At one point or another we have all thought to ourselves, “what is that person doing?”. In the trucking industry it is especially easy to have this mindset. “Why did my dispatcher give me the wrong address?”. “Why didn’t the driver use his hours more efficiently?”. “Why can’t the customer service representative find any loads today?”. We are all stuck in our own mindset of trying to accomplish what we need to do that we forgot we are part of a larger puzzle that needs to fit together in order to be successful. More often than not in the trucking world, we have such a heavy workload stacked on the soldiers in the trenches, that they become frustrated with the other parties who “failed” them in some way. That frustration builds and no one takes the time to discover why that failure happened and what could be done in the future to prevent it. It is important for everyone to understand the roles of the people they are working with; if people are only concerned about their own perspective, they can never help create change or come up with ideas that may improve operations or generate efficiencies.
True understanding leads to improved communication between all parties. It is very easy for people to say they understand, but have they taken the time to really understand the issues that are facing the other people they are working with on a daily basis? Taking time to learn about what others are responsible for, and the challenges they constantly face, is crucial to the success of an organization. If people in an organization are not striving to look beyond their own challenges, then walls of misunderstanding will begin to build-up. And those walls are very difficult to tear down.
A TALE OF DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES – A Driver is Late for a Morning Delivery
Fleet Manager: It’s 07.30 and I cannot get my driver on the phone. He has a 09.00 delivery, is 30 miles out and is not moving. Why is he not driving towards delivery? He has one thing he has to do this morning which is make this delivery. I have 35 other drivers I need to help and I am spending all of my time this morning trying to get in contact with him and make sure he delivers on time. Why can’t he just do his job? I was into work on time. I know he is a good driver, but when I finally talk to him on the phone it is going to be the same old story. Customer service is going to be very upset when I let them know about this. I don’t feel like dealing with them yet so I will just try a little longer to get this driver on the phone and get him rolling. He is a good driver, he will make it on time. I will talk to him later about picking up his phone when I call him. I finally got him on the phone and he just woke up and it’s 08.20. He said he can start driving right away; he should be able to make delivery. It’s only thirty minutes away. It’s 09.05 and he is late; they told him he will not be offloaded until 14.00. What was he thinking? Now I have to try to work with both him and customer service to make sure his week is not messed up. I better get ready to go butter-up customer service for a good load to save his week.
Customer Service: It’s 08.05 and I don’t have enough loads for the trucks that are in my area today but now I must work with my customer about a load that is late for delivery. They don’t offload trucks that are late until the afternoon. Hopefully I can pull some strings and get this truck offloaded. Probably not. I already had to do this a few days ago for a different truck. They are not going to help me again. I will just wait and see if he makes it on time before I send anything out. Well, it’s 08.55 and he is still 10 minutes out. I will email the customer and see if they can help me. They can’t help me out and will get him in at 14.00. I don’t understand why these Fleet Managers can’t just make sure the drivers are there on time. It’s not that hard. Now not only is my customer upset at me, but I have everyone breathing down my neck for his next load so we can make sure he still has a good week. If the driver would just be on time, none of this would happen.
Professional Driver (23.30 the night before): I just got a call from my wife about my son getting caught sneaking out the house. I spoke with him for an hour about why he was sneaking out and what his punishment will be. I am really concerned about him and I cannot get to sleep. It’s 03.00 and I still cannot go to sleep. I need to get some sleep so I can make delivery on time tomorrow and get my next load on. 07.00 my alarm goes off and I hit the snooze button. 08.20…OH NO! That was not the snooze button that was the off button. I have 10 missed calls from my Fleet Manager. I am going to be late. I just need to throw on clothes and go. It’s 08.40 and traffic is moving slow; no one will let me move over. I am going to be late. I just got to the receiver; it’s 09.05 and they are not going to offload me until 14.00. The lady at the window told me they had an 11.00 open, but we didn’t let them know we would be late until 08.55 and somebody took that appointment at 08.50. I have my Fleet Manager on the phone telling me I need to be on time and asking why I couldn’t just make it there on time. Well, why is my Fleet Manager not doing anything for me? Why can’t customer service just work with one of our “best” customers to keep me moving?
Understanding Each Other
In the situation described above, everyone is only looking at it from their own perspective. No one is trying to understand what the other positions are dealing with because of the late delivery. They are upset now because they will have to work through a difficult situation. There are times where being upset with people that you work with is warranted, but it is very important to be careful that the first reaction that you have is not anger; try to understand what may have happened and if there was anything that could have been done to prevent the given situation from happening.
When something like a late delivery happens there will be a number of things that you now have to deal with, but that is your part of the equation to deal with. The best thing one can do is try to help others to ensure the situation is dealt with from a place of understanding. If a customer service representative has no idea what the driver was going through and puts pressure on the Fleet Manager, who in turn puts pressure on the driver, it could cause that driver to feel underappreciated and decide to leave. That lack of understanding now not only caused a late delivery, but now the loss of a driver.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT? HOW DO WE BRIDGE THE “UNDERSTANDING GAP”?
One of the crucial elements of forming cohesive operations is for everyone to truly understand what the other parties are doing; not surface level understanding, but real understanding.
Drivers should understand a Fleet Manager’s responsibilities, which will help them do a better job and make their own day, and single truck operation, flow more smoothly. For example, checking in with their Fleet Manager when they arrive at a receiver will allow that manager to be able to contact customer service, letting them know that everything is running smoothly with that driver and pre-plans are on pace for pick-up. Customer service representatives understanding that having the correct address, pick-up numbers, and commodities on a load sent to a driver ensures that they can check-in on time with no issues and be loaded quickly. Understanding that if those things are not done correctly and there are delays, it can cost the driver. Fleet Managers understanding exactly how drivers make money, whether it is percentage or mileage, and doing everything they can to help that driver maximize his earning, will lead to less turnover on his fleet and in the end make him more efficient at being a Fleet Manager.
This is what I mean by perspective. We all need to really slow down and listen to the people we are working with. If you do not understand their job how do you do your own job in a way that will make others more successful and in turn, make yourself more successful? Looking outside of your own four walls allows you to see the bigger picture of what is taking place. When everyone in an organization knows what the left and right hands are doing, they are able to work in cohesion and push in one direction for the best possible results.
There are several possible ways to go about increasing the awareness of what challenges others are facing in the company.
1. Job Shadows
a. Have the people in your organization spend time with people who are in other roles. The object is always time. How much time in the long run will you create for your people when they are working as one team instead of separate departments who have their own way of doing things.
b. Have debrief sessions after these job shadows. Listen to the people about the ideas they came up with after sitting with the other departments for a day or two.
2. Weekly Departmental Meetings
a. In these meeting your leadership team needs to bring updates on improvement, issues, or initiatives within their own department. Not numbers and statistics, but rather how they are doing things, what issues have crept up, specific occurrences that have negatively or positively affected their own operations, etc. Making sure there is real communication on a weekly basis allows departments to understand each other before any real issues occur. Don’t go through the motions. Really talk as a team and understand. This is not the time to throw others under the bus, but to build understanding and find common ground.
3. Driver Engagement
a. These should not be surface level chats, but rather real talks. Asking what problems drivers are seeing, what things are going really well. Engage them and let them shine a light on things as well. They are the boots on the ground and the ones doing the work. At the end of the day, the company needs to do everything they can to support these individuals.
We all need to make sure that we are taking steps to support those around us. Understanding will lead to better relationships and will help drastically improve the operations of a company. Making sure we really know what others are doing will help improve overall performance. It is really easy to pay lip service to the idea of perspective and understanding; it’s harder to take the time and truly understand the other side when things get tough.
I want to end this blog with a post I saw on LinkedIn by Joel Buffington
My wife and I went for a bike ride this past weekend, however my in-laws had my bike so I had to ride my son’s. It’s a bit smaller with a few less gears so I found myself peddling faster and working harder than normal just to keep up with my wife, who made the ride look effortless....
I had a flashback to recent rides with my teenage son, him on his smaller bike with less gears and trail tires and me on my bike with more gears and road tires. When he inevitably lagged behind, I’d slow down and frequently I’d find myself giving him old-school dad feedback, “try harder, work harder, it’s not that difficult to keep up, we had Square tires when I was a kid, blah blah blah.”
Fast forward to Tuesday morning, I’m in a management meeting, and the topic of giving/receiving feedback comes up. We talked about delivery, intentions, trust, timing, etc. Rather than jump to critiques and doling out our ‘wisdom’, sometimes we need to ride the smaller bike and understand why it’s hard to keep up:-)