Monday, July 18, 2005

Leading, following and getting out of the way

Here in 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters, I've never been entirely comfortable with describing my Leadership Philosophy. I'm actually the News Director here, but it's a job I ascended to from the ranks of Reporter, and so I had never gone through any kind of management training to that point. I had plenty of thoughts about what I wanted the news department to look like, but my only guiding management principle was to "create the kind of news department where I'd want to work". Unfortunately, the news department was staffed with two other people who were about to quit their jobs, so for a while, it had to be the kind of news department where I'd want to work... since I was the only one working there.

So it was with some interest that I opened the mail at 19 Minutes HQ this afternoon to find "Ready, Set, Lead: The Resource Guide for News Managers" a friendly, Thomas Paine-sized booklet (okay, "Common Sense"-sized -- I have no idea how big Thomas Paine was) put out by the friendly people at the Radio-TV News Directors Foundation.

My first thought was, "Great -- something for me to read on the plane when I leave for vacation this weekend." But, as I've noted in an earlier posting that I can't seem to put my finger on at the moment, I've never really identified with the subculture of air travelers who insist on wading through weighty tomes on Leadership the second the plane takes off, and then bark unpleasant cell phone orders at subordinates the second the plane touches down. My office walls include one Olympic Curling poster, one Grand Canyon Music Festival Poster, one autographed Alison Brown poster, and exactly zero posters with pictures of Mt. Rushmore and pithy quotes about Leadership.

The booklet does feature some useful suggestions about Resolving Conflicts (the standard 19 Minutes method is to sigh heavily and run my hands through my hair, which amazingly is not one of the lessons in RTNDF's book); Soliciting Feedback (their suggestions include "Be specific", which I guess is more useful than just asking a reporter "What was the deal with that story?); and Time Management, which recommends taking inventory of long discussions where little is accomplished, a scenario the 19 Minutes staff likes to call "Wednesday".

I'm up to 14+ years in radio at this point, which means the RTNDF booklet also makes for some interesting comparisons for the right way to do things versus the way some previous bosses have done them (a group that includes one previous boss whose method of showing displeasure was to slam the back-end of a ball-point pen into the on-air console so hard that after a couple of years, the desk was covered with circular and semi-circular gouges that made it look like the surface of an extremely small, rectangular asteroid.

So "Ready, Set, Lead" is actually a pretty interesting read, and I might use the flight out East to brush up on my managerial style. But in the end, I suspect I'll stick with my curling poster.

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