Tag Archives: Ken Blanchard

Is Your Iceberg Melting?

94This past week was another tough one for the wonderful people who work in radio. Most people who get into radio do it because they’ve caught the “radio bug” and the work becomes their life’s passion. I know that’s how it is for me.

When I caught the “Radio Bug”

From my earliest years, I knew what I wanted my life’s work to be. I built a radio station in my parent’s basement and broadcast to the neighborhood (about a 3-block radius) on both the AM and FM bands using transmitters I bought from Radio Shack.

When I started high school, I earned my 3rd Class Radio/Telephone Operator’s License, Broadcast Endorsed from the Federal Communications Commission in Boston. I wasn’t old enough to work, so I had to get a Massachusetts Work Permit. They didn’t have a category for disc jockey, so they branded me as “talent.” (I never told them I had to take meter readings every half hour in front of a transmitter that put out 1,000-watts of electromagnetic power. If I had, they would never have given me my work permit.)

College Radio

In college, it was radio that paid for my bachelors and masters degrees. I took my college’s carrier current radio station, got an FM broadcast license and was the first general manager.

Radio was in my blood.

RIF’s

After the Telcom Act of 1996, radio began its road down the consolidation path funded by Wall Street. It was during this period of time a new acronym would come into radio’s every day lexicon, RIF’s, or Reduction In Force. In other words, people were being terminated in huge numbers.

This past week, I sadly read about another round of RIF’s taking place among our country’s biggest owners/operators of radio stations. It breaks my heart.

RIF’s from the Manager’s Perspective

We all feel sorry for those that have unexpectedly lost their job. What we often don’t read about is the perspective from the other side of the desk, what the management is going through when these decisions are made at corporate.

I lived through it in 2009 as a Clear Channel Market Manager.

It’s NOT FUN.

With each corporate meeting, I would come home with a flash drive that could not be opened until a specific date/time with who I would have to RIF next.

I RIF’d my entire news and promotions departments.

I RIF’d DJ’s and PD’s.

I RIF’d my national sales manager, my director of sales and local sales managers. With each round of RIF’s I got more hats to wear. The work still needed to be done, it didn’t go away with each round of RIF’s.

I hated my job.

Then my regional manager showed up unannounced and RIF’d me.

His manager showed up after he had RIF’d all of his designated market managers and RIF’d him.

The company president RIF’d the senior regional managers.

Then the CEO RIF’d the president.

It was not a happy time, but believe it or not, being RIF’d to me was better than being one of those that found themselves with more and more hats to wear, with more and more responsibility, without a penny more in pay.

There were many folks who told me to find another line of work, but they didn’t know that broadcasting was the only thing I ever wanted to do.

Except for one other thing, teaching and mentoring the next generation.

My education was in teaching. Both my bachelors and masters degrees were in teaching.  My best teachers were those who worked in the field first and then came into the classroom to teach.

Paying It Forward

My long term goal was always to one day teach at a college or university the very things I had done all of my professional life.

My big opportunity presented itself at Western Kentucky University’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting in 2010.

When I was RIF’d by my regional manager, I had met or exceeded every goal I had been given and was paid bonuses for my accomplishments. I was even named one of radio’s Best Managers by RADIO INK magazine. The issue of the magazine with me in it came out almost the day after I was RIF’d. Funny how life is: good things happening at the same moment as bad.

One Door Closed, Another Door Opened

When my last management job came to an abrupt end with Clear Channel, my broadcast professorship door opened at WKU.

Let me tell you, going from being a radio market manager to broadcast professor is a steep learning curve. But with the help of Charles H. Warner at NYU, John Parikhal of Joint Communications and others, I successfully made the transition and became successful at teaching. In fact, my new broadcasting educational work branch opened my eyes to all kinds of new and exciting learning opportunities.

I started this BLOG and a column for RADIO WORLD magazine during this time.

Those have lead to numerous invitations to appear on podcasts, Vlogs, articles, and broadcast interviews with others sharing stories of my work and experiences.

I’ve done research on the radio industry and their employment needs in the 21st Century. I’ve presented panels every year at the national conference in Las Vegas as well as been an invited broadcast expert on many panels at both BEA and NAB.

I’ve presented seminars at state broadcast associations and done training sessions for broadcast companies.

In short, I’ve been more active in broadcasting on so many levels than I ever was as a radio manager.  And I’ve loved every minute of it.

But I’m not going to candy coat what’s happening, not only in radio but in all ad supported media. It’s a revolution.  Not an evolution.

In revolutions the first thing that happens is destruction of the old. We’re still living through that period right now and it’s not fun. I get it.

Our Iceberg Is Melting

Back in 2008, many people picked up a copy of Ken Blanchard’s book “Who Moved My Cheese?”  I know I did. It’s a great read.

But maybe the book everyone in broadcasting should be reading today is “Our Iceberg Is Melting” by John Kotter. Kotter is an award winning author from the Harvard Business School.

Like Blanchard and Johnson’s Cheese book, Kotter writes a simple fable about doing well in an ever-changing world.

The fable is about penguins in Antarctica that discover a potentially devastating problem to their home – an iceberg – and it’s melting away.

It’s a story that will resonate with anyone in broadcasting today.

Read about how the penguins handle their challenge a great deal better than many broadcasters are doing today. Kotter’s book walks you through the eight steps needed to produce positive change in any group.  You will not only enjoy the read, but will be guided with valuable insights to deal with our 21st Century world that is moving faster and faster every day.

The Big Take Away

When corporate, middle management and all employees are on the same page with regards to change, it is amazing what can happen, despite adverse conditions.

These are lessons for people who already are in broadcasting, for broadcast students, enlightened colleges are already teaching the concepts, skills and providing the tools that will be needed going forward. My students know that the future is not bleak. They understand the history of broadcasting that brought us to where things are today and they are as pumped as you and I were when we were their age to craft the future of broadcasting in the new century.

I’m excited.

They’re excited.

The best is yet to be.

 

 

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Mentoring Talent

Chase the DJThe Broadcast Education Association (BEA) meets every year in Las Vegas concurrently with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual convention. In forty-plus years of being a professional broadcaster I never attended an NAB convention. In six years of being a university professor, I’ve attended six conventions. I know, like that’s insane, right?

This year I was asked to serve on the panel about mentoring talent. This panel was not only selected by peer-review but I’ve been told was ranked number 4 out of all the panel proposals that were accepted for this year’s meeting.

My section on panel will deal with mentoring college students to be air personalities. Here’s what I’m going to say.

Rule #1

People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Whether you’re mentoring air talent or sales talent, the person needs to first know that you really care about them and their success. What people value most is “being valued.” The tricky part is you need to know how the student (employee can be substituted every time you see the word student) wishes to be valued and do that. It’s not about you and what you think is important.

The perception of being valued is completely in the eye of the student.

Understanding this distinction creates a big opportunity for you, the teacher, to influence the student to continually strive for better and better performance.

A person who feels valued will focus their energy to the task at hand and be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious and spreads quickly to others.

Air talent likes to know they’re being heard. If you’re the teacher (or their boss) they want to know you’re listening. When you give them positive feedback it makes a big difference in their growth.

Rule #2

Everything is won or lost in the preparation stage.

Before I started teaching the Advanced Radio Performance class at my university, I noticed the students in our college radio station appeared to be bored when they were on-the-air. Those that weren’t bored were spending all their time on their smartphones. Needless to say, listening to the radio station was pretty uneventful too.

What I tell my radio performance students is the same thing I tell my broadcast sales students, if you go on the air without being prepared, you won’t attract listeners, just as if you go on a sales call without being prepared you won’t make sales.

Have Clear Goals

Establish clear goals for your class and then everyone will be on the same page. Be consistent in dealing with students both individually and as a group. Help your students to have a clear picture in their mind of what success sounds like.

Plan, Prepare, Perform

I give each of my performance students a HOT CLOCK to plan out their shows on. Each of their clocks must contain a station ID at the top of the hour, weather breaks twice an hour, a break about something happening on our campus, a break about something happening in our city, a break about something interesting that’s happening in their life, a break that tells us something new about the local musical artist we are featuring that hour that we didn’t know about.

They need to personalize their show.

If they are interested in sports, then I ask them to put a sports commentary into their show or a sports report. If they are interested in movies, then I ask them to give us a movie review or preview what new movies will be playing in our area.

Be present. Be now. Be personal.

Then practice, practice, practice off-the-air before you enter the studio to perform your show.

Students need to learn the discipline of planning and preparing before each of their shows. I tell my students about my recent guest appearance on 650AM-WSM in Nashville. I prepared for three days to do a four hour air shift.

My performance students that had previously volunteered at our college radio station tell me that now they are planning and preparing their radio shows now find radio exciting and fun. They say the hours they are on the air just fly by. One student said her mother called her and said she sounded so much better and she told her mom that it was due to her professor’s mentoring.

Remember, when your students deliver, be sure to praise them.

Catch People Doing Things Right

Ken Blanchard has written many great management books. I was delighted when one day Twitter notified me that I had a new follower and it was Ken Blanchard. Ken preaches the way to have people do more of the right things, all the time is to catch people doing things right and praise them.

Since making the move from managing radio stations for most of my life, to now teaching at a university, I’ve learned that most of the same things one needs to do in the business world with professional talent, works the same way with student talent.

Everyone loves to hear they’re doing a good job.

When I’m listening to one of my students shine on the air, I call them up and tell them how great they sound – or I send them a text message – or post it on our Facebook page for the entire world to see.

Rule #3

Praise in public and critique in private.

I won’t ever call up a student if they are doing a bad job while they’re on the air and tell them that. That’s the worst thing you can ever do to air talent.

I might call them up if there’s a technical issue that needs to be corrected – like, I think you’re saying some really great things, but your mic level is so low I can’t really hear you. Make sure you’re properly modulating those VU meters when you’re talking and don’t just think you’re OK because it sounds OK in your headphones.

Air Check Sessions

One of the things I found to be different in college radio with my students than I found in commercial radio is doing air check sessions. Professional radio talent would rather have a root canal at their dentist than go through an air check session of their last show.

Students love it.

I schedule private one-on-one air check sessions with my students and we go over a telescoped air check of their last show. Now to get that telescoped air check, my students need to scope them from a full-length air check. This means by the time we sit down to listen to it together, they’ve heard it themselves a lot.

What’s amazing is they come to these sessions with a list of things they need to improve. All I need to do is amplify on what they’re hearing and offer suggestions for their next show.

What you want students to hear when you listen to their air check together is their delivery style. You want it to be natural, like they are speaking to one listener in a conversational manner.

Whether the student is doing a show live or voice tracking, it is important that they always act as they are live and understand they need to maintain listener ear-contact.

Radio is an intimate and personal communications medium.

The whole key is to get students to critically listen. Critically listen to their own air checks, to other students and to professional broadcasters.

Learning to be a great radio personality is like learning to be great at anything. It takes practice, practice, practice. Malcolm Gladwell wrote it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master something. Just remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

In other words, you need to coach your students to not develop bad habits that will be hard to break but keep moving them in a direction that will make them a superstar.

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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales, Uncategorized