Meanwhile, when Ellison came back to Eugene as the transportation manager, one complication was the fiscal differences between the two districts. Eugene is a larger district than Albany, and the budget is set up differently.
As he was starting, he was expected to build the budget for fiscal year 2013-14.The budget in Albany is created by the business manager, with some input from the transportation director. The budget at Eugene is solely managed at the director level.
He turned to his recently retired predecessor, who helped with the transition period.
“Some of the way they did accounting and budgeting changed in that time, so it was kind of the blind leading the blind, but we were able to get it done,” Ellison recalls.
When Kevin Neafie, director of transportation at Lafayette, Ind.’s Tippecanoe School Corp., came on board three years ago, he sought the help of the operations director to learn more about the geographically diverse county. The operations director had been with the district about 16 years.
5. Manage 'by walking around'
Ellison is a big proponent of a strategy known as “management by walking around.” He was able to accomplish his goal of getting to know all of the approximately 130 employees, particularly the drivers, when he started at Eugene by simply walking around the facility and sitting in the driver’s room, interacting with employees and riding bus routes.
Being with employees one-on-one, a manager can build rapport, trust and respect. And, Ellison adds, that goes both ways.
“If you show your employees that you trust and respect them, you get that back. That’s one of the things I firmly believe.”
6. Ask key questions to get to know each employee
Ellison calls every driver into his office and asks them a few simple questions: Who are you? How long have you been here? What position are you in? What is one thing that you like about transportation? What keeps you coming back, besides the paycheck? If you could change one or two things here, what would they be?
“That [response tells] me if there are any underlying issues that I might not be aware of that some of the other managers in our department also don’t know about,” he says.