Fast water, rapid change, and a hue and cry for certainty in an uncertain world bring us into the clubhouse turn, with fall and the forthcoming NAB in Philadelphia just over the horizon. Asked to present a major session at this gathering, we looked at the anatomy of the topic: Mentors, Motivators and Leadership. Well, the irony of our time lies in the disquieting realization that we have less of all three.
One of the best places to begin it seemed, was to study people who have been uncommonly good at mentoring, motivating and leading; so thus sequestered Tracy Austin, celebrated programming mind at WIOQ Philadelphia, Kevin Robinson, formerly of CBS and today, PD for Bonneville’s The Arch St. Louis, joining T. J. Holland who, like Austin, is an alumnus of legendary Susquehanna Broadcasting, where he built WARM 98 into a national format icon, and helped create Cincinnati cluster-cousin MoJo (arguably the most celebrated “Jammin’ Oldies” of them all). With these three on stage, there is nothing you can’t ask, nor is there anything less than 100 percent credible. It is a rare opportunity to be sure.
It’s no secret the decline of resources, vaporization of equity, and loss of confidence has shoved radio leaders in the field up against a locked door. What to do, where to look, and how to gain back lost ground? Let’s begin with a little reality management. The best definition of a leader, mentor or motivator lies in convincing someone to do what they may not want to do, so they can become something they’ve always wanted to be. There are after all, only three types of people in radio: the gifted, the creative, and everyone else. “Everyone else” seems focused on the sending-end; jock to masses,–relevant or not–as opposed to the “gifted” and “creative” who focus on the listener, working backward from there. How do we re-vector this timeless misapplication of radio people filed under “talent?”
As offensive as it may appear to CFO’s and their debt & equity colleagues, there are in our view three categories of people who should be overpaid in any radio cluster: PD and talent who relentlessly bring more listeners to a station, the sellers who bring in the money, and the manager who hires them. Its true of course; the confluence of compacted and accelerated time and money present each of us with a simple premise: cash is king. Without performance and the audience that it creates however, its art-for-art’s-sake.
The easiest radio station to make successful is the one that doesn’t yet exist. The second easiest, although a distant second, is the one with a new brand-makeover and a new name and address.
As we look ahead to our forthcoming NAB presentation it may be good to invoke West Point’s longstanding maxim regarding the process of developing an officer-leader, described as “moving someone from cocksure ignorance, to wise uncertainty.”
Companies don’t compete, people do. And, people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.
Failing with a radio station is never fatal. Failing to change through better leadership, mentoring and motivation, may well be.
We’ll be looking for you in Philadelphia, 25 September.
— Tim Moore, Managing Partner, Audience Development Group