Tag Archives: managing

Do The Right Thing

Do the Right ThingManaging 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.

Dress Appropriately

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?”

Employee Handbooks

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.”Stew Leonard Customer Policy

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.)

Leadership

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.

-Peter Drucker

 

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Managing Others

Dick Taylor PresentingFor most of my life I was a radio manager. Then I had the opportunity to be a university professor. What those two professions had most in common was the training of others, employees in the work place and students in higher education.

Be the Change

As a parent, I quickly learned that my children didn’t learn as much from what I told them but in observing how I, myself, acted. I credit my mother and father for this form of parenting because that’s how they raised their three boys.

Mahatma Gandhi put it this way:

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

I swear, I didn’t

My oldest son never uttered a single swear word until he went to school. One day when he was helping me work in the yard, he let out a loud curse.

It was then that I said to him, “you may have noticed that your mother and father don’t use those words. Neither do your aunts, uncles and grandparents. Now if you want to talk that way around your friends, that’s your decision, but around your family, please don’t.” He never used that kind of language again – at least around me.

Swearing, Part 2

Years later I would be a radio Market Manager in Iowa with a lot of employees in my stations. Not too long after I had taken over the property, my Operations Manager came into my office and closed the door. (When people close your door behind them, it’s usually not a good sign.)

I said, you look like something’s serious is on your mind. What’s up?

He said, “you’ve made a big impact on the employees of these radio stations. Everyone is afraid to swear around you because you don’t ever swear.”

I laughed.

Then told him that it wasn’t because I didn’t know those words but because I personally chose not to use them, but it didn’t bother me if others did.

He sighed a big sigh of relief and said he would spread the word.

But here’s the interesting result: people continued to very rarely swear at those radio stations.

Starting on Time

In my university classes I set certain standards by my actions. I told students on the first day of class that I would always start my classes on time. That I would be setting up to deliver my lectures about 15-minutes before the start of class and that when it was time to start I would close the classroom door. That closed door was to keep hallway noise out but never students and if for some reason they were running late, they could always enter the classroom, just be courteous of other students. Virtually every student was in class before the start.

Teaching punctuality came by being punctual myself.

Another lesson in punctuality came with turning in assignments by the day and time they were due. I made it very clear that late assignments would not be accepted. Period.

That’s because in the workplace, in life, everything has a deadline.

Picking Up Trash

One time when I was walking through an airport to my plane’s gate, I picked up some paper that was on the floor near a trash receptacle and placed in the can. The person behind me said, “You either own a business or manage one.” To which I smiled and replied, “Guilty.”

Everyone is watching you. Noticing how you act.

Always do the right thing. Always.

Managing Others Begins with You

To be an effective manager of other people, to train them to do things the way you wish to see them done, you must first exhibit those behaviors in the way you live your life.

Nothing is more powerful than being the change you want to see in others.

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What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Embrace Complexity

42The world we live in today is a complex place. The KISS operational style seems like it would be a good idea. (KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid) But maybe not.

Turns out in a complex world, being agile is more importance than being efficient. Being efficient kills innovation. Innovation today is the primary driver of building value and creating value is one of the basic reasons for any organization to exist.

Managing Complexity is a 21st Century Skill

People who can manage complexity will be the leaders of the future. Managing a radio station was complex due to the fact that radio has two customers, which want totally opposite things. One customer is the radio listener. This customer wants information and entertainment. This customer usually isn’t fond of commercials. The other customer is the radio advertiser. Anytime their ad isn’t dominating the airwaves and driving consumers into their store is a moment the radio station isn’t doing its job. To add to this complexity are the talented people needed to service both of these customers. Air personalities that attract listeners and sales folks that service advertisers.

Consolidation & Complexity

As the radio industry began consolidating after the Telcom Act of 1996, the traditional thinking of protecting margins was amplified. This resulted in reducing labor costs. RIFs became commonplace (RIF = Reduction In Force). For those that were left wages became stagnant, little money was invested in training and the number of people left in the workforce was reduced to a bare minimum.

The problem is, when you have low paid, poorly trained and overworked people, your operation lacks new and innovative ideas that can improve the business. When the only ideas that are introduced come from the tippy top, they rarely connect with the challenges seen at the front line.

Zeynep Ton writes in her book The Good Jobs Strategy about a discount retailer that took a different approach to their operation than most companies when the great recession of 2008 struck the world. Rather than cut wages or reduce staff, Ton says they asked their employees to contribute ideas. The result was that this company managed to reduce prices to their customers by ten percent while increasing their market share from 15% to 20% from 2008 to 2012.

Herb Kelleher writes in his book NUTS! about how Southwest Airlines created a culture where employees are treated as the company’s number one asset. Southwest does a number of things to benefit its employees, including such programs as profit-sharing and empowering employees to make decisions. This empowerment during the period when oil prices hit a high of $145 per barrel in 2008 saw the Southwest pilots taking the initiative to plot more efficient flying altitudes and work with ground crews to get in and out of the gates quicker to control the Southwest ticket prices and not lay off any people while maintaining a positive profit margin. These actions did not come from the corporate home office but from employees in the field.

What to Do When You Have Maximized Efficiency

Let’s face it; the ability for any radio operator today to squeeze out any more profit through efficiency is over. Radio consultant George Johns puts it this way: “Radio today is in the no business, it has no money, no time and no people.”

So what’s the answer? Collaboration.

The radio companies of the 21st Century will need to develop the ability to make collaboration a competitive advantage. The game has changed from what you own and control to what you can access. Access happens via platforms. Radio needs to create platforms that bring consumers and producers together, much like the Apple App store does globally, but locally for their service area.

Radio needs to find a way to attract listeners by causing them to be fearful of missing something if they’re not listening while directing them to local places via platforms they control that can fulfill their wants and needs on demand.

In other words, radio needs to “think different.”

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Radio Would Be a Great Business… If It Weren’t For the Employees

21I’m sure the title of this week’s post caught your attention. If you’ve ever been a manager, quite possibly this thought has crossed your mind on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, technology has provided many a radio company the opportunity to give this concept a whirl.

The reality is radio is a people business. Take away the people and do you really have radio anymore?

My best sales people were a pain in the derriere. My best air talents were likewise. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. The fact of the matter is, great talents are always a handful to manage, but they are the engine that creates great radio.

Managing great talent is the art of keeping them from killing one another. Managing great talent is respecting that they are outstanding at what they do and at the same time looking them in the eye and under no uncertain terms letting them know that their talent doesn’t transcend to every other aspect of their life.

Very talented people often think that because they are outstanding in one area, they are in all areas and this is often what leads to their downfall.

Managing great talent is like keeping a nuclear reactor under control. You need to know when to push the control rods in to calm things down and when to pull them out to create a powerful, positive reaction.

Managing great talent will exhaust you. Managing great talent will frustrate you. Managing great talent will challenge you. Managing great talent will be the greatest experience of your life.

I’ve had the honor of running some great radio stations over my radio career and I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some incredibly talented people in every area of radio station operations. I credit my success to them and doing my best to clear the field of obstacles that might prevent them from performing at their highest personal best.

Since I started teaching, I’m finding a similar scenario with students. Great students will get every piece of knowledge they can out of you. They are self-motivated to excel. And yes, they too, can be a handful. But the greatest reward a teacher can experience is having students who want to learn and then apply what they’ve learned to grow and excel at whatever they put their mind too.

Warren Buffett’s “3 Qualities to Look for in Hiring:”

Integrity, Intelligence & Energy.

If you don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.

To sum it all up, the most important thing any business or school can do is pay attention to how it recruits the people it will work with. You can’t teach attitude. You hire attitude. Everything else can be taught.

Radio is a great business if you will do these three things: 1) focus on hiring great employees, 2) make sure everyone is focused on the same goal and 3) let your people know you really care about them.

Just remember, like a high performance automobile will command a lot of attention, the finest race horses will command a lot of attention, so will high performance talent. Anything that performs at the highest levels of its field will command a lot of attention.

If you like winning, then everything it takes to get there will be worth it.

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