I was never much of a conversationalist; it was something that I felt that I was not good at, whether small talk bored me or there was something else going on, I don’t know? The thought of being dropped into a room full of strangers and trying to connect with just one single person scared me. All the Trucking conventions that I have attended, on both sides of the border, were the source of both exhilaration and high anxiety for me. In my younger years, one of the ways around the fear was to self-medicate with a couple of drinks, just enough to breakdown the fear but not so much as to go over the edge and get too lucid, if you get my drift.
One of many thoughts rolling around in my cranium was a lesson many of us heard in our younger years; two ears one mouth. Or perhaps this one; you will never learn a thing with your mouth open. Although I still cherish the sentiment, there are many times I have added value as I tried to explain the essence of a project, either to an industry colleague or more likely to my better half Connie, and ideas have been enhanced.
There were many times I felt inadequate as I sat in board rooms and listened to professional talking heads as they explained what was going on in my trucking company and what I should do next. After all, they had the credentials and they had the accreditation so they must have everything figured out, and on top of that, they don’t stop talking. It took me years and a lot of self-medication to finally listen to my inner ear. Also, I had an outstanding business coach. This man repeatedly drilled into me that I needed to trust my instinct – that inner voice that many of us ignore in favor of cursory advice from so-called uninvested professionals.
My thought processing has now advanced to the point where I value the principle that the accumulation of a single lesson of value each day is the secret. It is that small accumulation of ideas and experiences that adds up to a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is essential in life and in business. The accumulation of all the victories, failures, and scars, in and of themselves, do not bring value unless we learn something from them. This wisdom comes from experience, not a classroom. Not that I have anything against formal education, far from it, but it can be limiting without hands-on experience.
So, I feel extraordinarily lucky to be doing the many things I am now involved in. Holding the title of Truckload Carriers Association’s Retention Coach has allowed me into many companies’ inner workings. We talk about bettering a company’s driver retention which, as the title suggests, is the primary goal. But what we are really talking about is the client’s company culture, which is the core of the issue with almost all the companies I talk to.
Changing a company’s culture from whatever it is that has precipitated the high driver turnover of the business into a place where people want to work and stay is the real strategic challenge. Is it monumental, no? Of course not. I tell folks that they will do the same things they are doing today but just in a different way and in a more driver-centric way. I call on ten years experience of driving long-haul; I call on the experience of running a successful trucking company and as well, almost running a company into bankruptcy. I call on holding leadership roles in national trucking associations. Most currently, I call on the experience of working with a couple of dozen trucking companies and seeing what has worked and what has not worked in their efforts to improve their culture. I have no doubt that it is that culture that either brings drivers into their companies and makes them feel valued and supported – or drives them away.
I am oftentimes asked for endorsements on my work and I do have some success stories that have been very generous with their support. I have also had companies that have not seen the success they should have and I will take ownership of those experiences; how can one take ownership of the wins without addressing the ones that didn’t get what they expected? Changing company culture can be like trying to turn the Titanic; it is the commitment component where things can wane. Just as the accumulation of one good thought a day can mold a person into a valued resource, these things take time and patience that is just not as prevalent in many companies in our industry as we wish it were.
I have recently become a virtual colleague with Brian Feilkow. Brian is the author of Making Safety Happen and his teaching mirrors much of my own, but he goes at it through a slightly different lens. And I love it. Brian also owned Jetco and was challenged with changing the culture from where it was, into an industry leader and he did it. Like my own experience, his offering is nothing more than a strategic plan predicated on learned experience and trial and error that resulted in success.
You can find Brian’s offering at: https://www.brianfielkow.com/
These days I am enjoying regular coaching calls with many good trucking company executives throughout the TCA about turnover; they have a landing page for me that can be found at https://www.truckload.org/about-tpp/tpp-retention-project/. Additionally, I am in the final stages of rolling out an offering that focuses on Strategic Planning for trucking companies that will be found at www.rayhaight.com. I love talking all things trucking so don’t be bashful – please reach out; I would love to hear from you.
Take Good Care, Merry Christmas and Safe Trucking!
Ray J. Haight
Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.