I thought I would take a break from giving advice on specific roles in a company and look at the bigger picture this month. I have visited many companies over the past number of years and aside from the normal concerns about volume and rates, a common reoccurring issue surrounds HR (Human Resources) and the management of people. There have been a million books written on this subject by people who are much brighter than I but I thought I would add my two cents worth.
No matter how big or small the company or what sector of the economy the business operates within, there are basic business principles that apply to leadership roles and the trucking industry is no different. If you want your company to behave in a certain manner then doesn’t it make sense that you should conduct yourself in a manner that is conducive to achieving the required result?
Before I get too far I send my apologies to the many people I had report to me in my early years as a small business owner. I learned these rules as I got older and grew into a formal leadership role and I learned from my many mentors. So for those of you who might have worked for me in the past and didn’t witness the behaviour that I am suggesting should be displayed by successful managers, once again youthful vigour and absolute ignorance to how things should have been done is my only defence.
Every person who goes to work at every company deserves the right to be successful and enjoy their daily toil. People inherently want to be good and want to be successful in the job they have taken on and they want to be recognized for their effort. If you are a manager and don’t believe these two statements then you are in the wrong role.
If you believe that your employees, drivers and Owner Operators give you a strategic advantage in your marketplace you already know what you’re about to read and I am sure I could learn many things from you. If you consider these same people to be a necessary evil, then you need to study this set of rules carefully. True sustainable success will only come when everyone in your company contributes to and enjoys in the results of a job well done and do not simply rely on the leadership of a single individual.
Rule # 1: I used to tell all the managers who worked for me that their job as a department head was to make their own jobs obsolete and only then would they be truly successful. Confused, so were they for awhile, but what I was getting at was that I thought it necessary for each of them to develop their individual staff and team to the point where they were truly self-sufficient and capable of performing the job at hand and meeting the goals and challenges posed to them on a daily basis.
Rule #2: Decide what success would look like for a given person in any given role in your department. Write it out in a role description; it’s hard to measure if a person is doing what you want when they have never been told or, better yet, shown on paper. This document should list their responsibilities, define the task required and their working relationship with their peers, and explain their decision making scope. Hire for that role, have the candidate read the description and provide input where they feel necessary and then have both parties sign it. You just created accountability!
Rule # 3: Develop SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) for all of the reoccurring procedures that happen throughout the day. This takes some work but it simplifies your life as a manager and relieves pressures on the people who work for you. The SOP should include the circumstance and justification for the SOP, provide steps to be taken in the process and any other necessary Information. Management drafts the procedure, employees add their input and the result becomes the rule for how things should be done in any given situation.
Rule #4 : Process, Process, Process. Managers who used to report to me would tire of me saying this but when things would go wrong, 95% of the time it would be because our process let us down, not our people. It is human nature to go looking for bad guys when the chicken feathers hit the fan, but what a grandiose waste of time this usually is. If you believe the ground rules for this article and that people inherently want to do well, then the investigation into the problem should start with the process or SOP that you have in place for the situation because usually it is here where you will find the root of the issue. If, after investigation, it is determined that the problem was caused by someone not following the process, then you have a performance issue with an individual that needs to be addressed.
Rule #5: Ensure that your people have all the tools they need to succeed including your support. Have you ever asked your people this simple statement “What can I do to help you be more successful today?” It’s your job as a manager to provide new technology, new training, or whatever it takes. Showing your people that you are pulling for their success is more important than you can imagine.
When I looked back on the years I was in business and the many successes and accolades that I was fortunate to have enjoyed, I most cherish the memories of the people I had the pleasure of working with and managing, specifically those whom I knew had talent that they themselves didn’t even recognize. To challenge those folks and watch them rise through the ranks still gives me Goosebumps as it should all true mangers.
Can you see how this applies to your company?
Ray J. Haight
Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations. All posts by Ray Haight