Destination Innovate Blog

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective DMOs

Who doesn’t love the classic Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? Even my kindergartner learns these habits as part of her leadership program. And, she sings them every. dang. morning. Easy to memorize, but how are they applied to our various business types. In honor of National Travel and Tourism Week, I am reminding you of these habits and how they apply to your destination. 🙂 Enjoy!

The first three habits move us from dependence to independence in terms of what we can control ourselves:

ONE: Be proactive.

This seems pretty self-explanatory, but is more complicated and brings about anxiety in a lot of the DMOs I’ve talked to. DMOs have so much pressure today to respond to threats and demands, putting them in constant defense mode. Locked in analysis paralysis, it’s tough to get in front of where you should dial in with constantly expanding marketing options, stakeholder needs, community development, vendors, partnerships… the list goes on. But, gown ups take accountability, firstly, with proactive measures. Without this habit being deployed strategically, something is going to suffer. Proactive people are driven by values regardless of how someone might respond. This measure of human independence is key. Ghandi said, “They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.”

TWO: Begin with the end in mind.

This calls out to your inner goal digger. From talking to DMOs in my Destination Advance Me program, clearly setting a vision, and end-game and goals is incredibly challenging. From personal roles within the DMO to overall business goals, it’s a habit that takes work and seemingly takes time from the fire that needs to be put out today. I coach to step back, take a schedule to work on true goals and visions to concrete the end in mind before random activity. Busy is not always productive. Lean, principle-centered goals will help you better define opportunities for the DMO and your role in it. Ultimately, with proper strategy, the fires and the “shiny new object” impulses will fall to the waste-side and before you know it, you have taken control of the DMO and your stakeholders in a productive capacity.

THREE: Put first things first.

I actually call this “burning the boats”. Once you have set your vision and goals, allow no other outcome. The first things you do, in terms of DMO activity will ONLY be those actions that support it. Observe the proper balance of production and building production capacity to meet these personal missions. Your DMO will be a lot more organized and every team member, more effective.

Habits 4-6 concentrate on interdependence. We need others, here’s how to build the proper rapport and collaboration with those outside of the DMO:

FOUR: Think Win/Win.

There are layers upon layers of relationships inside and outside of the DMO organization. Every relationship should be plotted out to mutually beneficial outcomes. These deserve their own mini-plans and sometimes, contracts. If a mutually beneficial agreement cannot be made, understand that agreeing to make “no deal” can be the best outcome. Operationalize and reward team members for developing this within the DMO, helping each other in win/win scenarios. In your stakeholder relationships, help them define their roles within the destination and how you will help each other in defined capacities. With vendors, trade contracts and payments for incentive-based compensation. Never-ending retainers with “busy work” will undermine the win/win strategy at best and appear fiscally irresponsible at worst.

FIVE: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Listen. Believe it or not, this is a learned skill. Listening and hearing are very different. You hear the words, but are you listening to the problems and underlying needs of your collaborators? Before you “sell” your stakeholder on another co-op, are you listening to whether this achieves real business impact for their needs? More impressions, bookings, etc might not actually be what they’re telling you, even if their words are. Perhaps it’s a loyalty issue they have, an infrastructure issue, a trained staff issue. Before you try to be understood as a DMO or in your DMO role, listen and then respond in solution based “win/win” ways to be understood.

SIX: Synergize.

Three and Four lead up to Six here. Leveraging the differences in various roles to create a sum that is larger than the parts. It’s the nature of DMOs to be politically chained to avoid conflict. But, to properly set about synergies, it’s important to face dissimilarities head-on through mutual trust and understanding. Building the right culture for your DMO (internal and external) calls upon leaning in in favor of avoidance and placating.

Number seven is about tying it all together, the whole saw has to be sharpened (maintaining balance in all things):

SEVEN: Sharpen the Saw.

What are the dimensions of “production” for your DMO? Professional development is just one spoke on a very large wheel of dimensional perfection. (Though I dislike the word perfection, because it denotes an end to something. A master should stay a beginner every day.) Balance feels best, you cannot have one side of the saw sharp, while the other is dull and neglected. In your destination, the hotel stakeholders might feel 100% supported, but your Mom and Pops don’t. That is not win/win and produces a dull saw.

We can help.

It’s work. Hard Work. Consistent Work. And, this all probably feels like “it would be nice” but not mission-critical. If that is what you are thinking, then you might not be paying attention to the broad and systematic threats to DMOs just in 2019. “It could never happen to us”. But, oh, it could and can and will at some point. Consider this your severe weather alert. Build on your DMORP. Make time to make your DMO bullet-proof, a shining example, a force to be reckoned with. I’d love to help. I’ll sit beside you and we can attack, together, an impenetrable strategy and culture that would make even Silicon Valley super jealous. 😉 jbarbee@destinationinnovate.com

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