Managing people is a challenging proposition.
In fact, back in February of 2017, I wrote a whole article about how “Radio would be a great business…if it weren’t for the people.” You can read that article HERE.
The reality is; however, radio IS a people business.
Great radio is created by great people.
I was immediately taken back in time when I read a recent Fred Jacobs blog article recapping a panel he moderated at the NAB2018 convention in Las Vegas. The panel was called “Fast Track to the Future” and you can read Fred’s article about it HERE.
The one big thing the panelists all appeared to agree on, wrote Fred, was that the radio industry needs “to move quickly, strategically, and soundly with as little interference and friction as possible.”
GM’s CEO Mary Bara was tasked with helping to re-write GM’s 10-page company dress code. Bara reduced that document to just two words: “Dress Appropriately.”
As soon as I read that, I thought of the Jacor Employee Handbook that was condensed by Randy Michaels when he led that radio broadcaster. Randy was reported to have turned it into just four words: “Do the Right Thing.”
I’m sure Randy, much as did Mary Bara, got some pushback from the company’s HR department, legal eagles and management. Bara’s reasoning for this two-word policy is golden.
“What I realized is that you really need to make sure your managers are empowered – because if they cannot handle ‘dress appropriately,’ what other decisions can they handle?”
Every company these days has created an employee handbook and crafted a mission statement.
Reading these handbooks are as exciting and memorable as spending an evening with your life insurance salesperson. They’re full of legalese. They tend to drain you of your enthusiasm rather than inspire you.
Billionaire Sam Zell’s handbook when he took over Tribune opened with a simple statement: “Rule No. 1: Use your best judgment. Rule No.2: See rule No. 1.” I’m sure Sam was inspired by Tom Peter’s writing in his book “In Search of Excellence” about his grocery store in Connecticut, Stew Leonard’s, where their rules for customer service are literally written in stone: “Rule 1: The customer is always right. Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1.”
These are what I like to think of as “horse sense rules.” Just plain common sense.
There’s no ambiguity. They are crystal clear, easily remembered and implemented by everyone in the organization.
Company Mission Statements
Likewise, if your people can’t immediately share your mission statement, then it’s got problems. In fact, your customers should be able to identify with your mission statement by the way your employees perform, even if they don’t know a single word in your company mission statement.
Let me try one out for you and see if you understand what I’m trying to say. Southwest Airlines has the following mission statement: “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and Company Spirit.”
I fly only Southwest Airlines and have been for years, I can attest that before I even looked up their official company mission statement, I enjoyed that type of treatment from them when flying.
Empowerment by Doing
A side note on the Southwest mission statement, they also commit to all their employees that the company will provide “the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.”
I believe that’s what keeps Southwest a consistent leader in their industry. They empower their people by exhibiting the desired behavior throughout the enterprise. From the top of the company to the bottom, everyone exhibits the very qualities to each other they want deliverd to the company’s customers.
Leadership today is all about inspiring people and empowering them to believe in themselves, their company and the path that lies ahead. (For more on this, read “3 Leadership Lessons” HERE.)
Barry Drake (“40 Years, 40,000 Sales Calls”) was a guest speaker in my university Capstone Class and shared these thoughts about leadership:
- A leader is anyone other people will follow.
- A leader must have integrity.
- A leader must do what’s right and what’s best for the enterprise, even though they realize not everyone will be happy with some of the decisions that have to be made.
- A leader must earn their people’s respect every minute of every day.
- Be aware of everything going on all around, all of the time. Read all the trades, read the latest news about business and anything else that will impact your business and that of your radio station’s advertisers.
Management vs. Leadership
The radio industry needs leaders, not managers, in all levels of the organization. Radio’s CEOs need to empower their people. They need to “reward excellent failures and punish mediocre successes” says Tom Peters.
Radio needs to stop playing defense and start playing offense.
Turn your people loose.
Management is doing things right;
leadership is doing the right things.