YOU CAN’T RUN FROM CHANGE
Joan Barrett, Kneeland Board Member and Faculty, is VP/GM of KDVR/KWGN in Denver. In this article, Joan encourages news executives to remember one of the most critical lessons Carole taught: there’s no time like the present to embrace change.
Change. There’s been plenty of that going around these days, and it’s no secret that our business is in the throes of change from top to bottom, inside and out. As leaders, we know that it’s not only part of our job to manage change, it’s also our job to actually initiate change. Of course, this doesn’t mean we look to make a change, just for the sake of it. Instead, it’s our responsibility to find ways to make changes that increase morale and generate more business.
We’ve all heard stories about companies that refused to change. At one time, the Swiss dominated the watch industry. As the story goes, when they were approached with the idea of utilizing new chip technology, they rejected it saying, “but that isn’t how a real watch is made!” We all know how that story ends: the Swiss lost share and the Japanese watch industry was born.
As news leaders, we have to be careful not to become Swiss watchmakers. It’s also important that we continue to challenge our employees to look for new ways to innovate. One of my favorite stories is about a group of researchers who put five monkeys in a habitat. There was a banana hanging at the top of a small staircase. Whenever the monkeys approached the banana, they were sprayed with cold water. It didn’t take long for the monkeys to stop trying for the banana. When a new monkey was placed in the habitat – and one of the original four removed – the new monkey would try for the yellow treat. The other monkeys would grab him, not letting him even try to reach the banana. The researchers substituted all the monkeys one-by-one, until all five of the original monkeys were gone. None of the new monkeys would try for the banana. They didn’t know why – they just knew, “that’s the way we do it around here – No one tries for the banana.”
Sometimes the best ideas are right in front of us. We have to be willing to try for them, and we have to encourage our employees to take the risk as well. I believe that journalism is still one of the most exciting industries in the world and we will figure out a way to come out of this stronger. We simply need to be willing to embrace change and, once in a while, take a few minutes to run up the stairs to grab a banana!
CAROLE’S MOTTO: PUT PEOPLE FIRST
Blaise Labbe, Former Kneeland Board Member, 2002 Kneeland Fellow and Group News Director for Sinclair Broadcasting in San Antonio, shares his thoughts about the future of the industry. Blaise encourages news executives to remember one of the most critical lessons Carole taught: PUT PEOPLE FIRST.
The New Year has arrived and history proves that our economy will likely rebound sometime soon and many industries will be getting back to “normal.” But the new normal for our industry is here to stay, and it’s clear that broadcasting has changed forever.
As we begin the shift in our thought process, I am reminded of one of Carole’s key principles: put people first, and product will follow. Technology, new trends, and trimmed budgets will force us to manage our staffs differently. For us to succeed in this new environment, we must put people first.
This is a time of leadership more than it is a time to manage. Executives must be more involved in the newsroom and with staff. Start now by making yourself accessible so your people can meet with you. Set up a calendar with open dates and times so they can schedule one-on-one time with you.
As the technology continues to evolve, make sure you understand it so that you know what folks are tackling. This will help you and your team create systems to make your newsroom more efficient, more productive, and less mistake-prone. It is incumbent upon you to create an atmosphere in which your staff understands there are standards and expectations that must be met, but allows them time to have fun in the process.
Most importantly, we must believe that our newsrooms are just that: our newsrooms. Doing more with less is only possible when we include everyone on our team. You and your staff will grow because you made inclusion a priority. Your team’s appreciation for success will have new meaning because you all did it together.
Seems like that’s something Carole figured out a long time ago.