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Adopt the Right Mindset for Radio

Thoughts on nourishing a successful radio workplace

Radio World’s “Guest Commentaries” section provides a platform for industry thought leaders and other readers to share their perspective on radio news, technological trends and more. If you’d like to contribute a commentary, or reply to an already published piece, send a submission to [email protected].

Gary Begin

I’ve been lucky to work with some of the most talented people, on and off air, over 40 years. I have been managed by and have managed people with widely different personalities and styles of communication. Yet they share a goal: to create great radio, ratings and revenue, making a real difference to society while making lots of money in the process.

Yet there’s something radio needs that is crucial to its success: teamwork. I’m not just talking about bonding with the boss on the weekend by climbing a mountain together. That has its benefits, but I’m referring to the attitude of the staff of a successful station — “the mindset on the road to successes.” This mentality is fascinating — to watch in action, and to be part of.

Create a positive mood

Don’t assume stations succeed simply because they have the most expensive music research, most controversial breakfast show or most spectacular prize giveaways. Their key attribute is that staff members treat each other well. 

If you walk through the studio as a guest, do you feel a positive vibe? Are people smiling and laughing? 

Are they saying “thank you” for help? Are they saying “yes” rather than “no”? 

Are they making noise rather than being quiet? Are they moving around rather than sitting still? Are they talking about anything other than work?

Being treated well generates “happiness” and is one of the greatest inspirations for creating great content. 

However, there can be issues within departments. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Tensions do rise and tempers do flare. Resolving these depends on the ability to get through it and live to fight another day. 

Staff attitude is something to watch out for. Listen for the phrase “It’s not my job.” This is essentially territorial — a person doesn’t want to encroach on another’s area of expertise or department, afraid that the boss may notice and make the other person’s job redundant. 

Several issues arise from such thinking. 

If you promote unity only through words like “we’re a team, working together to achieve the same goal,” you’re encouraging each staff member to think, “When I take care of my personal responsibilities, the rest will take care of itself. Our team will unite and work smoothly.” 

But when people focus primarily on their own work, they’re avoiding conflict and interaction, stifling the sharing of ideas. Radio cannot function without a healthy form of conflict that promotes innovation through compromise. This does not mean arguing or yelling. 

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Some managers fail to realize that because of this mindset, their staff doesn’t look after “the remaining 5%” anymore. That last 5% can make all the difference, as in a factory where the final step is for someone to put the price on the box, pack it and post it to the customer. 

But the person who’s doing the packaging may make an occasional mistake. We need to look after the last step too.

Define your terms

Radio staff should be allowed to say what they think, even when another’s department is involved.

When something doesn’t go as planned, colleagues should feel free to say something in a constructive way. Team members should not be afraid to speak up when they see a mistake committed or about to happen.

As a radio manager in such situations, I would ask: “Why didn’t you say something before? Then we could have avoided this.” Often, the reply would be: “It’s not my job.” 

Can you imagine if everyone, including surgeons or pilots, thought this way? Society would collapse. So eliminate this mindset. Encourage team members to speak out without fear of encroaching on someone territory. 

It helps to define the true meaning of unity and teamwork, and is easy to implement and monitor. This open approach can be the basis of a truly successful radio station.

The author is founder and president of Sound Advantage Media, a radio/podcasting consulting firm. He has more than 40 years of professional radio broadcasting and voiceover experience. Email [email protected].