We Need More Public Media Managers – But How Do You Get The Chance?

It’s not unusual for new managers in public media to feel a bit overwhelmed.  But as I learned in over 30 years as a public radio manager, it can be exciting and give you a feeling that you are doing something to help your community.  It can also be complex and challenging.

But still, we are fortunate to work in an amazing industry. I thought about that as I sat and watched journalists win awards at the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association banquet. Despite all of the concerns that local radio is dead, some very creative work was being honored. It was produced by some of the largest stations in the state, as well as some of the very smallest. It came from commercial as well as non-commercial stations. Radio may not be what it was in the 1960s, but it has evolved, and effective managers will help keep it relevant for decades to come.

So if you are a new manager – or aspiring to be one – how do you want to frame the job so that it doesn’t frame you?

Historian Arthur M. Schlessinger Jr wrote, “During his first 100 days in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt “sent 15 messages to Congress, guided 15 major laws to enactment, delivered 10 speeches, held press conferences and cabinet meetings twice a week, conducted talks with foreign heads of state, sponsored an international conference, made all the major decisions in domestic and foreign policy and never displayed fright or panic and rarely even bad temper.”

Maybe your schedule won’t be as busy as FDR’s, but there is no doubt that people will carefully watch how you establish yourself and the type of leader you will be. For that reason, it is very important for you to have a plan on how you will approach those first 100 days on the job

(There’s nothing magical about 100 days, it has just become a benchmark for how people assess the success of a new CEO).

Think through how you want to spend your first 100 days.

What you want to accomplish in your new position?

 How do you want to be remembered after you leave?

What words do you want people to use when they describe your tenure?

Do you want to be remembered as a taskmaster or a people person?

Do you want to be seen an easygoing leader or a tough CEO?

I knew a CEO who was told that on his first day, there would be an all- staff meeting. He walked in to discover that, in addition to the packed room, his image was being projected on large screens throughout the building and in other remote offices. He said later that it felt like the camera had been following him all week. As a CEO, your every move, statement, and even your jokes will likely be scrutinized. People will notice if you interrupt others in meetings, glance at your watch, or divert your attention to your smart phone. This is why it is important to set the right example and demonstrate your desire to be a colleague and leader from day one.

In the middle of a 1992 presidential debate with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, the cameras caught President George H. W. Bush checking his wristwatch. It was interpreted as the President becoming bored by an audience member’s question about how the recession impacted him personally. That anecdote dominated much of the news coverage for days. You don’t want something as small as a time-check to be what your new colleagues talk about after they meet you.

I wrote the PUBLIC MEDIA MANAGER’S HANDBOOK to help new managers and aspiring managers be better prepared for the tasks ahead.  It deals with everything from FCC regulations, to the role of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as well as practical managerial advice (This post is an adaptation of the introduction).

Order your book NOW.

This is a limited time offer for the holiday season, in case you also want to purchase a copy for someone you know.

They (or you) will be eligible for the FREE 30 minute private consultation with me and my e-book “Managing Through and Out of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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