When I first arrived at Defender Resorts more than six years ago I had done a lot of marketing for a lot of different types of companies, everything from consumer products such as Australian spray tans to healthcare apps and business-to-business services, but nothing has been quite like the legacy timeshare industry.
Through the years I’ve worked with industry leaders Defender Resorts and SPM Resorts, both which now co-exist as National Hospitality Group and while observing management companies work hand-in-hand with boards I’ve picked up some of the ways in which effective leadership in the legacy timeshare industry is unique. Overall I’ve noticed that effective leadership relies on communication.
Leadership professor and author John Adair said that “communication is the sister of leadership.” He was completely correct in this notion. The best ideas and most effective plans mean nothing if they cannot be clearly communicated to the team that has to carry them out.
For management companies, this is exceptionally important because all your resorts are so different. Everything from individual resort rental policies to board personalities and collection ratios are highly-varied. Poor communication can leave board members feeling unheard, renters confused about the policies and owners defeated and unwilling to pay their maintenance fees.
For solo timeshare resorts, this is important too because your board and guests are scattered around the world. Failure to communicate well can leave a slew of issues that are harder to repair than to just avoid in the first place.
So, obviously communication is important, but HOW do we communicate effectively in this industry?
It’s one thing to say “let’s get better at communicating,” but like a loose New Year’s Resolution without putting specific, defined efforts behind that statement it’s practically worthless. Set specific ways that you will prioritize communication such as each quarter we will send out a newsletter, each month we will send this update, etc.
We often take communication for granted as something that naturally happens and doesn’t need to be added to a task list in the same way that doing payroll, accounting and maintenance is, but in order to do it consistently and effectively it must be prioritized and carried out with purpose.
Communicating what you believe people want to hear might feel productive in the moment, but it only takes one time of not communicating honestly to negate any future communications you make. It’s better to wait until you can communicate honestly than to just put communications out there without fully knowing what’s going on. At National Hospitality Group when Hurricane Irma affected multiple resorts people wanted answers about insurance and damage right away, but we needed to wait to hear specifically what insurance adjusters and engineers had to say.
That doesn’t mean go quiet – tell people what you know – no more, no less. Trust is a combination of transparency, integrity, and fairness. Remember that and your communications will earn you trust as a leader.
Understand Your Audience
At the root of everything is people. When I say understand your audience that means to understand them deeper than “resort employees” and “board members.” Inside each of those categories are people. Your group of employees is made up of different personalities. Your board is a melting pot of different personalities.
Develop communications and strategies to address all the different personality types. There’s a variety of personality books and tests out there from Meyers-Briggs to a new one called the Four Tendencies and many others, at the root of all these is the notion that every single person communicates uniquely.
We have to understand how to communicate with these different personalities to truly understand our audience.
There are various studies which predict that 65 to 95 percent of a message is received non-verbally. So, anything from eye contact and arm placement in face-to-face communications to punctuation and subject lines in written communication holds a lot of weight in how the conversation will go.
It’s a Two Way Street
Always keep in mind that communication is a two-way street. You have to be open to listening to the ideas of your team, your owners, your various board members and your guests. We collect data like comment cards all the time, but step back and think if you really, truly look at all that feedback and discuss it. There can be valuable pieces of golden information found when you sit back and truly listen.