DONOVAN White prides himself on his ability to truly listen. It’s a skill that’s been particularly important over the last four and half years in his role as director of tourism, leading a team of 160 in Jamaica and beyond.
“Sometimes we listen, but we don’t hear. We have in the tourism industry many moving parts and many partners, many contributors to the product. My job is really to build and to find solutions for difficult problems, and to work in collaboration with all the moving parts of the tourism product to ensure that, at the end of the day, the visitor experience is first class. If I’m unable to hear when people speak, or when there are challenges, then my ability to find solutions is going to be futile,” he tells Jamaica Observer’s LetsTravelCaribbean.com.
He admits it took him a while to hone the skill.
“When I was much younger in my professional life, you know you’re eager to get things done — you’re emboldened with the power of management, the power of leadership, the power of knowledge — and you believe you know everything. As I got older and more seasoned in my life as a leader, I began to realise that it’s important to apply the same principle of becoming a listener. Today, I believe that it’s one of the hallmarks of my leadership. My ability to manage teams and to get results is because I’m prepared to listen, and to hear when my staff and the people around me have something to say,” he says.
He does not always agree with them but he hears them, he makes sure to point out.
The ability to truly hear what people are saying is a skill he believes he honed as a father.
White has a 26-year-old son, Daminik; a 20-year-old daughter, Neah; and his stepdaughter Makayla is 19.
He has taken great care to give them the support they need to be strong individuals. Listening to what they have to say has been vital in accomplishing this.
“My son is studying business and management at the Louisiana State University of Alexandria. My daughter has always wanted to be a doctor; she’s presently doing medicine. She’s about to start a third year at UWI. And Makayla is doing culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island,” he says proudly.
“I learn from them every day. They’re very self-aware individuals. I’ve encouraged them forever to be open-minded about their thoughts, their wishes, their dreams, their aspirations. And what I’ve learned from them is, the more you tell your children to be their own people is the more they become that,” he says.
The 52-year-old is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for his children, now that — by truly listening — he has provided the support they need to be themselves.
“They all have technically taken different paths. Where their career will take them eventually, who knows? They may end up in tourism, but it won’t be at my urging. I believe that they are very smart people; they’re extremely intelligent — and I believe that they are going to be able to make the right decision for themselves at the right time,” he predicts.