Fleet Management

Commentary: Make 2015 the Year of Relationships

January 2015, TruckingInfo.com - Editorial

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor-in-Chief - Also by this author

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Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief
Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief

Each January, many of us take stock of our lives and make resolutions for things we’d like to change. This year, I made a major resolution a month early, and it’s one I encourage you to consider as well.

In early December, a friend of mine and of many in the industry died suddenly. D. Mike Pennington was not only a friend to many of us ­— he was truly a friend of the entire industry.

Mike loved the trucking business. His involvement went far deeper than his longtime stint as the public relations head at Meritor, or as editor of Southern Motor Cargo magazine before that. His enthusiasm for all things trucking, from U-joints and axles to the public’s image of the industry, was infectious.

He was a key part of Act 1, the Allied Committee for the Trucking Industry, a group of trucking supplier companies formed to promote and build a stronger, more successful industry.

Mike worked to help establish Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week and the recently formed Aftermarket Leader of Tomorrow program. Most recently he donated his talents to the new Trucking Moves America Forward image campaign.

To Mike, relationships were king. He delighted in planning events designed to take participants beyond “networking” and build real friendships.

Mike had a gift of making everyone feel special. My email is sprinkled with notes that make liberal use of phrases such as “nice job,” “thank you,” “well done” and “much appreciated.” And so are the inboxes of many, many others.

In the day-to-day hustle of deadlines, whether it’s a magazine article or blog, delivering freight or building trucks, it’s hard to find enough time to build and nurture those relationships. Yet Mike made it a priority.

Relationships are vital, both from a personal and business standpoint.

Numerous studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships tend to be happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.

Relationships also can help make you happier about your job, help you get ahead, make you more effective in dealing with others and make for a better department or company.

Zappos, a company known for its customer service and employee engagement, stresses the importance of relationships. A recent blog post stated, “With only so many hours in a day, the concept of a manager spending 20% of their time with team members may seem counterproductive. But investing that small amount of time to build relationships has several benefits that pay off in the long run.”

It’s all too easy to communicate with others almost entirely by email and never have a real conversation. But when you spend time getting to know your team, you learn more about the things that make them tick and can start building those relationships.

As the Zappos blog says, “When people feel like they’re working with friends, they feel more accountable to each other and that there’s a team effort working towards a common goal, and that’s something any organization can benefit from.”

In this issue, we’re kicking off a year-long series on the driver shortage. “Employee engagement” is pretty tough when those employees are out on the road all day or even for weeks at a time. It makes it hard to do the kinds of things that Zappos suggests, like chatting over a cup of coffee or a challenging them to a game of Ping-Pong. But in all the fleets I’ve interviewed over the years, I’ve seen that those that enjoy low driver turnover are the ones that have worked hard to overcome the barriers to building those relationships. We’ll offer some examples in a future installment of the series.

In the meantime, please join me in my New Year’s resolution to pay more attention to relationships, whether it’s emulating Mike’s penchant for complimentary emails and notes, or just picking up the phone and asking how someone’s weekend was before launching into Monday madness.

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