Why introverts make great fleet managers

With so many fleet manager tasks geared towards the introverted mind, let’s get some introvert facts straight: we’re not shy, we’re not grumpy and we’re not weak.

 

I’m on a rampage - all be it a quiet one - to snuff out the false introvert myths, champion the awesomeness of introversion and show why we introverted guys and gals make cracking fleet managers. I’ve done my thorough research, as many other like-minded introverts would, and come up with some gob-smackingly apparent parallels between fleet management and common introvert skills that I’d love to share with you all. But first, if you can handle a detour, I’d like to offer a short history lesson:

The Spectrum

The terms "introvert" and "extravert" (yes, it really is technically with an “a”, not an “o”*) were coined by psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung in his ground-breaking book, Psychological Types (1921). An extravert is defined as someone who gains energy by being surrounded by people whereas an introvert gains energy from being alone. (“Energy” can sound a little contradictory for introverts in this context but I like to think of it like we need time alone to recharge our batteries.)

These personality traits are not black and white: Jung explains that extraversion and introversion are not polar traits: “No one lives completely as one type or the other”. In other words, there’s an extravert-introvert spectrum. So when we say introverts make great fleet managers, what we really mean is people with introverted behaviours make great fleet managers!

The Personality Revolution

Few people would disagree that introverts are not generally held in high esteem in most business environments (or society as a whole) the way extraverts* are, but why?

It’s all a recent phenomenon, really. In the 1920s, “personality” started to trump “character” in social circles. Moral fibre and a sense of duty was benched by dominant personality traits like being energetic and social. It wasn’t called the roaring 20s for nothing. In this decade of gusto; society wanted bubbly drinks and even bubblier friends. Think “Great Gatsby party” and you’ll be on the right lines.

This celebration of extravert behaviour soaked into culture quickly and, by the 50s, left introverts mentally and physically on the boundaries of each room they entered. Harsh. But fear not, my fellow reclusive legion, for the quiet ones are always the ones to look out for…

 

Introvert Myths

Many personality aspects are assumed to be synonymous with introversion, like being shy. In fact, the verb “introverted” has come to mean shy and reclusive but the noun has got messed up in this language transfiguration too. Take this comparison as an example:

A)  Introversion is a dislike of overstimulating environments

B)  Shyness is a fear of social disapproval

Very different traits when you look at them side by side. Now, many - even most - introverts may be shy, but there are also thousands who aren’t.

Unfortunately an introvert’s blank “thinking” face and the adjoining silence is commonly perceived as shyness by all but a few. It’s not daft to see the two as sharing common ground but it’s important for those in management especially to recognise that they are not one and the same.

And it’s not just shyness that gets misidentified in introverts.  The same can be said of appearing serious, quiet, boring (particularly hurtful) and a hermit. It’s these personality assumptions which harm our introvert family so badly in the workplace. But there are many ways that we shine (even outshine) our lively counterparts. Let’s explore those next.

 

Introvert Strengths and Skills

Unlike extraverts, introverts are the thinkers of our world – admittedly sometimes over-thinkers - but never the “jump in head first” sorts. Isolated thought is an introvert’s superpower. That means we are generally more wary and cautious which has given us an unrivalled aptitude for research and accurate detail. Blinkers on, we squirrel ourselves away checking facts, analysing pros and cons, unearthing trends with satisfaction.

So let’s compare this with fleet management attributes shall we?

The UK’s National Careers Service’s states that a typical car fleet manager’s activities would include:

 
  • Managing contracts and developing new business

  • Scheduling service, MOT and repair programmes

  • Finding cost-effective sources of new vehicles (i.e. research)

  • Coordinating the replacement of existing fleets

  • Ensuring the security of the vehicles when not in use

  • Organising staff cover

  • Use computer software to collect and analyse information about the fleet

 

Managing contracts, scheduling, researching, coordinating, ensuring security, organising, collection and analysis: sweet, soothing words to an introvert’s ears.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because these skills are instinctual for us that they are not valuable gifts in the workplace. Remember that these are not skills commonly seen in energetic and risk-taking extraverts. The inherent control of level-headed and practised thinkers is incredibly important in business operations. Introverts will research, check and secure: they are a safe pair of hands. Everything you want in a fleet manager who controls vast amounts of a company’s expenditure.

So that’s activities. Beautifully lined up in a row opposite an introvert’s instincts. Now, the fleet manager’s skills and qualities that the National Careers Service cites may not initially feel so simpatico but I hope to convince you…

Five of the quoted skills are a perfect match to an introvert’s focused, solo work ethic:

 
  • Strong organisation skills

  • Good IT skills

  • The ability to interpret figures and spot trends

  • Good maths skills for managing contracts

  • The ability to meet targets

 

The remaining three appear to be much more extravert in nature:

 
  • A flexible approach and the ability to make decisions quickly

  • Good motivational and leadership qualities

  • Excellent communication and negotiating skills (written)

 

Flexibility of thought, or flexibility in general feels more like extraverted behaviour. I think on the surface introverts would themselves not often describe themselves as flexible. However, present them with facts or opinions which shed new light on their original perspective and you will find introverts very willing to change and lead the change towards new strategies and tactics – just don’t expect us to adapt on a hunch or a whim. Likewise, quick decision making may well be an extravert’s bread and butter but remember that introvert-extravert spectrum: the most introverted individuals may well get bogged down in potential outcomes and consequences and delay decision-making but those introverts who sit nearer the centre of the spectrum will have all the prior research in their arsenal to make an informed quick decision based on facts. After all, a decision made fast is only of benefit to the business if it’s well-informed.

Motivation, which is quintessentially “energising” people; of course that’s an extravert’s bag, right? Actually, not always. It depends on who they’re motivating. Extravert to extravert, sure, they're the bees knees, but getting an employee to go white water rafting to bond with peers or publicly congratulating/shaming them based on their targets is not going to motivate any introverts on their team, in fact it could do the complete opposite. Back we wriggle into our safe shell; we’ll see you at Christmas… What I’m getting at is motivation is about listening to what the team or individual wants. Thinking and listening go hand in hand. See where I’m going with this? An introvert is better equipped mentally to deal with a breath of learning and personality styles because they listen first and react second; an extravert, especially on the sharp end of the spectrum is more prone (instinctively) to mould his/her team in their own image.

And finally excellent communication and negotiating skills, now I would argue that these particular skills can be strong for both personality traits. As a sweeping generalisation I’d say extraverts are better at verbal communication and negotiation whereas introverts, unsurprisingly, would trump them when it comes to written forms but it’s far more down to exposure and practice than personality type.

 

So all in all, ticking off research points as I go, I hope I’ve convinced you why introverted traits are a perfect fit for fleet manager roles. If you’re an extravert who has been offended by this post, please let me know in writing: I will read (and re-read and probably overthink) your views and take the necessary time to form my reply.

 

Written by Jo Anstey. Jo is Covase’s Marketing Manager and a passionate introvert. You can reach her at info@covase.co.uk.

 


* For anyone’s who’s interested, “extravert” is the translation of Jung’s original “extravertierte”. When asked to clarify the spelling, his secretary once said using an “o” in place of the “a” would simply be “bad Latin”. There is something of a rift between psychologists on the spelling; “extrovert” is certainly more common in everyday language (thanks to Phyllis Blanchard’s 1918 paper on August Comte where she first cited the mysterious “o” with no justification) but modern academic texts still hark back to the original spelling, and, being a sucker for accuracy, I’m sticking with Jung.