Elaine Jack possesses a combination of superpowers: extremely efficient, zestful, accessible, balanced and able to skillfully juggle all the dynamism a CBD like Sandton musters.
Incredibly inspired, we were privileged to ask her 5 Questions.
You have been at the Sandton Central Improvement District for just over 5 years and Central Improvement District Management for 10 years. Congratulations!
It is an astronomical job to be the liaison between so many role players from varying backgrounds and viewpoints and you manage this mammoth task so successfully.
Could you highlight 3 core qualities which are absolutely required to be successful in this role?
Thank you, it is the collective energy of the community that drives this success and, as the home of many South African corporates and to multinational companies, the energy in Sandton Central is something special.
Sandton Central has, without a doubt, become the most important business and financial node in South Africa. It certainly is a continuous work in progress.
With this in mind, in my personal experience, the three core qualities would be:
Good listening skills, and I quote from a Chinese proverb:
“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.”
I love to interact with people of different backgrounds and to listen to their thoughts, comments and ideas. Good listening skills allow me to gather pertinent information before I can start formulating advice and sustainable solutions with the community.
I find that by taking the time to listen and consult properly, it creates more cooperation and understanding. Community orientated initiatives like City Improvement Districts (CIDs) require good partnerships and a shared common interest to make public places work.
When I started as a CID Manager, I had no formal training, and I certainly didn’t have a full understanding of what a CID does. So, my approach was to apply my common sense and keep it simple. I was able to apply a level-headedness and a sensible approach to finding a solution.
Aristotle, the first person known to have discussed ‘common sense’, described it as the ability with which humans process sense-perceptions, memories and imagination to reach many types of basic decisions.
It has served me very well and continues to do so today. So, I would say that is my second quality.
The third comes from my eight years of hotel management background. I have a very strong sense of urgency to provide feedback to my suppliers, stakeholders and property owners when they send me an enquiry or complaint.
There will be times when I don’t have an answer. However, I try to still respond with feedback or an update to provide a sense of comfort in acknowledging their enquiry. It builds trust and confidence and a sense of reliability. They know I am addressing the issue as best I can.
You studied hotel management and then had a stint as a flight attendant before working in hotels for quite a few years. Being in the customer services industry from that point of view introduced you to thousands of different personalities and challenging situations.
Could you highlight a few life lessons you gained during that time which you still successfully apply in your current position?
Laugh out loud! My hotel management and flight attendant experience were valuable, cherished moments in my life as it moulded me into a very customer orientated individual.
To me, it is all about serving people. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve many people, from political leaders and VIPs to a variety of individuals from different backgrounds.
I aspire to portray a professional and courteous attitude towards every guest and client I encounter. Professionalism is NOT the job you DO, it is HOW you DO the job. Therefore, with this in mind, I always apply this lesson in everything I do.
To communicate effectively is also an essential tool to pursue your goals, whether that communication is with your family, your colleagues or your clients.
As we highlighted three weeks ago by featuring some of the spectacular new HQ’s developed and planned, Sandton is most definitely the hub of the country’s economy. The last five years in particular has been a time of absolute eruption in the CBD, which is an extremely exciting time to be in the thick of things.
You have witnessed this wonderful renaissance over the last decade. What are some of your highlights?
Sandton Central is well established as Africa’s financial and business capital and continues to grow with developments that embody its vibrant, high-energy ‘live, work, play’ environment.
The many tower cranes on the Sandton horizon over the past five years are a significant stamp of approval and marks it as the epicentre of spectacular office development.
There are also several exciting residential developments underway, both within mixed-use properties and stand-alone developments, which creates the opportunity for people to live close to where they work and add to the quality of life in Sandton Central.
As the node enjoys the massive growth, we continue to focus on addressing the ongoing challenges of urban sprawl. Boosting all modes of transport and easing traffic flows is part of an ongoing programme in Sandton Central.
We completed the Sandton Transport Plan as a tool to motivate the City to invest their Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system which will see Rea Vaya’s fast, convenient and affordable bus service to Sandton Central begin in 2018/2019. The study, as a result, has helped to add new bridges, upgrades to pavements and signage, improvements street lights and signals, and introduced cycling and walking facilities.
These have been significant interventions to improve the public space and provide support to Sandton.
In 2015, the CBD hosted the world EcoMobility Festival. There was a lot of hope for the fact that it would change people’s thinking and behavior in terms of reducing travelling and our carbon footprint and you did an exceptional job of getting key role players working together.
What do you think were the 3 main reasons for us (as a community) not being able to get it to reach its full potential and which 3 main changes were we able to successfully adopt as a result of the Festival?
The EcoMobility Festival is an international concept that goes by the slogan of ‘One month. One neighbourhood. Ecomobile.’
The month-long festival is an attempt to showcase a live demonstration of how cities can take a bold step to create a forward-thinking urban transportation culture through ecomobility.
My role was simply to support the City of Joburg to put this concept forward to the Sandton stakeholders and ensure that the stakeholders are part of the solution in addressing transportation challenges in Sandton as well as opening up conversations around addressing congestion.
Why did people perceive the festival as unsuccessful? Perhaps the expectation was set too high:
The City transport networks were not yet established enough to introduce a fully-operable and interconnected public transport system for commuters who thought this festival was going to offer this full service.
Those who tried the various modes of transport on offer, found the information provided was not completely available so were hesitant to use it. Good commuter information was lacking, although Sandton Central made a huge effort to get this information available as far as possible.
Behavioural change takes time. It is often also not easy to change, as people have set ways of managing their travel plans and routes to get to work to ensure that they minimise the loss of productivity. That is also why the slogan for the Ecomobility festival was “Change the way you Move” as we knew that would be the biggest challenge.
On the encouraging side, as a result of the festival:
I think we were able to open up conversation among different stakeholders both locally and abroad. The challenges we face are not unique to Sandton or the City of Joburg. It is a worldwide concern as more and more people move to urban areas for economic opportunities.
The City of Joburg made a R200-million investment to re-retrofit our current road infrastructure (which has been an exclusively car-based design) for alternative modes of transport like cycling, walking and public transport.
The roadworks are expected to be completed by the end August 2017 and Rea Vaya bus will be introduced into Sandton by 2018/2019.
As the CID, we have strengthened our co-operation and commitment with the City and the private sector to work together on projects that could support and contribute to the continued success of Sandton.
We meet with City of Joburg Transport on a regular basis to find solutions to improve the public space and, in particular, around mobility and public transport.
We have underscored that you deal with a multitude of firms and bodies within the CBD including landlords, retailers, developers, the JMPD (Johannesburg Metro Police Department), government, etc.
What are your secrets to achieving the best possible outcome for the CID and the CBD without alienating the relationships you have so expertly built over the years?
Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motors, said it best: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
I truly believe this. I think as long as you start understanding the background of each person you interact with and why they react the way they do, you can turn it around and, by including them, harness their initial interest.
Often I find that once there is proper consultation and facilitation, we can work together better to find sustainable solutions.
We manage the public space and therefore every project we do must add value and benefit to the community: it should always be a win–win situation.
Copyright © 2017 by Natalie du Preez.
This interview was conceptualised, conducted and authored by Natalie du Preez and is original content, which is property of the author, all rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be copied, shared or reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the owner.