Recently I was talking with a friend and colleague whom I have known for many years. The conversation continued in our careers. I wanted feedback on mine.
Never one to hold back, he spoke about my reputation in the industry, what others had said about me and what he had observed firsthand. Most were positive, some were painful, but these were all things I needed to hear.
This conversation is the genesis of my column this week.
I think one of the most important parts of personal and professional growth is to never stop learning and growing. While I’ve been fortunate enough to lead many teams to success over the years, there are things I should have done better.
I hope if you are in a leadership position you can be careful and not make the same mistakes as me.
DON’T BE A HARD ASS
There were a lot of times, usually early in my career, when I was just too hard on people. Anyone who has worked with me has likely seen or (in some cases) been the victim of verbal assault.
Why? Two reasons.
First, many of the managers that I emulated in the company operated this way. They reigned with an iron fist and through intimidation. Hey, that was working for them… so that’s how I should be, right?
Second, I’ve always been a perfectionist … which means you lead others to perfection instead of forcing them to strive for it.
So, young Ryan Maguire was more of the Gordon Ramsey type.
I remember a stop early in my PD career, I heard an outdated promo tune on the station. After a quick investigation, I discovered that one of our producers forgot to change it.
It couldn’t hold up.
I walked into the production studio and absolutely tore up this poor kid, berating him in front of several other hosts who were in the room. After making my point, I stormed off.
Soon after, one of the hosts who had witnessed the tirade walked into my office and wanted to talk about it.
“You know, I think you’re a good guy,” he said. “But listen man, you just said things to that kid that I wouldn’t even say to my dog.” I just don’t understand. You don’t need to do things like that.
I didn’t get much feedback on what he had to say. I still don’t.
Management by intimation does not work. Besides the obvious problems you are likely to have with the HR office, your coworkers are going to either ignore you or avoid you altogether.
Success comes from gaining the trust and respect of someone, without giving them their ears.
DON’T BE A COSTUME
I remember once going to an annual manager’s summit for a company I had worked for. One item on the agenda was entitled: Remember… you are a suit!
The managerial philosophy that was hammered out that day was to always remember that you work for the company and never to be too close to your subordinates.
Unfortunately, I bought into this.
There have been many times the hosts or producers have tried to get to know me personally. Instead of taking the opportunity to open up to them, I was too often cold and distant. I kept them at bay.
I was their boss, not their boyfriend. It’s part of being a costume. It was all business, not personal.
Although I had good relations with many of my former colleagues, I have always been considered “the boss”.
The reality is that employees KNOW that you are the boss. You don’t need to play the role.
Cultivating a family atmosphere would have been a much better decision. When you know your hosts personally and they know you, it has so many benefits.
Achievements are a lot more fun, and failures are easier to deal with.
Most importantly, I missed out on what could have been some very rewarding relationships I could have had with some incredibly talented people.
TRUST YOUR ENTES… DON’T COVER YOUR BUTTOCKS
Often, doing what you know is right is not always popular. Several times I had to walk into the CEO’s office and lay out a plan that would be pushed back.
“I’ve never heard of this guy, why do you want to hire him?” “
“I don’t agree with that. Instead, we should put that person on the air.
“It will cost us too much. “
“We can never sell this.”
I have heard these phrases and many others.
The safest thing is to nod and do what makes everyone happy and safe.
There were several occasions when I would have liked to put my foot down and defend my decisions more.
I remember a time when I had to decide if we should renew a show. I had already known in my heart and in my mind what I wanted to do. I had looked at the situation from all angles, talked to the people I knew important, and felt good about my plan.
When I explained things to the General Manager, they pushed back. They wanted to collect more opinions. We had meeting after meeting with colleagues, executives and consultants. I remember at one point being in a room with seventeen different people, who were asked to comment on the matter. Everyone should have a say in the process. When we finally made our decision, my original plan had been altered so many times that it was unrecognizable.
The reality is I just had to blame myself… because I LET IT happen. Instead of defending my plan, I allowed myself to sink into group thinking.
As a manager, and especially as a program / content director, if a show fails or the station tank ratings fail, you will be responsible. It doesn’t matter how many people approved the decisions or whose ideas were used. Win or lose, you have to stick to your ideas.
I am not naive. I realize that even if I had put my foot down in some cases, I might not have succeeded yet.
However, at the very least, I could have looked back and known that I did all I could.