Driver Retention = Discipline


The core of the Truckload Carriers Association Profitability Program Retention Project (TPP Retention Project) is a focus on managerial discipline. It lays out a step-by-step process that is designed with a focus on creating a driver-centric culture at any given trucking company and starts with the commitment by the senior management team to the successful execution of the program.

Through the process of rolling out the TPP Retention Project to a new company, we encourage an on-site visit and workshop that I facilitate. Having done many of these visits, I have observed that one of the common concerns that will be revealed is that of consistency among the team members to the retention cause which, of course, is crucial to the successful execution of the TPP Retention Project.

The manifestation of this concern among senior managers is in and of itself very telling of the culture of the business, and it is a likely sign of a company is not performing to their maximum potential. What I mean by this is that this is likely a business that operates in silos and not as a high performing, focused unit. A business where each department is trying to keep up to the pressures of the day and are not genuinely supporting each other suffers when it comes to focusing on either a common purpose or accomplishing a wildly important goal (WIG).

One of the benefits of the TPP Retention Project is that, at its core, it strives to hold people accountable for staying to the project plan. If an individual is not onside, other members of their team are empowered to call them out. Hopefully, this is done in a supportive way (as is encouraged). This support is a core commitment that each senior manager makes to the others as part of the program, and it is critical to its success. The program also addresses the blame game, finger pointing, and dodging accountability; which, of course, are nothing but child’s play and a waste of spirit. The turnover in this industry and at each company I work with is a result of the company’s entire personnel’s efforts to get where it is – period.

Taking full responsibility and ownership of the situation each company is in is the starting point for the program. There is no future in finding bad guys or playing the blame game. Everyone at the company, and everyone reading this article for that matter, has done everything perfectly correct and in perfect order to be where you are today. In your careers, in your relationships, and in your communities – you have to own that paradigm. Not to say that challenges and, in some cases, significant problems didn’t present themselves to you, but you decided how to react to those issues. So, own your successes own your failures, own your past and own your future.

Without this core understanding as a starting point, the TPP Retention Project (and any other WIG for that matter) has a very narrow chance of ever resulting in the success that it was designed to achieve.

Where this gets extremely difficult is when a small company begins to grow, and the owner starts to see gaps in the performance of their managers. With growth comes more rules and structure, it has to, or there would be mass chaos. Systems and processes are brought into the business to handle the increased volumes in an orderly fashion. Unfortunately, what gets revealed quite often is that long time senior managers that were a perfect fit when the company was small now struggle almost daily under the new rules and so do their results. In a nutshell, they are too busy mopping the floor to turn off the faucet.

If you let the above situation continue then your company will under-perform, and the individual will suffer trying to keep afloat. Hopefully, there is a lateral move you can make that will appease the situation, if not, ownership has some difficult decisions to make.

The paradigm shift happens when one starts to differentiate between friendship and results. When you were a small company everyone wore all the hats and depended on each other to do whatever it took to get the job done, that friendship relationship was critically important. Now your mid-sized company and the manager has a department full of people under them and their job is not to be the doer but to be the coach and trainer. The new role’s objective is to create and support a highly competent workforce by removing obstacles to performance, challenging norms, coaching to results and doing everything they can to make their jobs obsolete.

I have been in this situation on more than one occasion. I have had managers who would be in the office 80 hours a week, creating and then burying themselves in spreadsheets. Meanwhile, their departmental results are abysmal. I had a manager who was with me when I was small; we were very close, but he was suffering when we began to grow. I remember after a round of performance reviews asking the manager to show me the reports. His department was underperforming expectations and set goals, and yet almost every performance review he did with his people stated that they were individually doing great. This person was a doer and a friend, not a manager. Of course, everyone wants friends but as a manager that comes best after respect is earned. Even then though the manager is the authority in the relationship and needs to understand the responsibility that comes with that position, and that takes discipline.

Regards and Safe Trucking

Ray Haight

Retention Coach

TPP Retention Project