Why Don’t You Say Something Nice For A Change?
February 26, 2016
Hey, Program Directors!
Wait, are there still any PDs in the business? Yeah, I think there are a few. If you're one of them, I want to offer a tip that I think helped me when I was still programming, and I was reminded about it last week when I was stuck for a topic and Phil Tower at WOOD in Grand Rapids suggested that I write about "praise in radio and the lack thereof." He said that it was something he's heard from a lot of friends and co-workers, and it occurred to me that I've been hearing it from talent in the radio and podcasting businesses on a regular basis.
Feedback is something I always knew talent needs, but it truly became real to me when I started writing on the Internet about 20 years ago. I would post stuff, and then... nothing. I wouldn't hear a thing. I had no idea whether I was doing it right or not; I'd be putting material out there and it would just lay there. Only after people would drop me an email or mention in conversation that they liked or didn't like something I'd written did I feel like I wasn't just talking to myself, and as the number of hits on my columns and other work increased, only then did I get comfortable that I was on the right track. It's natural to want to know where you stand.
And then there's radio, and what I'm hearing is that there's either no feedback at all from management or too much negative feedback. I think that's a function of a couple of things: one, that PDs are so heavily burdened with duties that weren't their job in the past and with overseeing multiple stations that they just don't have the time for extensive airchecks, and two, that aircheck sessions tend to focus more on what's wrong than what's right. The latter is probably led by a subconscious feeling that sitting around listening to good segments is a waste of time, and focusing on things that need fixing is more productive. But who wants to deal with sitting there hearing what you did wrong All. Of. The. F'ing. Time? If that's all the feedback you get from management, pretty soon, you're cowed into submission, or perpetually angry at the boss. And if yiu get NO feedback, you're going to perpetually wonder if you're on the right track or just laboring away in obscurity, nobody caring, no way to know if you're secure or one slip away from unemployment.
Let's take it away from formal aircheck sessions for a moment. Really, it's just about telling a host or producer or call screener or office worker, hey, good job there. It's a little thing that goes a long way. Think about how YOU react when someone tells you that whatever you just did was good. Do you pay that forward? (Okay, I hate that clichÃ©, but it was appropriate.) Do you, as a manager, spontaneously, without making a meeting appointment, just tell your staffers "nice job. Liked that segment when you (insert actual topic here)"? You should, because if you want people who work for you to feel engaged and happy and confident, they need to hear from someone in a position of authority that, yes, they're doing a good job.
That's not to say that you should lie. Nor is it to say that you shouldn't point out the problems. But if all the feedback a host gets is negative, it's going to make him or her feel beaten down. And it also raises a pertinent question: If the only things that prompt you to respond to your hosts' work are negative things, why did you hire them in the first place? If it's all bad, why are they still employed? Simple: Because it's NOT all bad. You just aren't recognizing the good things in a meaningful way. And it's so simple to do. Just remember to note the good segments, the good work, and don't keep that to yourself. Tell the people who work for and with you that they've done something pleasing. And this goes for practically everyone, whether you're a PD or talent or producing or in an entirely different business or just human.
Because nobody likes or responds well to someone who's nothing but negative. Because fear and hatred are not as effective for motivation as some people think. And because positivity is, um, nice. Think of the last time someone praised you, even in passing. Think of how you felt for the rest of that day. Do you want the people who work for you to have that feeling? Then it's your job to make that happen.
Wait, how did I end up writing a corny self-help/motivational/Dale Carnegie column? I guess because not everyone got that memo in the first place. Just... well, be nice sometimes. That's all it takes. You can do that. And you should.
You know what else is nice? All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, which... wait, "nice" doesn't really apply there. Look, YOU try doing a clever segue from the column to the plug every single week. Anyway, you'll find the usual dazzling array of news items and kickers and bad jokes by clicking here and at the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item. And there's the new Podcasting section at AllAccess.com/podcasts.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, a division of Legendary Pictures and Legendary Digital Entertainment, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities.
I'll be in Florida next week for the Talk Show Boot Camp, and I'm not sure what that'll mean for getting a column done, but let's just say I'm hopeful that I'll make deadline. Might as well be positive. See you in Fort Lauderdale....