I was called to the corporate office of the company that had just purchased our radio stations. They wanted to know if I would be willing to be the market manager of the cluster. I was experienced on air; I was a top-performing seller and sales manager. How hard could becoming a market manager be? Isn’t that the person who sits in the corner office with feet propped on the desk, attends Rotary and Chamber functions, and tells everyone what to do? Oh, and probably earns more than anyone else in the building? Sure, I’ll take that gig.
Boy was I wrong. Not about accepting the position, but about my perception of what a market manager/general manager did. I remember driving back home from corporate when it hit me. I’m now responsible for the lives and the livelihood of 55 hardworking people in my market and I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m a sales guy.
My first task was to fill out the 167-page spreadsheet that corporate called a budget. I had enough trouble balancing my checkbook. Then there was the format change and rebrand of another format, the HR issues, the fighting between sales and programming, the business office that thinks the sellers are a bunch of dopes, and, by the way, sales need to be in a double-digit increase from the previous year. Then the engineer calls. Your tower lights just went dark, and someone has to call the FAA. It never ends.
While others can leave the office at 5-ish, the office never leaves you. You are responsible 24/7 for everything that happens in this market. On top of that, you’re responsible for making it better than it was last year. This responsibility can be empowering and motivating, yet simultaneously crushing and debilitating.
Thank God I had other market managers, mentors, and general managers to call upon for my on-the-job training.
Bottom Line, Leadership is about More than the Bottom Line
Here are 13 lessons I learned that might benefit you:
- You have to care deeply about the people you work with.
- Trust the people you work with, and let them do their jobs.
- You don’t know everything, and you’re not supposed to.
- Find people better than you, and surround yourself with them.
- Take responsibility for their failures and coach them to better performance.
- You work for them, they don’t work for you.
- Be the number one cheerleader of your team.
- Absorb 80% of the pressure from above and only disseminate 20%.
- Admit when you are wrong and fix it.
- Create a culture of empowerment, not micro-management.
- Manage and coach your department heads, and let them manage the department
- Have a group of trusted advisors (department heads) and meet regularly with no titles, where everyone can speak freely and openly.
- Encourage your trusted advisors to challenge and disagree with you.
Focus on your number one priority: the development of your people. Encouragement, discipline, praise, vision, and accountability. Focus on developing your people and let them do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Create a clear vision of where you want to go, and why. Then with the help of your team set objectives and create standards. An objective is what you want to accomplish in a specific time frame. Example: increase ratings by 2 shares; increase revenue by 10% this year. A standard is how that objective will be accomplished.
Let your team set and manage the standards to achieve the objective. You focus on the vision, the why, and the people, and they focus on the how.
The secret to success as a market/general manager is that there is no secret.
“Pluralistic Ignorance” refers to a phenomenon where we believe nobody is facing the problems we are. The truth? The problems you are facing today have already been solved. Connect with other markets/general managers. Compare notes, offer another point of view. Others are willing to help you and you can help them. Because it’s “lonely at the top” we need interaction with others in similar positions to help us achieve greatness. Not only is this good mental health therapy to remind you that you’re not alone, it’s a great business strategy for solving problems.