In conversation with Chris Godenir, General Manager at The Peninsula All Suite Hotel, environmental and community champion, and all round really nice guy.
When and where did your sustainability journey begin?
I have always been conscious of the beauty of our environment and the magic of our universe but like many, I used to take it for granted.
My true awakening was after a near fatal car accident in 1988, during the recovery period I had the opportunity to work in many special environments such as Sodwana Bay, Itala Game Reserve (KZN), Kruger Park and The Wild Coast. Being in these special eco systems taught me that to truly heal I needed to embrace making a meaningful difference.
I know people are important to you, what is your philosophy to managing and motivating your staff?
All of us carry the baggage of our past and thus subconsciously carry negativity, the only way to shift this is by working in the subconscious and constantly rewire these negative experiences with positive ones.
I motivate by treating each person uniquely, everyone is special and has a talent, I look for their strength, not weakness and develop their trust by being consistent in the delivery of my message. Always being frank, open and honest in my communication. I am respected for the example I set, and show in my behaviour that there is nothing I would expect anyone else to do if I were not prepared to do it myself.
How did you manage staff expectations during the level 5 and 4 Covid-19 lockdowns?
I continuously reminded the team that there was a brighter future and by working together, being courageous and flexible we would overcome any adversity. I looked at new ways to grow income and through this created a platform that could sustain employment. I never showed any sign of weakness and concentrated on every win we achieved and not the negativity of the situation surrounding us.
I know you offered an external laundry, cleaning and maintenance service during lockdown to help earn income so as to keep staff employed. Can you please elaborate these initiatives?
Within The Peninsula I had the resources of a laundry, housekeeping and maintenance teams and with the support provided by administration and front office we could provide these services externally. So without internal customers we took our services out into the Sea Point community. We started spreading the word and the rest is history.
And are any of them still happening?
Even though we are now fully operational we have maintained these services to those that were supportive over the difficult times. Without the international traveller and lower hotel occupancies I have not needed to retrench and these services have assisted us in keeping the support staff fully operational.
I know you’re adding a new responsibility to your portfolio with Dream Hotels & Resorts, can you please elaborate on this?
Dream Hotels & Resorts have taken this challenging time to reinvent the organizational culture and shift away from a hierarchical structure to a much flatter one involving the existing Management in the process. Our driving dynamics have been measured and responsibilities are being allocated towards our strengths. We have initiated a tested RACI model showing all within the Group who is Responsible and Accountable for every task combining a “Consultation” process and then “Informing” all within the organisation that needs to know. I have been tasked with “Accountability” for our Sustainability Program and sharing these stories.
Another area where I have accepted Accountability for is within the Mentoring and Coaching Environment an area in which I have a great deal of experience and a particular passion for.
What exactly will your role entail, and how do you see this playing out?
I will remain the General Manager of The Peninsula but have been given the chance to impact on the groups growth in areas that I am both passionate and good at. This is not about ego and position but making a difference.
Any great examples from the Dream Hotels & Resorts family of properties so far?
There are many such examples but you are going to have to watch this space as we share these individually with you in future publications. Each ‘Dream Diary’ will be so special it deserves its own unique space.
Please feel free to add any other answers if you feel they would add to the story…
Over the past 15 years I have walked the sustainability journey at The Peninsula sharing the many exciting achievements of this exceptional property, I now have the opportunity to do it for the Group.
This is not a “Green Crusade” but a shift in “Humanity” and how we as “People” within an organisation can work together with the communities that surround our properties to build a “Brighter Future”.