There Is Always Room For Improvement
April 8, 2014
The radio talent coaching business is similar to the daily work of programming a station or cluster of stations. Because of unforeseen emergencies, the "To-do Checklist" gets laid aside ... which leads me to another story.
I was drinking a cup of tea when I received a text from a PD on the beach.
Jock: I finally heard back about the job for PD/afternoons at a station in Denver. But the GM and OM want to do a phone interview today -- in two hours! The only thing I know is that the station is doing very well and morning has good numbers. I have never been in a situation to program an established morning show or a place with such great numbers. How should I approach the interview since nothing needs fixing?
Coach: Even when things are doing well, there is always room for improvement. For example, a football, basketball or baseball team wins a championship, yet in the off-season they make trades, release players and sign free agents. The goal is to always be in a position to do better.
Explaining How to Approach the Phone Interview
There is a list of things I covered with him for his upcoming interview. I believe it is how you say things, much like cross-examination on a witness stand. So my task was to give him a sense of how to answer the interviewer's questions. It is rare these days for a programmer to get the opportunity to work with a live morning show -- usually it either comes as part of the PD job or mornings is syndicated. The information I shared could apply to anyone facing a potential new programming gig.
- Listen to the station and the morning show for several days.
- Talk and listen to the morning show personalities, get their thoughts and ideas. Ask questions; see how they approach gathering content. How do they prep for the show? You want to get a historical perspective on how the show and the station have evolved.
- Based on your conversations, begin to determine where the areas of improvement might be needed. It might be how they select their content or guests for interviews. Maybe you can show them some shortcuts for prepping for their show. Are they visible enough outside of paid appearances? Are there clear verbal lanes for members of the ensemble to stay in during the show?
- Is the morning show maximizing their efforts? Do they have a point of view? Are all the members of the show maximizing and firing on all cylinders? What are they eating before or during the show? I once had a morning show co-host who was a bottomless pit for Twizzlers and Cokes. She was always full by 8a and then turned into a she-devil. It dawned on me, it was the sugar ... it was a crash-and-burn thing, so I made her stop eating the sugary stuff until the shift was over.
- Sometimes the best move is the one you don't make; don't fix what doesn't need fixing. You're not trying to make anything perfect, just continuously trying to upgrade the product. Whenever you inherit a great situation, try and make adjustments only when necessary. Do not dismantle anything unless it clearly is not working anymore -- it should be based on results and the proper interpretation of research.
I impressed upon my anxious texter to make it clear in his phone interview that being a good leader does not mean you know all the answers, but know where to look for them. In terms of the morning show, anyone in the same phone interview situation for a PD job--reiterate the goal of building on successes.
The Outcome of the Phone Interview
I got an e-mail from him telling me he successfully got through the interview and talked to two more people involved in the hiring process. The station has all but told him the job is his.
Feedback Is a Good Thing
I asked if our pre-interview discussion helped and he said, "Yes, it helped me process my thoughts and confirmed what I already knew and helped me understand the things I did not know. Directing an actual morning show will test my abilities to lead. Because they were phone interviews, I was able to bullet-point things you deemed important. I felt very confident, answered questions and did not nervously talk too much. Like you said, answer and then shut up, ha ha.
One More Thing
Whether it's on the phone or in person, always listen and try to pick up on what is important to the interviewer. Sometimes you can tell by the sound of their voice or if they keep coming back to the same topic. While at our recent worldwide radio conference, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a discussion between a PD and a veteran air personality concerning a job opening. Although both seem to be saying the same thing, I noticed the PD kept coming back to the issue of being in the streets. I injected myself to ask both, their definition on the subject to make sure they were on the same page. I saw relief on the PD's face when the jock gave his answer to the question. Pay attention and never assume the person you are talking with has a similar understanding; try and make sure their common sense matches yours.