Who will the next fool be?
It’s more than just the title of a song, it seems to be the cry of our industry. There was a time when there was an abundance of people in the radio and record industries who were ready for the next step. Wannabe program directors and heads of promotion were waiting in the wings, needing only a vacancy to prove what they could do.
That doesn’t seem to be the case now.
Maybe it’s because the high rate of turnover has used up the talent pool. Maybe there are more jobs than there are qualified people. Maybe the expansion of the industries has created more openings in a shorter period of time than normal. Maybe the radio and record industries as a whole are not attracting young people willing to grow into a career.
Maybe it’s something else.
Because of the increased pressure in both the radio and record industries, those at the top have less time to spend on one of the most important elements of their job: training.
There are several reasons why you should create the opportunity to spend quality time sharing your expertise with those under you. First, it’s part of your job. It may not be spelled out in your contract, but it is certainly expected by those who hired you. Part of leadership is training. You can’t expect talented people to follow your directives blindly unless they know the reasons behind your edicts. The only way they can know and understand is if you take the time to teach them.
Second, it makes your job easier. Sharing your needs and responsibilities with those team members who have the desire to learn will enable you to branch out and accomplish more. Those of us in leadership positions believe that no other person can do things as well as we do. It’s one of the reasons that got us where we are. However, as we take on more and more responsibility, we physically and mentally do not have the time to control every facet of our job. We must delegate. Sooner or later, you have no choice. And you can’t delegate responsibilities to others unless they have been trained. By letting your subordinates know why as well as how, you can delegate and continue to succeed. As your responsibilities increase, so will the responsibilities of those who you have trained and because you have people in place who know what to do, your overall performance won’t suffer.
Third, you owe it to the business. Whether we acknowledge it daily or not, this business has given us the opportunity for success. Call it a payback, but teaching others the ropes is part and parcel of what we are. Someone took the time to guide us. You should do the same.
Fourth, and most important, it makes your promotion easier and will probably hasten its arrival. Many times promotions are put off because the other people in the department are not able or ready to move up. Rather than looking at a number-two person as a threat, look at the competent second-in-command as your ticket to a promotion. If you have someone groomed to take over your job, company heads will be less hesitant to promote you to a new position.
It is a fact that many in both radio and records recognize that there is a lack of talent ready to move into top positions. The question is: Whose fault is it? There are certainly many competent people in the ranks. If those in positions of authority feel there are few ready to move up to take more responsibility, perhaps those in charge should share in the blame. It is up to us to groom our successors. If we don’t do it, who will? There are no college courses that teach students how to program a radio station. There are no college courses that teach students how to lead a promotion department. There are many outlets that purport to teach students the ABCs of the radio and record industries. But how to lead others? It’s an inherent trait that some have and some don’t. But even those who have the ability to lead must be taught the particular aspects of leadership. A general can’t just jump out of the foxhole and charge the enemy, expecting his troops to follow. Those expected to follow must have definitive reasons and beliefs…or they will hang back.
So, how do we go about this on-the-job training? First, as the head of a company or department, e must determine who, of those under our direct supervision, are destined for future success. Training incompetent people will only lead to well-trained, incompetent people. Identify those who seem eager for the next challenge. How do we make that determination? Look for the self-starters, those who are constantly seeking new projects, those who ask a lot of questions (sometimes drawing your ire), those who come to work early and leave late. Avoid those who accomplish the tasks only after you assign them.
Second, you must schedule time for training. It’s one thing to say you’re going to begin teaching. It’s another to actually do it. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Because you don’t always have time to conduct a class, assign your people written projects. Ask the m to prepare brief papers detailing their ideas on specific operations. This way, you can read their reports at your leisure, then meet briefly with them and explain where they are right or wrong and give explanations to help them grow.
After staff meetings, ask individuals to meet privately with you. Question them on the details of the meeting and explain what brought you to the final decision.
Delegate specific projects to them. Watch and comment on their progress and delegate more. Don’t fail to praise them for their efforts as well as critique their mistakes. Demand their input, even by allowing them to challenge your moves. We all make mistakes. It’s healthy if you have some on your staff to privately question your decisions.
Training people to move forward under your guidance is the best thing you can do for yourself. And it doesn’t take much effort or a lot of time. If you choose the right people, they will make the effort and the time spent will just be minutes that add up to increased productivity for you and the ones you choose.
The future of our business…and ourselves…is tired directly to those we train. Don’t hesitate because they might be after your job. If someone under you winds up with your job, you shouldn’t have had it in the first place.