INTELLECTUALLY tough and versatile, the first time you meet Dr Jim Yonazi, former Tanzania Standard (Newspapers) Limited (TSN) Managing Editor (ME), a man of many careers, you will easily spot empirical analogies; he will chip in to explain a point to you.
No wonder the grapevine was ripe in the newsroom that to implement his first shared realistic strategies, besides being skillful and diplomatic; he could even sacrifice his time and fight like a crocodile in water to avoid becoming a failure.
Joining the institution hardly three years back, Dr Yonazi, the former 2010 PhD Rijksuniversiteit - The Netherlands graduate in Economics smelled a rat that there was something missing in the system, and that was a business angle to make TSN thrive well in the market.
To embark on restructuring the institution, he used to routinely remind the staff especially the scribes to write professionally in order to sell informative and appealing stories, instead of resorting to re-print news from events-cum- -adverts and sell to the public.
Expounding on how he had to reorganise the Media House and shelf off the business as usual style of selling newspapers namely Daily News, HabariLeo and SpotiLeo among others, he skillfully said that his opinion was that ‘if you want to sell something, you must first have confidence’ and to drive the point home, by adjusting his glasses, he said: “If you are selling donuts make sure the flour is thoroughly kneaded and baked, and I had the urge.”
Explaining why he had all the reasons to gear the institution to focus on business and ‘mint extra coins’, he said ‘TSN having been in the market for over 89 years, was a clear indication that it had set base in the market, what only remained was reshaping its market approach.’
“These products are just platforms, I would say banking on core competence, we have in the staff, I realised could be exploited for us to compete professionally,” added the newly sworn-in Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication.
Dr Yonazi hinted that if you have an umbrella to shelter from rain, you should not only put it over your head to shelter in, but try to trace the direction of the wind and tilt it to cover you.
Asked how his analogy used to be applicable in his managerial duties as the ME, he pointed out that he realised that many workers especially journalists in the newsroom possess different skills including competencies in English, Kiswahili, and French languages that could also be tapped and enable the institution to look for clients outside, and translate for them articles, write brochures, business proposals and books, and in turn secure TSN additional incomes,instead of relying on salaries.
Sharing the idea with the staff, he found positive response and in his explanation he said: “I had to think of extra ways for TSN to do business and that also ushered in ideas like the Business Forum where we visit regions like Mwanza, Simiyu and Zanzibar among others to map for them their business opportunities as far as Rwanda in addition.”
Dr Yonazi, who is also an IT wizard and former don at IFM, quoting a one-time American football player, coach and an executive of the National Football league, Vince Lombardi said: “Hard work is the foundation for success.
Success is a goal that makes the hard work worth it in the end. Nobody wakes up one day with all the success they ever dreamed of. It is a by-product of the commitments and sacrifices they have made over their life.”
He said borrowing the school of thought of Lombardi, he had to encourage his staff to think out of the box and turn also into consultants for the institution, instead of just waiting to write stories of events and sell as newspapers.
“Journalists have rare and unique opportunities and it is a matter of tilting the umbrella (read mindset) to avoid rain (limit challenges). This is because time and distance are no longer obstacles in this world of technology, they can work around the clock and make extra coins for TSN and themselves in a legal way,” hinted the academician-cum-CEO of TSN.
Asked how he was geared to bring value in his new portfolio as the Deputy PS in the ministry, Dr Yonazi, first thanked President John Magufuli for singling and trusting him with the work out of 54 million Tanzanians and said: “The success of a team or an organisation happens through teamwork and every person chipping in. No one person can do everything by him/herself all of the time.
A group of people that work together will always have better success than a single person. With speed, technology and responsiveness like a Chameleon, let him (JPM) know that I hate being a failure and letting my boss (es) down, he will see.”
When word was spreading in the social media and newsroom that Dr Yonazi was elevated to join the ministry, everyone said that the President has really landed on a jembe (informally translated as a tough worker), whose potentials of physical work, leadership and unique managerial skills have not been regrettable since his school time and places of work.
While bidding farewell to his staff, the newly appointed Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication challenged them to think big and positive, and avoid belittling others by talking of another analogy, saying: “Think of a woman pulling and reproaching her son to walk fast enough and calling him…we mbwa, tembea haraka (loosely translates as you dog walk fast enough) and a passerby picking that and addressing/ calling the woman…wewe mama mbwa umeangusha kitu, which in turn infuriates the woman as being despised and belittled, without her realising that such an epithet emanated from her.
Attentively following his farewell words to the staff, his immediate Deputy, Tuma Abdallah described him as a scholarly mentor whose leadership was full of pieces of advice to groom, and sacrifice for the institution to ‘see the light of the day,’ in terms of success and not reproach.
Madam Abdallah, the softspoken DME narrated how he would miss his leadership style of ever-keeping pace in implementation of his brainchild initiatives, which picked off and absorbed in also the Doubting Thomas without giving them conditions.
“Some people were skeptical that how can an academician lead a Media House like this? He ever involved me in his bright ideas, initiatives and decisions and that has made TSN to be a force to reckon with in many business forums,” she said, revealing neatly arranged dental formula.
She further said that his initiatives of Online Media Outreach to the public with breaking news among others, and sieved pool of qualified staff have made the institution to spread tentacles and network in all regions and beyond Tanzania, to the extent that many business partners are now working together with them.
“Some are internal affairs, but we are on the right course and not a burden to the government with his initiatives,” she pointed out. Presiding over, TSN Editor, Pudenciana Temba described the former ME as a very intelligent and quite resourceful leader, who during his tenure at the site, was ever ready to share knowledge, ideas and work as a team with his staff.
“He used his resourcefulness to improve our products, the general outlook and contents of the papers, which are now appealing and very informative to our readers. Look at the Business Forum that has raised networking countrywide and income to the company,” she said.
Ms Temba said that Dr Yonazi has versatile skills which many institutions including his new area of work can bank on, adding that: “What matters is milking them professionally. I am a living witness and believe me,” she added.
On his part, TSN Sales and Marketing Manager, Januarius Maganga said working with Dr Yonazi revealed to him various innovative skills with the Scholar, which they could not hesitate to bring onboard and share.
“This is a very daring CEO, he took us to Rwanda and several regions in the country including Arusha and TSN made money in the Business Forum, we expect him to continue with the spirit wherever he would be stationed,” he added.
Baraka Katemba, TSN Finance Manager said Dr Yonazi is a visionary and diverse thinking leader who can spearhead into the unknown with IT skills, let alone other devised approaches to come up with something positive for an institution.
He said JPM should rest assured that spotting Dr Yonazi for the ministry will make things move and drive policies with or without supervision. In the same department, a staff who preferred to remain anonymous said for two years working with Dr Yonazi, the CEO showed unique skills in listening to his staffs’ pieces of advice and that challenged their working styles.
For TSN Company Secretary, Mwadawa Ally, Dr Yonazi reign in her 15 years working with different managers including in the government, he was uniquely friendly, humble and encouraged diplomatic way of solving disputes instead of rushing to a Court of Law.
“Under his guidance and regime, as a Company Lawyer I had very limited cases to handle. The Board members gave cooperation and were available to support. I believe the President has got a jembe in the ministry,” she proudly added.
Joyce Macha, TSN Human Resources Officer described the former ME as a sheer hardworker who was ever accessible and ready to raise the welfare of the workers even if resources were becoming meager.
“He had high esteem to improve welfare of the staff and implement their rights, schemes of work, and salaries. Actually we shall miss him,” she added. “In Nigeria a chicken that would become a cock can be spotted the very time it is hatched- is what I can say about Dr Yonazi once he came here as our ME,” said HabariLeo Acting Editor, Nicodemus Ikonko, chipping in to comment on working with him.
He said it would be a challenge for whoever would come in to fill his gap because he was simple and accessible to all the staff and all the times, adding: “ Dr Yonazi was ready to listen, counsel and was armed with very many measurable and implementable projects within given time.”
A Senior Graphic Designer with this paper, Kiteja Mayunga described his school of thought as wise and implementable, saying: “The ME used to be fully focused in his work, and researched initiatives before putting them on a drawing table for consultations. He would call you anytime to see where you are meeting obstacles at work, just to see into it that the project would be completed, not as a boss but as a leader.”
He said Dr Yonazi’s leadership style was never to isolate critics and instead gave them a forum to present, argue their points and that ushered in a work family atmosphere, adding: “Surely, we shall miss him, but he should not hesitate to reach us for any piece of advice when consulted.”