Matthew Jenusaitis Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2007

For Matthew Jenusaitis, the best way to motivate employees is to show them results of their work. As president of the neurovascular division at ev3 Inc., he shows the company’s 1,000 workers how their efforts effect tangible good in others. When ev3 released a new product to treat arterial-venous malformations, he brought in a 16-year-old professional singer who had benefited from the treatment. The girl, who previously had experienced hospitalization, partial paralysis and near-death, erupted in song in front of 400 employees, eliciting tears with her deep, throaty voice. By making these connections between people and product, Jenusaitis has helped push ev3 to 2006 revenue of $202.4 million, a 51 percent increase over the previous year. Smart Business spoke with Jenusaitis about how to communicate on the right frequency and develop chemistry on your team and why you should celebrate mistakes.

Be receptive to small mistakes. Big companies develop this air of complacency, where there’s safety in not making any decisions because you’ll never be criticized. You become very risk-averse.

When you’re in a small company, you need to be a little more risk-oriented. It’s OK to make decisions that are wrong. If you think in your life, what are the things that have been the most meaningful and you’ve learned the most from? Frequently, it’s mistakes that you’ve made.

It’s when you’re not afraid to make a little mistake that you can really learn a tremendous amount. Create an environment that is receptive to people making little mistakes so they can incorporate them into their final winning formula.

When people make a mistake, I reinforce the fact that, ‘Hey, it’s good that we learned about this early. We learned about this today; it’s going to cost us $10,000. If we learned about it a year from now, it’s going to cost us $10 million. You just saved us $9,990,000 by bringing this up today. That’s a good thing.’

Don’t point fingers at people. Celebrate little mistakes, and take advantage of the fact that they happened early as opposed to late in the process. Inevitably, people will feel much more comfortable surfacing problems early on, and, in the long term, that ends up saving you a lot of money.

Communicate on the right frequency.

People are like radios — everybody’s set on a different frequency. Your success on communicating with each other is going to be how good you are at recognizing what frequency somebody else is tuned to and adjusting your own dial so you can cut out the static.

We just went through personality-profiling everybody, where you look at people’s personalities and figure out what’s your communication style and how can you be most effective at communicating with someone that has a different style.

This stuff is not going to make us parts for $2 less, and it’s not going to have an immediate impact on the financial statement. What it does do is get everybody thinking that the company really cares about their employees and is really interested in developing the skill sets of their employees.

Show that you care. At this level, nobody’s really going hungry. Nobody’s worried about having enough money to put gas in the car. In terms of their hierarchy of needs, the satisfaction, the self-actualization and the feeling like they’re part of a team — that’s a lot more important than money and benefits.

I want to make sure that they have health insurance and all that other stuff, but I want them to feel like we care about them, their development and their growth. Those are the things that people change jobs for — when they feel like they’re not growing, or the company doesn’t care about them.

Actions speak a lot louder than words. Listen to what they say, and come back a week later and say, ‘I remember you were talking about this.’ The fact that we actually listened to what people had to say and then took the time to follow up to demonstrate to them that we were actually listening — it’s motivation for them. It’s going to demonstrate to them that they’re part of a team. It makes them want to work there and want to be part of a success.

People will stay around if they feel like you’re committed to them. If people feel like they are valued and are learning new things, then they will become very, very connected with the organization. Part of their soul will be affiliated with how well the company is doing, and they’ll want to stay there.

Get the right teammates. The thing that you really spend your time trying to figure out during the interview process is: Do they have the right chemistry? Do they have the ability to work effectively on the team that we have together in this organization?

These are all the subtle things that you don’t pick up on until you spend time having a meal with somebody or spend a couple of hours and learn about their family or the things that motivate them.

Get people that have the right skill sets, get people that have the right collaborative skills, and then spend a lot of time with them creating a vision for what needs to happen. Help them understand what we want to accomplish. Help them understand what it is we’re really trying to do.

Help them understand where you’re trying to go, and then give them room and let them do their stuff. Then just get out of their way.

Know when to step in. Give people a lot of room to argue about things, and give people a lot of room to discuss them.

I try to be patient with sharing my own opinion for as long as I possibly can, but a lot times, people are at an impasse, and they can’t make a decision.

One thing that is kind of the kiss of death is if we’re sitting in a meeting and somebody comes up with the idea of, ‘We should schedule another meeting.’ I think to myself, ‘We’re having a meeting about that right now. Why are we scheduling another meeting to do it?’

That’s when you should step in. I like keeping everybody focused: ‘We need to make decisions. We need to keep going. We need to keep going forward.’

HOW TO REACH: ev3 Inc., (763) 398-7000 or www.ev3.net