but this particular area needs to be focused on.
You can also begin a peer assessment to coincide with employee reviews. I was once at a company where the president of the company had each employee review the interpersonal skills of their team or department colleagues. All responses were anonymous. The results were then compiled and given to us. Although sometimes hard to read, it did create awareness and you could see positive changes.
Reassign them or change their workload
Maybe the best way to keep the talent and make peace in the office is to reassign the employee to a position that doesn’t interact as frequently with colleagues or other departments. Try funneling their time and resources into big projects that don’t require extensive teamwork. Maybe they would be great at looking for trends in reams of data or creating training materials for best practices.
Change the reward system
Many organizations and companies have “Employee of the Month” rewards. While this is a great program for many, this could encourage the clever dolt to continue his ways in hopes of gaining that prize. Try a monthly reward for the team instead of rewarding one individual.
There are ways of salvaging the brilliant jerks and preserving the energy, ideas, and performance they can bring to an organization. How do you manage them? Let me know in the comments and I’ll update this article.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
It’s a new year – and a new year can bring new opportunities. Did you recently receive a promotion? Or take a position in a new company or fleet organization?
Progress in your career is great, but can be a little intimidating, especially if the progress comes with direct reports for the first time. Whether you become a lead mechanic, crew supervisor, or a newly appointed fleet manager, a promotion comes with a new set of responsibilities and obstacles.
The first time I was promoted into a supervisory role, I had four direct reports. I was excited, terrified, hopeful, intimidated, and ready to go forth and make change! My ego got a great boost and my workload doubled and, in some cases, tripled (most of it my own fault).
Within three years, the number of people for whom I was responsible had multiplied to over 35. I read a lot of books and articles on leadership and management. It was a struggle and a journey. There were many growing pains. I learned that management can be a battlefield promotion.
I will never claim that I am (or was) the best or a perfect manager, but here are some insights that might help make your journey a little smoother.
Learn the Business
You may be tempted to overhaul and start fresh, especially if you moved up in your organization. Don’t assume you know the position or the department just because you have worked there for several years. There may be much that you were not privy to before your promotion. Take small steps of change to begin. Observe, listen, and learn in the first months.
Meet with Employees as a Team and Individually
Don’t judge anyone or anything immediately. Start this new journey with a clean slate. Meeting as a team in the early stages of your transition can help shape a team culture that can unlock tremendous talents on that team – from problem solving to ideas on efficiency and saving money. Getting buy in from the respected veterans on the team can smooth a lot of bumps.
Meet with each member individually. Learn their history and aspirations in the organization. Respect their time and don’t make snap judgments. Accept them for who they are and keep an open mind. Set boundaries and expectations but be flexible. Don’t micromanage unless they are not meeting those expectations. Ask questions and accept input (even if it is criticism). A private gesture, a kind word, or asking their advice can go a long way to winning them over.
Keep Emotion Out
There is always a price for leadership. Don’t take things personally and always be the better person. Don’t publicize your personal life or get too cozy. This can be especially hard if you worked side-by-side with these people before the promotion. Always keep your guard up because, eventually, you will be holding gut wrenching meetings on conduct or performance.
Recognize Your Limitations
Be patient. Realize that you don’t have a real track record in this position and you cannot be everything to everyone. There will be mistakes and you can’t do everything. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” but follow that up with “let me find out.” Pick your battles and pursue issues that you know you can win.
Be an Example
Your people will adopt your attitudes and anxieties. Convey confidence – not arrogance – and always stay composed. Learn their responsibilities and be willing to jump into the trenches. Establish credibility by owning up to your mistakes and following your own rules.
People should not guess how you will react – to an issue, failure, poor conduct, or an event. Provide a stable and safe place to share opinions and give honest feedback. Don’t let your conduct hamper you or your people when it’s time to secure funding, resources, or earning promotions.
Find a Mentor / Be a Mentor
Reach out to someone who has been there before – someone who can help pick you up when you need it. Keep in touch with them regularly and listen to their advice. They may be able to help champion one of your causes when needed.
Develop each of your people including yourself. Recognize their strengths and their areas of improvement. Help them set goals and provide opportunities where they can grow, learn, and contribute to the team and the organization.
Build Bridges to Other Departments
Whether you are becoming a shift supervisor or a Fleet Director, reach out to internal and/or external departments. You are not only a manager, but also an ambassador. If they won’t come to you, go to them. Meet with the Parts Manager or the Solid Waste Director to set new goals and expectations, yours and theirs.
Have a Plan and Set Objectives
All ideas are doomed to failure if you don’t have a plan. Hold yourself accountable and set targets and objectives early. Outline the vision with your team, both short and long term. Identify how everyone’s role contributes. Help them understand and achieve the goals. Without a plan and execution, the team will drift and lose sight of their potential value.
You don’t know all the answers and can hurt the team by pretending you do. Cultivate the strengths of your team – step back and let them lead. Check in regularly to monitor progress and provide counsel as needed. Don’t abuse your delegation powers though. This isn’t the time to hand off everything so you can catch that baseball game.
Silence in your department can be a threat. Reach out to your employees. Put “meet with team” on your calendar regularly. This will help keep everyone current on developments and maintain a dialogue with your people. Don’t just talk to them, talk with them.
Increase your Team’s Exposure
Look for opportunities to give them the spotlight – from leading a training session to leading a project or even a mention in a department newsletter. Recognize them publicly and praise generously. Bring in speakers, share articles, or send them to outside training classes, industry association meetings, and conferences to expose them to best practices.
Teach your people how to become the ambassadors, so that as you receive promotions, so can they. Ideally, you want to expand your people’s world, not narrow it.
By: Shawna Laird, Business Manager
Strategy is defined as a long-term plan of action to achieve a particular goal. Strategy is about choices and recognizing that those choices can affect your outcome. By creating an effective strategy in producing a Business Plan, unfavorable results can be reduced or avoided. All Business Plans should be three dimensional and include: 1. Business Plan; 2. Fleet Program Plans; and 3. Customer Service Agreements.
Let’s take a look at the different components of a Business Plan.
Executive Summary: The Executive Summary should be one to two pages long and include your Mission and Vision statements. Be sure to introduce your fleet organization. Describe the programs and services that your organization provides in supporting the using departments. Brag on the organization! Show your accomplishments and how those accomplishments were achieved.
Fleet Overview: Showcase your organization. Explain the purpose of your organization and the diversity of the equipment that composes the fleet. Highlight the benefits of your organization and define the services provided. Acknowledge your customers, both internal and external. Go crazy and use charts and graphs that are easy to understand and still make the point.
Marketing and Organizational Analysis: Define your customer needs. Show that your organization understands their needs and explain how your organization can and does meet those demands. Publish a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis. Get your staff and user departments involved by asking them to participate in the SWOT Analysis before publication. Work your strengths and hire to fill areas of weakness. If you cannot hire, then create a plan to promote or train staff to fill those weak areas.
Teamwork and Organization: Accentuate your team. List your awards and certifications. Emphasize the expertise of your staff by detailing their accomplishments and certifications. Stress the experience you have in your organization (number of years, diversity of skills, etc.) Your team is central to the success of your organization and your Business Plan.
Financial Outlook: You’ve all heard “run it like a business.” Create your budget at the program level. Include a Profit & Loss statement and analyze current market trends. Underscore your organization’s commitment to reduce costs by explaining programs that will be implemented to save money.
Appendix A: Fleet Program Plans: Plan by program. Include the goals, tasks, measurements, procedures, processes, roles, responsibilities, and reports. Clearly state the goals and objectives of the organization. Use visual work flow charts to highlight your tasks and processes. Charts can be easier to read and understand and can lead to better comprehension of how the organization works. Define the roles and responsibilities of your staff and explain their part in the overall success of the organization. Outline the reports you will use and how you will analyze the performance of the organization. Include sample reports or dashboards.
Appendix B: Customer Service Agreement: Partner with your customers and define both your organization’s and the customer’s expectations. Explain your organization’s processes and the costs and benefits of the services and programs.
Update your Business Plan annually and publish it. Have it available to your staff and user departments both in print and electronically. Upload it to your intranet. Schedule meetings, at your facility, with upper management, city council, county commissioners, or your board of directors to review your Business Plan, especially if new people are elected or hired. Ask for feedback from the readers. You never know what ideas and programs may come from those comments.
By: Shawna Laird, Business Manager & Business Services Team
Roller coasters – you either like them or you don’t. They can give you a thrill or a scare, depending on whether you are going up, or coming down. It appears that as in the past several years our fleet budgets will take a ride on the fuel cost roller coaster, again. Energy price forecasts are highly uncertain and the prices are on the accent on this roller coaster. The cost per gallon at the pump includes taxes and fees. With the recent changes to the tax breaks, the consumer will see this roller coaster continue to climb. Although most government entities are exempt from taxes, there are fees per gallon that are passed on to the customer.
Taming this roller coaster will require more than one rider. Before we start on the ride, we need to recognize what factors on this ride, are controllable and by whom. Some factors the fleet manager has no control over. Massive storms and unusual weather can definitely impact the ride, tossing the budgets to and fro. Fleet budgets will be impacted by these factors. Government mandates also make the ride more of a scare than that of a thrill. Although we can reduce the carbon footprint for our fleets, that does not equate to lower cost of ownership or cost per mile. Be sure to monitor the total costs not just the fuel cost per gallon. Fleet managers can’t control the cost per barrel of crude oil, but they can partner with their purchasing group or co-ops to ensure a better price per gallon, and purchase more cost efficient vehicles during the replacement cycles. The driver/operators can’t control the need for the fuel, but they can help to conserve the amount necessary to get their jobs and tasks done. Management can help reduce on site meetings and encourage ride sharing.
Many fleet agencies have implemented service level agreements for maintenance and rental of the vehicles and equipment. Enhance your service level agreements to include fueling profiles and expectations in your end user service agreements. Include vehicle sizing, accurate usage reporting, tire pressure monitoring, PM compliance, and promotion of alternative transportation methods in your profile and service agreement.
Create an internal fuel conservation monthly campaign. Set goals, track the progress and put a value on it. Share the information with your staff, your management, and your customers. Work with your management to encourage participation at all levels within your organization. Challenge the end users and give them recognition.
Ride the fuel cost roller coaster and when you make it to the bottom in one piece; get ready to go again.
The FleetPros Blog is written and moderated by the Business Manager with contributions from the membership and Business Services Team.