As a fleet manager you have to interact with a lots of different people every day. Keeping everyone happy is a real juggling act and some would say you have to be a real people person to do the job.
But managing people effectively isn’t just about getting along well with them – although that certainly helps!
Good people management is about adopting a set of skills that will keep everyone working towards the same goals. Here are some pointers to help you keep your people management skills in good shape.
This is perhaps the most underrated and misunderstood skill of them all. Many managers believe they are communicating when really all they’re doing is just speaking. They also think they’re listening when they are really just hearing.
Good communication is about more than just telling people what they need to do. It’s about moments of interaction appropriate to the message, the time and the situation.
Communicating well means:
- Being brief and to the point
- Using the right medium for the message – email is great for explaining a job to be done but it’s useless at conveying or understanding emotion
- Telling stories – people are more likely to follow through when they understand the point of what they’re being asked to do. Stories are persuasive. We’re not talking about Goldilocks, but if drivers are being asked to drive more carefully, paint a picture of why rather than just laying down the law
- Listening – it can be tempting to think of complaints as just that, but active listening can uncover bigger issues or even open up opportunities that would otherwise have slid under the radar
- Take time to reflect. Gut reactions can be powerful and sometimes misplaced. When you hear something you don’t like, resist the temptation to react straight away. Taking time out provides perspective and lets you formulate a more appropriate, constructive reaction.
People are most effective when they know what’s expected of them and they know that they are making progress towards it. Effective people managers set realistic goals that match employees’ skill sets, then provide ongoing feedback and give corrections if necessary.
This isn’t to say that you can’t get individuals in your team to perform outside their comfort zones. If you do go down this route however, expect to provide support in the form of time, resources and training to help them go forward.
Also, goals aren’t just a one-way street. Your employees may have goals too. Listen to what they are and show how you can help them work towards those too.
Getting employees to feel they have an interest in the business is a great way of getting everyone pulling in the same direction. Encourage everyone to share ideas about how to make improvements. Show they’re being listened to, even if it’s changing the brand of soap in the bathroom.
Listening and acting on staff suggestions is also far more than lip-service to employee relations. Management tend to spend more time behind a spreadsheet than the wheel of a vehicle. Staff out on the road have much better visibility of challenges and opportunities.
Lead by example
If you want to encourage positive working practices, show don’t tell. Demonstrate the benefits of leaving the office on time, safe behaviour on site and commitment to training by living these values yourself.
In particular, admit your mistakes. Not only does it give others the confidence to admit when they’re out of their depth, it emphasises that you (and by extension, the company) have integrity. Employees are less likely to try to take advantage if they believe they are being honestly dealt with.
Understand people’s needs
Take a walk in everyone’s shoes, from the CEO to the intern. If you need to secure investment for driver facilities, you need to understand why the CFO might have trouble finding the money. If you understand their pressures, you might be able to help them find a solution.
Even if you can’t solve someone’s problem – the time isn’t right financially to offer pay rises for example – understanding why this is the case and being able to explain can take the heat out of the situation.
Beware of making promises you can’t keep. Just because cutting money out of the air freshener budget would free up cash for free biscuits in the driver canteen doesn’t mean it will definitely happen.
Show professionalism with a human face
It can be a tricky balance to strike but it’s possible to behave professionally while still showing a sense of humour and a human face. Boundaries should be clear – for example, accepted standards of behaviour, dress or language.
Don’t make people have to guess how far is too far. Make sure it’s written down in employee handbooks and is part of the employee review process. Carrot is always better than stick, so it’s worth rewarding employees if they go above and beyond. Banter and camaraderie are important but don’t be afraid to step in if it goes too far. And once more, lead by example.