The internal culture of every organization today weighs heavily on my mind in this challenging time.
As we wrap up a year of incredible pain and suffering for businesses of all type, I wonder whether leaders are compensating for the challenges of in person work, remote work and the fears of tomorrow.
That’s why I wanted to turn my attention to saluting an iconic radio industry legend who just announced his retirement and an internet giant who perished as a result of injuries that resulted from a house fire.
Both men led by impactful leadership that at its core focused on the importance of a great culture.
The radio legend I’m speaking of is Dave Crowl who after a 44 career just announced his retirement as Regional VP and Market Manager for Cumulus Cincinnati.
I had the privilege of working with Dave while I was at WLVQ in Columbus, after he had moved out of his role as GM at the station and entered into a senior management role for what was then Great American Broadcasting(previously Taft)and would ultimately become Citicasters.
Dave has many outstanding qualities ranging from integrity, class, creativity, competitiveness and humility just to name a few but standing tall in one of his pillars of leadership was fostering a great internal culture.
It was a special time with so many iconic brands in the company then like, WDVE, WFBQ, KYYS,WKLS and of course WLVQ and for Dave and I it seems like another lifetime ago, but the culture that was a part of “The Crowl-Man Brand” was a joy to be around.
People wanted to be on his team because they knew the magic would happen and it would be a fun ride if you were part of it.
We salute your great career Dave and I know you will have a well deserved blast playing every golf course under the sun!
The death of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh hit the business world hard, even though most of us didn’t have the privilege of knowing him.
We were certainly as consumers aware of the business and culture he created.
According to Glenn Rifkin’s NY Times obituary “Mr Hsieh, a soft spoken and introspective executive developed a philosophy of business built around the idea that happy employees were the conduit to satisfied customers who would return again and again.”
Tony blended his pursuit of excellent internal culture with an obsession for excellent customer service and became a model for bigger than life leadership with what he built at Zappos, the internet shoe and clothing mega brand.
R.I.P. Tony Hsieh and thanks for the lessons and inspirations you left behind.
Leaders of today need to be mindful of how culture impacts the roadmap to success and they need to always be willing to improve upon their output.
The year 2020 is thankfully about to come to an end and the radio industry is grappling with our fair share of challenges and opportunities.
Among them is the important issue of diversity.
Are Radio companies welcoming the cultural enrichment that comes from diverse experiences in education, class background, age, culture, ethnicity, race, color, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, nation of origin, language spoken, able- bodiedness, religion and beliefs?
Alright, I’ll admit I took the specifics in the previous sentence right from a job posting to make the point about the specifics of diversity and inclusion.
There has been work done to enhance this effort over the recent months by the industry, with some companies specifically designating someone to watch over diversity and inclusion to ensure responsible actions are taking place, but is it enough or is it just “white noise?”
How does the work in diversity of the industry stack up versus other media brands and other industries and what are some potential action steps that need to be confronted?
As Futurist Rishad Tobaccowala recently said regarding diversity “Innovation happens with fresh insightful connections between cultures, expertise and backgrounds.”
For some perspective on this issue I turned to industry thought leader Annette Malave, SVP, Insights at the Radio Advertising Bureau.
Annette recently wrote a brilliant blog post for radiomatters.org http://www.radiomatters.org/index.php/2020/09/29/inclusive-diverse-and-community/ where she acknowledges the many ways that broadcast radio has been inclusive: “from music to talk, radio stations across the country have always invited different types of people to express their opinions and share their voice.”
She also mentioned in the blog how important radio’s sense of community is within diverse communities “meeting with and speaking to diverse audiences.”
How are other businesses and brands confronting the diversity challenge?
Honda and Ford are making financial commitments to non-profits that support youth learning and Latina-owned businesses affected by the pandemic.
The American Honda Foundation has awarded grants of more than $700,000 to non-profits across the nation to support programming with emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and math as well as the environment.
Their goal is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Ford’s philanthropic arm/Ford Motor Company Fund launched a $400,000 initiative to provide access to capital, educational resources and network opportunities for Latina small business owners impacted by Covid.
Starbucks recently took a major step in their hiring practices linking executive compensation to improvements in inclusion efforts.
They are also vowing that by 2025 30% of all corporate positions and 40% of retail and manufacturing jobs will be held by black, indigenous or people of color.
Starbucks describes the inclusivity push as the “next step in turning each store into “The Third Place” not home, not work but a spot where people can mingle and be part of a community.”
In the media world as a reference point ,“BuzzFeed ” CEO Jonah Peretti recently announced they increased representation of Black and Hispanic/Latino employees year over year incrementally and they will continue to make recruiting a focus in their diversity strategy.
Annette Malave asks the question: “Radio will celebrate 100 years and is certain to be around for many more centennials but how will it engage with its future leaders?”
She acknowledges that there is a great effort by the industry to target and connect with college-aged students via mentoring, internships and scholarship programs.
This has been evident in the last few years at the NAB/RAB Fall Radio Show with many in attendance.
But what about Gen Z(those born after 1996)?
Annette goes on to point out that “they will be the most ethnically and racially diverse group compared to other generations and they are also the generation that has only known a digital world. It’s time to start thinking about engaging with the younger segment of this group.”
When Annette and I touched base some weeks ago about the important topic of diversity she told me a compelling tale that struck a chord.
“A few years ago, I was asked by a school principal to speak to students at a junior high school because “it was important his students see someone like them speak to them about a career in radio. Those words struck me and not for the reasons you think. Surveys and studies have shown that it is important for consumers that are being targeted by brands include someone who looks and sounds like them in ads. If it is important to do this when targeting consumers, why would it be any different when targeting future radio professionals?”
While it is true radio has to meet the challenge of reaching Gen Zers as listeners there also needs to be more outreach to them as future leaders in our industry.
Annette suggests we try reaching them in high school via alumni programs so we can make an impact early with them.
Let’s not be afraid to try other bold options to increase diversity in our business.
CBS TV has doubled down on it’s promise for diversity on and off camera, expanding that vow to their reality shows.
All unscripted shows, beginning with the 2021-22 season will feature casts with at least 50% of the contestants being Black, indigenous and people of color.
Are their opportunities to grow audiences by expanding the role of diversity in content?
Are their opportunities for diverse audiences to be heard via other channels of distribution such as HD2?
Radio has taken a leadership role in so many areas of media and I believe the business can take a step back, re-set and do even more.
Recently, I connected with Mark Chernoff, friend, former boss and great legacy Program Director(WFAN-NY,WNEW-FM,WXRK,WDHA) about the traits of winning radio stations.
In our conversation he touched upon how the commitment of the team to winning was critical and how getting everyone focused on the same mission was a path to ultimate success.
Mark also spent a lot of time focused on the importance from a number of perspectives on listening.
As a manager he said “you have to listen to your people”
By listening very closely to their feelings, opinions and ideas you can extract great things.
The key is you have to be willing to invest the time.
This is such an important dynamic for the manager of today.
When we consider the impact leaders need to have in this difficult time, listening provides an important backdrop to leadership traits such as empathy, compassion, curiosity and caring.
In an article from Forbes.com on 8/17/20 called “The Power of Listening” by Jonathan Westover/PHD he describes “impactful active listening as more than just hearing the words someone is saying and understanding the context in which those words are shared, along with other verbal and non-verbal cues, such as voice inflection, tone, facial expressions and body language.”
In other words, don’t be distracted when you are communicating with your team, actually listen to them in a non-distracted way.
Additionally ,Mark Chernoff had another twist on the dynamic of listening which is equally important.
He said “A Programmer has to listen very closely to every aspect of their product.”
In Mark’s mind the listening comes in two forms, “listening as a PD and listening as a listener.”
A PD can listen to the mechanics and flow of their brand in a very technical way to evaluate performance with regard to content quality, storytelling, relatability along with the mechanics of teasing, stop-set placement and other elements of playing the game to win in the ratings.
But Mark’s point about “flicking the switch and listening like a listener” is equally important to effective programming leadership.
Listeners are living in incredibly distracted times and they are the judge and jury when it comes to evaluating the strength of content.
PPM has taught us that talent truly needs to get to the point in a content break in the first 7 to 10 seconds of getting into the break.
Programmers need to be able to boil down what is important from the listeners ears and communicate this to their talent.
They also should find ways to actively seek feedback from listeners and listen to their comments with a thick skin.
As managers are challenged with more on their plate then ever, it’s key for them solicit feedback and be proactive to find out where problems are brewing before the problems escalate and grow tentacles.
Keep your ears to the ground…LITERALLY…and you’ll be a better manager.