Shaun van Eck has been booted from Knysna Tourism. I’ve been public in my protest so i’m sincerely hoping that it’s the last time i have to use the above picture and that a new chapter in Knysna is beginning.
Where to now for the yet to be announced, incoming CEO, the Tourism Board and the Knysna Municipality? What is in store for the residents of Knysna whilst the recession storm persists?
The position of Knysna Tourism CEO is undoubtedly a difficult one! Some courses of action will have no definite right or wrong. Every decision will attract both supporters and detractors. What is most important is that he/she act with Knysna’s best interests at heart; without favouritism, without racism and with transparency.
The same applies to the Knysna Tourism Board. Their duty is to help guide our future and support their CEO whilst also acting as his moral compass.
Here are some points that i hope they will consider:
1. An early problem Shaun van Eck encountered was different forces/factions in his office. A CEO must earn and win the support of his staff. It’s a 2-way street – they must earn his respect too. After recent, tumultuous months, it’s important that both sides accept that their job is to promote Knysna (so working together must be the priority).
2. It’s too easy for the new CEO to arrive with many ideas and express such. Early words are remembered for a long time and can create division if not acted upon. The CEO should commit to understanding the dynamics of his office within the local context before deciding a comprehensive course of action. Until then, he/she should do their best to make the current agenda run as smoothly and productively as possible. This does not mean taking a back seat! Lack of initial command leads to loss of command later. From the start, he/she must be in charge with a short-term plan to:
a) Gain an understanding of Knysna and Knysna Tourism before taking office. Meetings with key staff before taking office is essential. The first official work day must begin with a plan of action for the day and week which, in turn, will lead to a longer plan.
b) Build a team the first 3 months. A team shares a purpose. The staff must understand that if they under-perform or don’t play well, then they must leave. Conversely, who of them will assist out of working hours to ensure that initial rough edges are smoothed and the workplace becomes something to be proud of. And, in normal working capacity, who simply does the job versus who shows initiative. Tourism is about dealing with people so it’s essential that the people within deal well with one another, treating their duties not just as a job but as a passion.
c) Achieve small targets quickly. Early victories will smooth the road towards bigger victories. Performers must be encouraged and rewarded. Confidence must be installed in the office.
d) Have the right staff in the right roles, this having been decided by the interaction and results of the preceding points. This is important as Tourism will deal with changing situations (e.g. rainy weather, food poisoning etc.) that demand staff knowing what to do, or how to contribute, without waiting for an instruction for every action from the CEO.
e) Fix what can be fixed. I am a case in point. Because Shaun van Eck chose not to answer questions or clarify positions but instead build walls, my protest escalated, casting embarrassment on him. Likewise, regards the Knysna Tourism Board, instead of treating my complaint against their CEO with respect, they passed it on to him who responded with intimidation. Additionally, not answering my list of queries (the past year and a half) resulted in more questions that questioned their integrity. All of this could have been avoided with honest communication over one or several meetings. Where an opinion is incorrect, it can be adjusted. Where a problem is admitted, it can be fixed!
f) Know the players in Knysna e.g. the media, the organizers, sponsors and critics. Some could be addressed through a general meeting e.g. a friendly lunch is worth the cost as it provides a face to Knysna Tourism and provides an opportunity for intention and sincerity. Thereafter, think tanks with tourism members can find common problems and goals. From these, more individualized meetings can be determined.
g) Embrace project proposals but do not be overwhelmed by them. Instead, compose a 2-page fact sheet to be filled in. This will also compensate for those who generate good ideas but don’t know how to complete a full proposal. Plus it will provide a record.
h) As a follow-on to keeping records, install a system so that calls and meetings and the consequent agenda are tracked. A repeated bone of discontent was the length of time it took to get a meeting or whether it was delayed or cancelled.
What is done is done. No matter which side of the Shaun van Eck debate you stood, the goal must be to stand together and face the strong challenges Knysna is experiencing. Rather than only having opinions, Tourism members need to be active.
My thoughts act as hope and advice as a concerned member of Knysna Tourism. The “advice” part is, of course, open to debate, whether public or not. Hopefully the generation of such will serve as an introduction to the next step, and the much bigger issue, which is what should the plan for Knysna be?
Until next time…