Ben will be joining our Management Team on July 1. As the former CEO of CGI Belgium, he has plenty of experience on which to build, both in the technology sector and in working within a management team.
We'd like to start with a simple question; one that is very important to us. Tell us, how are you?
I'm doing very well. I'm bursting with energy! I'm really looking forward to starting my job at Realdolmen and exploring today's challenges together. Besides that, I've spent a lot of time with my family in the past weeks, as have we all. I've been teaching my two daughters how to play volleyball, for example. Taking those breaks in the sun together has had a positive, and very welcome, impact on my work-life balance.
You're truly at home in the IT sector, but why did you opt for Realdolmen specifically? What values appealed to you?
Realdolmen really puts people at the center of everything they do, both in terms of its employees and customers. I fully agree with this approach, as our connections with each other should receive most of our energy and attention.
Furthermore, Realdolmen is a company with close ties to Belgium, as well as a global character due to the link with the French Gfi Group. Realdolmen has a great reputation on the Belgian market; they're a strong player and offer a huge range of solutions. The dynamism and distinct DNA stood out as well. What's more, when I met with Johnny Smets (General Manager) and the other members of the management team, I felt we clicked instantly. We complement each other as a team, and have the same views with regard to employees and doing business.
What's your preferred leadership style? What do you consider important when managing a team?
I find the InSights Discovery Model very useful for its insights into various personality types. Everyone has their own natural preferences and behavioral tendencies. It's important to know who the members of your team are and what personalities the team contains. Someone whose profile shades strongly into green requires a different approach than someone with a red profile, for example. In my previous company, we even took this into account in our executive committees. More analytically inclined people spent much more time contemplating various figures, for instance. I myself tend to be very direct and goal-oriented; I enjoy making choices and finalizing decisions. I've been working to determine the various preferences within Realdolmen's Management Team, and the secondary preferences are certainly complementary. To put it in InSights terms: there's plenty of green here; the ideal foundation for a people driven company.
What personal or professional setbacks have taught you the most?
That's a fantastic question, and I'd like to use it to address setbacks and failure in a more general sense as well. During my career at CGI I worked with different leaders, each with their own specific vision and style. I learned a tremendous amount from them all, both about what works and what doesn't. How do you approach your customers? How do you close major deals? How do you get people on board?
I always try to keep an open mind; absorbing various views, but also being willing to try them out myself. I believe strongly in trial and error. The trick is to experiment sensibly and learn as you go. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Don't make the same mistake five times in a row, be agile in your adaptations and build in sufficient flexibility. Setbacks aren't bad; there must be room for failure. That's how you encourage innovation.
Our Digital Flow vision means we don't believe in apparent paradoxes. What recent contradictions have you encountered? How did you achieve and maintain balance?
I'd like to answer with a practical example; a recent customer case from my career at CGI. The customer in question needed to upend their business model entirely in order to create new sources of income. Unfortunately, the people working there weren't capable of handling such a transformation. Most of them had not continued their education, so their knowledge was outdated. How do you achieve transformation in such circumstances? Well, you can either recruit new talent or opt for outsourcing. In this case, CGI proposed to take on those people and to guide the transformation from our technological perspective. We managed to turn a contradictory situation into a balanced one that benefited all parties. Balancing contradictory elements through the appropriate use of technology; I consider that the ultimate Digital Flow.
What motivates you in your daily life?
To me, it's mostly about the enjoyment. I need joy and fun to keep me going. I aim for that in my work as well. It's instantly apparent to colleagues and customers. Someone who enjoys their job usually does it well, and you can tell.
I think it's very important to build on your strengths. I like to encourage that in others, and it gives me great satisfaction when I see it result in an entrepreneurial spark. In my opinion, everyone in a company is part of sales. Empowering consultants who work at the customer, letting them make their own agreements that they can fulfill themselves; to me this is the kind of end-to-end responsibility that benefits the customer, the consultant and the company too. I believe in assigning responsibility at the lowest possible level within an organization.
One last question, just out of curiosity. Is there anything most people don't know about you?
Apparently there's Spanish blood running through my veins. In 1572, one of Alva's generals came to Flanders to fight William of Orange's armies. When the battle was won, he fell for a Flemish girl and decided to stay. That's the story, anyway. Or is it actually true? 😊