In early January David DuBois, CMP, CAE, appeared beneath the new PCMA logo at the group's annual meeting in Nashville, musing on the future of the “new PCMA,” which had just embarked “Strategic Plan 2004.” Two weeks later the Professional Convention Management Association's board of directors fired Dubois as CEO, and a shocked industry didn't seem to know what to make of the sudden move — and the new PCMA.
DuBois' surprising ouster after two years at the helm stirred rampant speculation, but a press release from newly installed chairman of the board Lisa Block, director of meetings and conventions for the Society of Human Resource Management, said simply that DuBois' job was done.
“We hired David to accomplish a job, including the establishment and relocation of PCMA's headquarters. With that job done and with the significant changes in the meetings industry this past year, we believe a different set of leadership skills are now required to take PCMA forward and to continue with the implementation of our strategic initiatives. We thank David for his efforts.”
What are the new leadership skills that the board is looking for? Block says the board will articulate them very carefully before the search committee's work begins, but that what is required to move PCMA forward is someone who has the “skill set and experience with reinventing an organization from A to Z.” She adds, “This really is a leadership issue, not a result of a single action [of Dubois']. And you don't take leadership issues lightly or move quickly.”
Several staff people contacted at PCMA's Chicago headquarters expressed anonymously their shock and surprise at the board's action. “We had no idea,” one staffer says. “I loved working for Dave.”
Senior vice president Jay Donohue will serve as interim president and CEO. Block says the PCMA board will make further announcements by the end of January about setting up a nationwide search committee.
Dubois' ouster as CEO comes just two years after the departure of PCMA CEO Roy Evans, Jr., who retired after 17 years heading the organization, and after a law suit was filed against the PCMA for sexual discrimination and harassment. Since then PCMA has moved its head-quarters to Chicago from Birmingham, Ala., opened a high-tech learning center in McCormick Place, and launched a sweeping strategic plan — a critical facet of which is the streamlining of the group's governance structure by replacing standing committees with ad-hoc task forces.
Is the PCMA leadership moving too fast for its members? “Change is difficult, and there has been a lot of it,” Block acknowledges. “But this process [of reinventing PCMA] has been taking place for a year, and hundreds and hundreds of people have been involved.” Block adds that an overriding goal has been to make the organization much more inclusive at every level. “I think we've prepared a wonderful case for change. No one wants to start [a chairmanship] this way, but I believe I will look back a year from now and be able to say that it's been a great year for PCMA.”
DuBois has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly two decades, including senior sales positions with Sheraton and Ritz-Carlton. He first served PCMA six years ago in the No. 2 spot before serving four years as COO of Meeting Professionals International, and then returning to head up PCMA.