Follow Directions ... Not Sure? Ask!
March 10, 2015
We are taught as kids to follow directions: Look both ways before crossing the street, don't talk to strangers, don't chew with your mouth open, and print your first and last name ... then you can begin your test.
Life is all about taking direction because without it, there is potential for all sorts of communication breakdowns, risks and general chaos. I get questions and complaints from both sides, OM/PDs and air personalities. This week I will share a situation and tell you one of my stories concerning the topic of following directions.
OM: I have a new APD who is having a problem with directions and what I consider common sense. He is a smart guy and we are glad to have him, but he has done a couple of things that are coming back my direction.
Coach: One of my many sayings is, "Common sense is great as long as the other person's common sense matches yours."
OM: Okay, I agree with that, my dad used to say something similar. Here is what he did: We had an event and he overbooked rooms for a hotel and promised rooms we didn't have. I told him when I hired him to cc everyone on matters involving other departments before acting on anything.
Coach: How long has he been there?
OM: Two months.
Coach: Therefore he is still in the honeymoon stage of employment and is trying to impress you and everyone else. Another thing, the first few days of employment are always exciting and nerve racking. Even though he did not copy anyone else, he should have at least copied or told you what he was doing. I suggest that until he gets the lay of the land at your cluster, you need to take the time and explain how things of this nature are done at your stations. Out of curiosity, why was he booking stuff?
OM: That's the thing ... I told him to get with business manager. But I guess I should have told him to get with her before booking any rooms. I am not sure I was clear enough; I've been working on a project to the market manager.
Coach: He is a new guy and does not really know the strengths of his colleagues. It is pretty much like a guy playing in a pickup basketball game with strangers and shooting instead of passing because he doesn't know who is good on his team. You need to sit down with him and not just hand off anything until he understands what you want. Never assume he knows; make sure he does. Also, encourage him to check with you on everything pertaining to your department ... even little things. Make sure you explain that you trust him and you just want him to get the hang of things. Assure him you have faith in his abilities and need him to be able to handle things when you are out of town or when you need him to.
OM: I guess I got so excited I automatically thought he knew what to do. He even messed up his first expense report and gave it directly to the business department instead of giving it to me for approval. It came up in a managers meeting and I was caught off guard. In all honesty, it was a questionable dinner expense based on the person he met with.
Coach: I emphasis again, you need to make sure he understands to come to you on everything before submitting to anther department or implementing anything before you have full knowledge of what is going on. I encourage you to be anal with details as he learns from you. If he is as bright as you say he is, it won't take long for him to free up time for you to concentrate on other things around there.
The Past Is A Good Teacher
When I programmed on a daily basis, I tried to analyze why something worked or didn't work. Making sure your instructions are clear is important when trying to create a winning atmosphere. It is a delicate balance between directing and restricting. You do not want people to be afraid to think if you are not available -- correction, a little fear among a high Radio IQ'd staff is not a bad thing. In fact, sometimes you can be clear and still your air personalities think they know best. In a case like that, it's best to discipline in accordance to the individuals involved.
Sometimes The Worst Turns Out Fine
Two of my best and brightest jocks came to me on a Friday and asked for permission to take the station van to a college homecoming for station exposure. That's what they told me, but I suspected it also had something to do with impressing a few coeds. The idea sounded good, but after getting a few questions answered, I decided it was not a safe environment. Their point was well taken and I would have said yes, if it were a station event and involved more station personnel.
Monday morning I arrived and did not see the station van. I assumed it was getting washed because of the remote scheduled for late in the afternoon. I was sitting in my office when the two young air personalities came into my office with looks of concern and closed my door. The conversation went something like this:
Jocks: Sam, we have something to tell you. We took the keys to van after the last remote Saturday and took the van over to homecoming. Instead of bringing it right back after the bonfire, we went to a party at one of the frat houses and parked it out front. When we came out to leave, we noticed the backdoor to the van was open, I guess it wasn't locked, and when we got in, we realized the sound system was stolen. Before you get upset, we have already replaced it and paid for a new one.
Me: Give me the keys.
I was upset and did yell at them for what they did. Then I left them in my office and went to the van to check out the damage, if any. To my surprise, I saw a new sound system and it was better than what was stolen. I headed back to my office and again told them they should not have done what they did and if there is a next time where they disobeyed my wishes, I would fire them. However, I did tell them I was impressed by the way they handled the matter before confessing what they had done.
After they left my office, I headed to the GMs office and told her the story. We both laughed and said we actually came out ahead.
Both of those gentlemen have gone on to have distinguished careers in radio and music. To this day, every time I have a conversation with either of them and they are complaining about an employee not following directions, I remind them of the little incident. Karma is funny that way.