The employees of Navman Wireless North America are spread out all over the country, which can make communicating with them a challenge. So, Renaat ver Eecke, general manager of the North American division, which employs about 50 people, has to do a lot of traveling to stay in touch, but he says it’s worth it because that type of communication is so important.
“I lead a lot by being there, going out, understanding what the challenges are from the distributors and really making sure that I consistently say the same message from a communications standpoint, not only internally but externally,” he says.
Smart Business spoke with ver Eecke about how to communicate effectively in a growing company.
Q. How can a leader consistently communicate when employees are widespread?
One of the things I did and it gets a little bit more challenging as you grow because the ability to do it as frequently as you want becomes more challenging but if you’re in a smaller company and you’re just starting to lead, I think giving monthly updates.
When I first started taking over the U.S. business, I did monthly updates for the entire team.
It was an all-hands meeting. I talked a lot about, ‘Here’s how we are from a revenue perspective. Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s why we are trying to grow these things.’ Any major changes that were coming up, I would communicate why we are doing it. Because, in my opinion, the things that confuse organizations are not that changes are being made or that ‘this’ is coming, it’s ‘why’ that people don’t address very well.
There was a lot of remote stuff. So, we used the latest technology to empower everyone to be on the same page.
Every single person that reported in to the organization had to be on this call, and they knew it even the salespeople.
I said, ‘Look, when is the best time where you are normally at home? It’s not going to disrupt sales.’
They knew it every month. They had to block off (that time).
They wouldn’t make appointments there. I found it very effective on keeping everyone on the same page. As the business has grown here, I do that, but I now do that on a quarterly basis. I don’t do it monthly. I do a communications out via e-mail monthly, then I do an all-hands quarterly meeting.
Q. How did you deal with the challenge of transitioning from monthly meetings to quarterly meetings?
Again, I think this is where you’ve got to get out. For me, I find if you get out of your office and go talk to people all the time I do that, even within my office, in the different parts of the business within my office, twice a day.
I heard from them. They were asking, ‘I really liked the monthly updates. Getting it through an e-mail doesn’t necessarily give us a chance to do Q and A. So, I took the opportunity for the next quarterly meeting to talk about why we made that transition. Again, and this goes back to my thoughts on, it’s not necessarily that you’re doing it; it’s much more important to talk about why you are doing things.
I just communicated that, ‘We are getting really big. The ability to coordinate and take out the time every month is impacting particularly our sales organization.’
Q. What is a pitfall to avoid when trying to be a good communicator?
Disengaged leadership is something everyone talks about, but it’s really easy to fall in to the pitfalls of just staying in your office.
It seems so obvious, but you can get bogged down in reports and, ‘Hey, I need to send this to our board,’ or, ‘I need to fill out this,’ or, ‘I need to do this analysis.’ There are only so many hours in a given day where your people are there and the business is really humming to get to understand what are the problems of the business. The biggest pitfall is people staying in their office.
They don’t engage in their different departments and walk around and really hear what the problems are and talk to people who are perhaps two or three levels below and engage them. That is something that I’ve heard from everyone that works in my organization as something that they really like about my style.
I think it brings a real understanding of problems. So, when the problems come to you, you don’t just throw them out as, ‘Hey, that’s not that big of a problem.’
You will have heard it and already identified it. So, it might be something that you, again, discuss in the quarterly actions. So, these things all fit in to a nice plan and process that can evolve over time.
HOW TO REACH: Navman Wireless North America, (847) 832-2367 or www.navmanwireless.com