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If Morale Is Suffering … Fix It!

You can change staff spirit for the better if you have the courage to lead

Let’s review, managers: Morale is the spirit of a group wherein its members want the group to succeed. When morale is high, so is productivity. The staff looks forward to coming to work, better applicants apply for openings and people are much more likely to go the extra mile for co-workers, not to mention their boss.

If you’re beginning to sense a drop in morale at your radio station or cluster, you should do something to improve the situation. And quick.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Phil Cardamone Increase Face-to-Face Time With Leaders — A general manager sets the tone by being openly available. If the GM wants a happy, admiring following, he or she must actually interact with staff members individually.

While this may seem simplistic, you’d be astounded by how many GMs or market managers don’t even greet members of their staff on a regular basis.

Type “A” personalities typically are extremely busy with conference calls and meetings, so walking the floor a few times a day doesn’t make it onto their agenda. That’s a mistake.

Make a point to say hello to staffers, know their names, ask about their families and give specific props for things well done.

Keep your office door open. Earn bonus points for taking staffers out for coffee or lunch a few times per month.

— People who are “in the loop” feel much more positively connected to their workplace. In places where everything is a big secret, staff gossip and innuendo increase to compensate for the lack of real information.

While email is good for short pieces of information, there is no substitute for meetings, though keep them quick and to the point. After all, nobody enjoys attending a drawn-out affair with no clear agenda, so preparation is key.

Each department should be having weekly meetings in which people can hear the latest from their manager and during which they are asked for feedback. A full staff meeting once a month is a must. Ideally, coordinate the meetings with something fun, even if it’s just interesting snack food or treats like ice cream cones.

Ask for input on upcoming decisions and then actually use some of the ideas. Example: While it may seem dumb to ask the staff what color they want the walls when you have to repaint them, this decision does affect their environment.

Share ratings and sales information openly, even if this means offering percentages. I continued to be amazed that stations don’t share ratings with staff even when they are published in the local paper or online. Tell your staff how you’re marketing your product either through outside advertising, events or within your own cluster.

Recognize Achievements & Milestones — When you turn your staff into a large family, all boats rise. It won’t cost you a thing to showcase staffers’ exemplary work. Everyone enjoys hearing good news about promotions, engagements and births.

Create an “employee of the month program” that comes with benefits (which you can trade out), like better or free parking, concert or game tickets, or lunch with (and courtesy of) the GM.

Go overboard by giving someone an extra day’s vacation for a job well done and you will never be forgotten.

One caveat: It is unquestionably a management challenge to see the good in others and invest extra effort into helping them succeed. The office can be like mini-high school popularity contest, so you must work at making everyone part of your morale plan. Spread your attention and recognition efforts around the staff evenly.

Plan Quarterly Group Activities
— Each department should do something fun together four times a year outside the office. Just watch the walls between people crumble when they bowl together or go see a baseball game.

Make sure these events happen during normal business hours so that you are not taking away from personal or family time. Score more points by inviting spouses or significant others during one of these outings.

There’s a lot to complain about in any industry, and the changes that have rocked radio over the last 10 years are not easy to overcome. However, things will get better if you engage locally with the people who should matter the most to you. You can change morale for the better if you have the courage to lead.

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media.