Tag Archives: culture

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

It’s always been my belief that unless you first build a positive culture in the workplace, nothing else you try to accomplish will ever come to fruition.

So, when I read this famous quote that business guru Peter Drucker was alleged to have coined, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” it came as no surprise that the foundation of any successful enterprise is built on its culture.

In fact, most people don’t quit companies or leaders, they quit organizational cultures.

“The best way to improve the team is to improve yourself.”

-John Wooden

The Learning Never Stops

In my capstone classes, students learned that their time at the university should be considered a launch pad to a lifetime of learning. Leaders never stop learning.

“When I am through learning, I am through.”

-John Wooden

Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude

Your own personal culture is your attitude. Whether it is positive or negative, it’s yours to control.

As a hiring manager, I always hired people on their attitude; everything else can be trained.

In life, more than any other factor, your attitude pretty much determines where you will go –  and how far you will go.

Ron Lundy

One of my favorite radio personalities was Ron Lundy. I first heard Ron on Music Radio 77 – WABC and immediately fell in love with the contagious, upbeat, positive attitude he presented on his radio show.

When WABC switched formats from music to talk, Ron Lundy found himself out of work, but would eventually be hired by Joe McCoy at WCBS-FM.

Every air shift on CBS-FM was already filled, so in order to create a time period for Ron, Joe McCoy would need to shorten everyone’s air shift, and convince his general manager why this hire would be beneficial to the radio station.

As I heard the story, Joe’s pitch to his GM was that Ron wasn’t just a powerful personality that would attract more listeners to CBS-FM, but that Ron was the type of guy that provided a positive culture inside the radio station, inspiring everyone to do their jobs better.

Attitude in Managing

One of my radio mentors was Phil Weiner (WBEC/WQRB/WUHN/WUPE). When I departed for my first solo general manager position in Atlantic City, he shared with me the most important thing he learned as a general manager, “Whatever your attitude is, when you enter the radio station each day, that will become the attitude of your fellow employees. Keep your problems to yourself and always maintain a positive, upbeat, enthusiastic attitude.”

It may have been the most important advice of my forty-year radio management career.

In my second career as a college professor, knowing that one’s attitude is contagious, I brought that same positive attitude and energy into the classroom.

“Attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught.”

-Margaret McFarland

Everyone You Meet Can Teach You Something

No matter how far in life you’ve gone, or how many degrees, medals or trophies you’ve earned, stay humble. Every person you meet carries knowledge about life that you can benefit from. Stay curious and be willing to soak up the wisdom from everyone you come in contact with.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

-John Wooden

Radio is a People Business

All of my life, I’ve invested my energies in the development of people. Many of them today are owners and managers of their own broadcast operations. As a general manager, I was proud to work with some great and talented individuals.

“You handle things. You work with people.”

-John Wooden

When it comes to managing people, one size does not fit all. I treated each member of my team for the unique personality they were, valuing their talents, and skills, as well as understanding that we all come with our own issues, problems and demons.

Great radio stations, full of talented people, can be an exceptionally exciting workplace.

“The worst things you can do for those you love

is the things they could and should do for themselves.”

-Abraham Lincoln

It’s important to have a culture that allows people to fail. Often the greatest wisdom comes from things that go wrong. As long as you have given your best effort, you are never a failure.

Great managers and teachers are great coaches of people.

The Big Four

Consider these four things when creating culture in your organization:

  1. Culture is created by the behaviors you tolerate.
  2. Change starts with YOU. You can’t expect your people to change if you won’t.
  3. Leadership gives you a voice at the table, not the voice.
  4. Listen to everyone and take their opinions into account when you make the final decision for moving forward.

“Much can be accomplished by teamwork

when no one is concerned about who gets the credit.”

-John Wooden

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Don’t Let Radio End Up Like Yahoo!

49I just finished listening to Jason Jennings’ podcast about how Yahoo went from being a company worth $120 Billion to its sale to Verizon for $4.8 Billion. I think the wisdom that Jason shared is very applicable to the radio industry’s journey through consolidation since the Telcom Act of 1996.

Jason says the selling of Yahoo is like a train wreck; you don’t want to look, but you just can’t help yourself. I know many who’ve said similar things as Wall Street invaded radio with its goal of “increasing shareholder value.”

So how can radio learn from Yahoo’s mistakes? What are the lessons Jason shared that apply to radio? Let me share with you the Top 5 Lessons of Yahoo:

#1) Know What You’re All About

Yahoo never really defined itself and the revolving door of CEOs contributed to this with each one bringing a different vision – or no vision – to Yahoo. Or as Jason puts it, the company didn’t have a purpose; they never knew what they were all about.

As radio was deregulated and its original mission of serving the public interest, convenience and necessity was abandoned, nothing replaced radio’s reason for existing except for “increasing shareholder value.” Not surprising as radio people were replaced by Wall Street investors.

#2) Have a Set of Guiding Principles

Radio’s guiding principles were first established by the FRC (Federal Radio Commission) and then by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Under President Ronald Reagan – and his government is best that governs least approach – radio’s deregulation began. President Bill Clinton would open the flood gates of consolidation with his signing of the Telcom Act of 1996.

With no guiding principles, investors were free to move in all directions; and they did, buying up not just radio stations but many of its manufacturers and service providers for radio.

It’s like the old saying, if you don’t know where you want to go, any road will take you there.

#3) Using a Business like a Personal Piggy Bank

Radio investors and many top radio executives began using radio as a personal piggy bank, only taking care of themselves and focusing on the immediate quarter with no long term vision, strategy or investment. Too many just lined their pockets and left.

#4) Trying to Be All Things to All People

Jason says “great companies stick to their knitting. You can’t be all things to all people.”

Radio was originally about serving their community of license via over-the-air broadcasting. It delivered local news, local sports, local community events, local bands and more by local radio personalities who lived in the communities they served. It was focused like a laser beam on local, local, local.

#5) Don’t Copy the Competition

Radio today is trying to copy Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music and others. Radio today is trying to also copy YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and SnapChat. Radio is trying to copy just about every other business advertising model and without any guiding principles has been economically treading water.

Yahoo’s SVP Brad Garlinghouse wrote his infamous “Peanut Butter Memo” in October of 2006 that pleaded with the company to narrow its focus and clarify its vision.

Brad felt that Yahoo was spreading its resources too thinly. Business Insider recently wrote “This internal memo from 10-years ago shows Yahoo still hasn’t solved its biggest problem.”

If Yahoo had a culture problem, radio by way of mass consolidation had an even bigger one. First, as Wall Street money flowed in and radio stations were bought up, each of those stations represented its own culture that would need to merge into a larger culture. Then these new larger radio groups would try to change the culture from a local scope to a national scope. National radio personalities like Ryan Seacrest, Rush Limbaugh and many others would replace local personalities. National radio contests would replace local ones. Live and local for the most part would soon only appear in the history books on radio.

Culture is created at the top. Over the last twenty-years, radio’s consolidation has seen a revolving door of top leadership. The culture of radio has been a moving target for both industry professionals and listeners alike. Culture is built over time. There is no “quick fix” for building culture.

Absent a company culture, what fills the vacuum is one of everyone for themselves.

Now twenty-years later, there are signs of new growth as people who believe in live and local, and operating in the public interest, convenience and necessity are entering the business.

In many small markets, this way of operating never got sucked into the vortex of consolidation.

Even some of our country’s biggest radio companies are focused on getting back to the core principles radio was built upon.

Radio, the first broadcast transmission system to reach a mass audience, almost 100-years later is still the leading way to reach a mass audience.

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