Do You Take the Time?

January 12, 2015

One can become so busy that we don’t take the time to do the important things.  We are all guilty of this.  Trucking is a very transaction oriented business.  We haul a lot of loads, each with many factors to manage.  We go to work and…oops…before you know it the day is done.  This vortex of work can and does cause us to overlook sometimes the most important thing about trucking … people.  Yet as a service business, people are what trucking is comprised of.  How ACT associates, drivers and contractors communicate with each other determines company and individual success or failure.  So it really is important.  With the labor shortage in trucking, the ability to communicate is the skill that separates the good from the average employee.  Is it talent?  Or do we just get too busy with the small stuff to take the time?

Good communication with each other is our biggest opportunity and our largest challenge.  As George Bernard Shaw said, ““The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

There are so many ways to communicate today, and so many lazy ways to avoid good communication. The range of options includes:

1. Talk face to face
2. Talk by phone
3. Email
4. Send a Qualcomm message
5. Text
6. Use a carrier pigeon (extinct)
7. Send smoke signals

The first two, talking and calling, are the most effective ways to communicate.  It is the difference between interpersonal and impersonal communication.  The first involves a back and forth of assessing people, listening, getting context and explaining.  The last consists of imparting information; such as, “the load number is 12345; the pickup is a noon EST; I like my coffee black.”  Emails, texts, and Qualcomm messages are ineffective when trying to resolve complicated issues or trying to connect with someone on a personal level.  In fact, they often cause the opposite effect of what the sender intends.

The other thing to notice is that the first two methods take the most time and the last, email, text, and Qualcomm, take the least time.

Years ago, when I was younger, I had a very good manager.  One day, he met with me to talk about some behavior that I needed to change for the good of the team.  He approached the issue in a very non-threatening way, stuck to the issue, but was very clear and honest about what needed to be done and why.  As I listened to him, I was impressed with his management talent and I told him so.  I’ll never forget his response, “Tom, good management doesn’t take talent, it just takes time.”

How much time does misunderstanding take?  It is very costly.  Misunderstanding can often result from the failure to take the time to communicate effectively in the first place. In our world of limited time, causing a misunderstanding will result in more future attempts to communicate and more work.  And yet as tension grows, the attempts to communicate are more futile.  If we avoid a difficult person, ignore the problem and put our head back into our work, others will feel disconnected and can easily leave for another job….or worse, just stay and not care.

Set the proper priorities.  Whether you are in an office or on the road, people are more important than whatever task you have before you at the moment.  Invest in yourself and others by communicating, and specifically by telephone or in person when possible.  Avoid the temptation to use electronic messaging as a substitute.  You will find that not only do we start to achieve results, but the investment in time will save time in the long run.

Happy Trucking!  Tom