Invest in the future.

Its my personal belief that those who are in a position of any kind, owe it to the future of whatever industry they are in, to help people get into their particular industry.

I blog about radio and audio, so lets get specific- if you work in radio or audio now, what are you doing to help new entrants come in? An old boss of mine used to say- train your replacement and make them better than you. I honestly don’t know where my belief came from- it might be something of an ember of a once held desire to go into teaching I suppose. When I worked daily in radio, I used to do a lot of coaching, and also get involved in student radio– helping and finding ways to bring on the future of the industry. I would frequently present session at SRACon and training days etc and found it extremely rewarding.

I’ve spent some time analysing why it was so enjoyable. There was the ‘giving back’ element- training the future which I’ll come onto shortly, but I also found it personally helpful. Having an interested engaged person ASK you for a rationale about why something happens, or how something comes about is really helpful in ensuring that you don’t take things for granted. You re-learn and remember the reasons why you do something because you have the explain it to someone else. I have been asked questions which I wouldn’t have predicted beforehand and had to analyse and think through the processes there and then, thinking on your feet. It keeps you smart and it keeps you sharp.

Giving back. Its more than that. There is a conveyor belt, a take off ramp into the industry and without the next people stepping onto it we have a problem. About 9-10 months ago I was in the need for another music scheduler. The pool of potential for a role like that is very shallow. Now, its a job which requires a level of expertise and understanding but its more than that. There are actually very few music schedulers in the radio industry because of shared playlists, networking etc and as a result the opportunity to learn the skills required has also shrunk. Who is training up the future?

The path I took to a career in radio doesn’t exist anymore. The path that many of the people I helped into the industry over the years also doesn’t exist anymore. Thats natural and a byproduct of the evolution of the medium- no complaints or criticism. The issue is one of where the new path and the new skill share is developed, both geographically and metaphorically. Its vital that the industry invests in training the future talent, allowing them the time and space to develop, grow and shape their skills.

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Lets do the show from here…

For as long as I can remember, there has been a desire to do shows from remote locations other than the studio. Outside Broadcasts (OB)!

I always had a built-in resistance to taking shows out of the specifically built broadcast environment, unless it could be entirely editorially justified. All too often the reasons for doing something remote didn’t really match up and outweigh the positives of doing the show from the studio.

For me it wasn’t that outside broadcasts were a bad idea, merely that the benefits didn’t outweigh the consequences of leaving the studio- the tech, the structure, the rationale and the consistency of the output and quality. Shows fall apart really quickly when you take away the building blocks that make them work. A bit like my post about PREP, the thinking hadn’t gone past the first link. After you have said that you are from XYZ location, what next?

This last weekend BBC Radio 1 have been live, in part, from one of my favourite places- Ibiza for the Radio 1 Dance Weekend. The last time I experienced Radio 1 in person from Ibiza it was a massively impressive event in 2018 (see below). The stage outside Cafe Mambo and Cafe Del Mar on the edge of the sea, with the sunset behind it was truly outstanding. The output too, portrayed the mood of the island, the dance culture and feeling for the target audience. The mood matched the output and visa versa.

Radio 1 captured the zeitgeist of the island really well with a LOT of guest sets from key artists. The 2018 event had guest artists on the stage in the sea as well as artists at key venues (Cafe Mambo, Ibiza Rocks Hotel, Ushuaia etc). It wasn’t just a presenter doing their show from the studio upstairs at Cafe Mambo (although they did some of that too). Go large or go home! Subsequent years have done something similar, minus the stage in the sea, but always capturing the mood and spirit and this year, folding into the wider weekend with standout moments (from Ushuaia, Mambo and Eden). Its evolved from a “lets do the regular shows from Ibiza, to something which matches the genre, music and editorial requirements.

Now its likely that the BBC can put more resource behind something like the Radio 1 weekend in Ibiza, but even without the stages, extras and impressive structures, the on air content did more than a straight, “Hey we are live from XXX” with little more to back it up, or just linking to a co-presenter saying they are paddling in the sea! Thinking about link 2 or link 3 or hour five and hour six makes all the difference. Thinking about the bigger picture, covering and ensuring you are translating what is happening into the output, creating a feeling, mood and vibe that embodies what is happening. If you are covering an event then thats fairly straightforward- the event is happening and giving you material but for something like the above in Ibiza, its harder to embody that mood. It takes effort and creative thinking, but the prep and work is worthwhile.

Now, I’m off to sample some Hierbas Ibicencas over ice.

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It comes down to prep…

Everybody SHOULD know that you perform better when you do some prep. Its almost cliche to point it out, but still I see and hear evidence of a lack of prep.

Now please understand, some prep is better than no prep, but a lot of people are not doing enough.

Firstly lets just map out what doing enough prep gives you. Confidence to perform. Knowing that you have not only prepped what you are going to do- with enough material ‘spare’ should you need it, but also you have prepped for the unexpected- the catastrophic and unplanned event which might need you to step up- all that means you can be totally confident in your delivery, performance and trust that you are in control. You will therefore do a great job. Are you THAT prepped?

Prepping for the unexpected is hard, because its… well unexpected. It actually doesn’t take much, but makes all the difference when its actually needed. I’ve witnessed a network failure which meant that the PC and broadcast network infrastructure failed. It meant presenters had to jump into take over the output of local stations in a network early and also had a severe restriction on what they could play. Local audio only would play and all ads, anything played off any remote server was not responding. It forced thinking on your feet and then the back up prep can into focus. Those who had a bank of material coped really well and took it in their stride, confident that they could deliver material whilst technology colleagues focussed on getting every back up and running.

Even without the unforeseen events, having more than enough prep gives you the ability to CHOOSE content that fits the moment, rather than just do what you have. You give yourself options.

There are some tell tale signs of not enough prep. If you hear someone telling a story or quote from a news source or article and their only personal comment is, “Ha, well thats how it goes I guess!”, or “Can you believe it eh?”. The prep stopped when they found the item and didn’t include having a view, thought or original take or comment. Its prep of course, but at its most basic form.

I once did a session where I created an acronym- RIP your content.

R.I.P. YOUR CONTENT

R” stood for RESEARCH– gather your content, your surveys, your weird stories or talking points that you find from whatever source. Gather the material in buckets.

I” stood for INTERNALISE. Consume it, think about it and know how you feel about it. What do you have to say? If its just “Well only in America!”, or “Well there it goes then”, then you don’t feel enough and discard it. Also internalise it to the point that you don’t need the original source material- DON’T TAKE IT INTO THE STUDIO. You lose me when you start reading out a news article. TELL ME, don’t read to me!

P” stood for PERFORM. It is a performance and one which should ensure that the content cuts through and reaches its potential. You perform your material to an audience, so rehearse and ensure its give its best shot when the on air live illuminates.

Another pet peeve and one which I hear a few times in talk formats is, “well we are just going to have to see how that goes”, or “we’ll see how that plays out”, or “lets see what happens”. Its such a completely pointless phrase that you might as well say, “something else is going to happen, and then something else after that because thats how time works”. Of course if you are talking about a topical event or news story, then it is going to play out and you don’t know for sure what will happen but you don’t have to point that out. Perhaps it might be handy to give your perception or professional insight into how it MIGHT play out? What the consequences might be and what might influence how things change in your professional opinion? Just retelling me a list of events and ending with “we will just have to see what happens” is not useful. Try some prep for the bit which gives me insight?

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What are you planning?

The two most powerful words in marketing and promotion are “new” and “improved”.

I’ve posted before about the “we love new” mantra in former days at GCap, but this ins’t about that. There is some similarity I suppose because for established brands, individuals or products, evolving and trumpeting that renewal is important.

There is a key time coming up very soon. SEPTEMBER is huge for the lifestyle reset of consumers and your listeners. Is the time of the year, then listening patterns get back to some semblance of normal after the upheaval of summer. Schools go back, university goes back, traffic increases in the rush hour and the mindset changes back to the regular routine.

This is a powerful time to introduce change, to refresh and renew. The lifestyle of listeners matches it, and so its an ideal time. There are also some risks to just sounding the same as you always have done. Think about it- the last time the ‘feeling’ was the same would have been at the other end of the summer and so tuning back in again in September and finding “the same old, same old” can be a bit of a damp squib. True there is some comfort too in the recognisable and familiar, but up against something which might be familiar and refreshed, you might be on at a disadvantage.

If you have not thought about where you might refresh- then now is kind of the last chance you have to do something worthwhile and get the planning sorted. I always used to like the Tracy Johnson concept of going through everything you might have in a show and putting them all into one of 3 folders- Repeat, refresh, refuse/replace. What are you doing that you can absolutely keep? What are you doing that could do with a refresh and renewal? What are you doing that you can file in bin (to be replaced with something new). The idea is that your content sounds familiar and good, but with enough “new and improved” for existing, lapsed and new listeners.

Spend the time NOW, combing through your show if you are on air, your station if you are a programmer, and your portfolio if you are a senior manager. The timeline is very tight for September, but you might just about make it happen in time of you start right now.

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Another thing about radio…

Last week I posted about the power and impact of RADIO. For a medium which has been around for so long, its ability to garner an audience is unrivalled.

Radio presentation takes a skill and understanding in order to be successful. The best radio presenters think like programmers- so they don’t just present, they think about the crafting, the elements and how they play out and interact with each other.

When it comes to presenting and when talking to presenters and coaching there is a quote from a legendary US Radio Consultant, Jaye Albright, which I think captures the things to think about when communicating on the radio and why it is so powerful and enduring… It cuts to the very reason why radio cuts through, and has relevance 130+ years after being invented and why 89% of the population listen. Here is the quote.

“Give me something that concerns me or my life. It cannot be a cliché. It must be original and special. If it comes from your life, I hope it is a metaphor for my life. It must move me or touch me and you tell me about it spontaneously, knowing that my time is precious. The less it has to do with me, the shorter and more powerful it must be”

Jaye Albright- US radio consultant

 When I talk to radio presenters I tell people to just do that.

Lets unpack that quote a little as there is a lot in there.

“Give me something that concerns me of my life”– or why would I care or are you just talking about yourself? Make me interested and make it something which can resonate with my life.

“It cannot be a cliche”– as I would have heard that before and it’s nothing new. I’m ahead of you. The audience are always ahead of you they hear the punchline of the joke coming over the hill. If you just trot out a cliche or go down a well trodden path, then the listener will mentally, or physically, tune out.

“If it comes from your life I hope it’s a metaphor for mine” – otherwise you are just talking about yourself again and I don’t care that much- give me a “oh I do that” moment. Don’t just talk about yourself, turn your own experiences around and make them outward facing.

“It must move me and touch me”– make me care. What is the reason you are telling me? Make it count, or I’m off.

“tell me about it spontaneously”– I don’t want to think this is contrived, planned or rehearsed. Comedians always tell their stories and say something happened just a short time ago, last week or yesterday, because then it appears more spontaneous and therefore less contrived and so funnier- you wouldn’t have had time to prep and rehearse it. It doesn’t mean that you don’t prep, or plan- it just means to sound spontaneous when you tell me. “Practised spontaneity” is a great skill to have.

“Knowing that my time is precious”– If I gave you £86,400 what would you do with it? Why 86,400? That is the number of seconds in a day and billionaires and paupers have exactly the same amount. Everyone is time starved and nobody has enough time. The notion of saving time is a powerful asset- that’s why you can buy pre-washed lettuce and pre-grated cheese in the supermarket and you pay a premium for it. It gives you the notion of saving you time (even if it doesn’t save that much time!) and time is the one thing we are all have in short supply no matter how rich financially you might be. If you are telling me something, don’t waste my precious time.

“The less it has to do with me, the shorter and more powerful it must be”– not everything is going to be a connection of course, but if thats the case, make it stand out and gain my interest. remember my time is precious and so make it count, make it punchy and short!

We have some of the best professionals in the trade of radio. Radio is one of the best mediums in the world with the ability to influence, change and motivate the listener in a way that few other forms of media can do. Radio can rouse emotion, passion and harness that with a personal touch and has a vast audience. The best radio presenters know how to flex all the benefits of the medium to enhance the listening experience.

The above skill also stand radio presenters in good stead when it comes to communicating in many forms.

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Just hold on a minute

When I sit and write the blog posts each week, I sometimes ponder on what to write about, how I feel about a particular topic and if I feel enough about it to give it the energy to write it down! It is also very easy to always be critical and mention how things might be wrong with XYZ or how the best way of doing ABC is like this or that. I get very mindful of that and my blog drafts folder is full of half started posts about things which I have later re-read and discarded. Some weeks I have the think long and hard about the post and what is the right thing to write.

The world of radio gave me a fantastic 34 year career, and one which I have enjoyed enormously. The last thing I want to do is spend time only pointing out the things which it could do better, even if those things are valid or truthfully said.

Radio is an INCREDIBLE medium. There are critics and there are challenges of course but just stand open mouthed at the bare fact for a moment- 89% of the UK population listen to the radio in a given week. EIGHTY NINE PERCENT!

The UK has a population of over 60 million people. In any week on average 49.7 million people listen to the radio. 9.1 million people live in London, so thats over 5 times the size of London. A reminder that the number is the number of people who listen PER WEEK… so 5 times the size of London listening to the radio every week.

Of the 49.7 million people who listen to radio each week, over 37.1 million people listen to Commercial Radio. The number of people who listen to Commercial Radio each WEEK is about the population of London four times over.

How is a medium created by Marconi in the 1890’s not only still relevant, but so powerful 130 years later?

It’s not as simple as just communication- a Tweet, and email or a text or Whatsapp is communication too. It’s not just about entertainment, or debate, or information or education- although it is also absolutely about all of those things and more besides. I can get the music I like, tailored for me from a clever algorithm on an app from my phone, my watch or my smart speaker. It learns what I like and adjusts accordingly. The first MP3 player appeared in 1998– the Saehan MPMan F10, which could hold 8 songs. I’ve been able to carry around my entire collection of music since the late 90’s so it’s not the primary reason for Radio to be so powerful, or all these years later 49.7 million people wouldn’t be listening to it per week. That said, music is a very big part of radio too.

The cassette, the CD, the iPod, the iPhone didn’t kill radio and neither did video.

90% of communication of non verbal. You read body language, facial expressions, gestures and all manner of visual clues- how people are dressed, how they walk, they move and hold themselves, how confident they seem or the opposite. When someone you have never met walks into a room, you make a judgement based on all of those things before they even speak with a few seconds. In Radio we only have the voice. You can’t see me. (It’s a benefit of radio).

When a listener listens to the radio what are the things that we can’t control in their environment?

What are the things we CAN control?

If I want you to picture  a warm beach, bathed in sunshine with a single sun lounger sitting beneath a beautifully lush palm tree about 3 metres from the edge of a gently lapping turquoise sea- I don’t need a camera, a crew, a ticket or to travel. I have your mind, your imagination, your memory and your creativity. I have your emotion so I can make you feel sad, happy, euphoric, angry, sombre, enraged and motivated. I can make you laugh, cry, sing, hum and dance.

Radio has a history of provoking change- and creating impact. In October 1938 Orson Welles broadcast The War Of The Worlds on US Radio. A radio drama that converted his book into a series of news broadcasts and made Americans believe that aliens had invaded New Jersey and terrified thousands of Americans. Those were simpler times maybe and in 1938 mass media was in its infancy and people were not exposed to the levels of interaction we have today. That said in the Broadcast Advertising Code– the rule book on all radio advertising in the UK, section 2.2 it states that..

“If used in an advertisement, an expression or sound effect associated with news bulletins or public service announcements (for example, “news flash”) needs special care. The audience should quickly recognise the message as an advertisement.”

Broadcast Advertising Code. Section 2.2

Thus is the power of radio. We make people believe. You said it on the radio so it must be true.

It is portable, emotional, relatable, personal and trustworthy. According to a European Broadcasting Union study across Europe, with the veracity of what people read and see online, the levels of trust in broadcast media are growing. Radio is the most trusted medium, trusted by 57% of EU citizens as a whole, (TV is 49%). Radio is the most trusted medium in 24 of 33 countries (77%) including the UK.

Radio delivers one to one communication- its talking to YOU and only you. There might be 49.7 million people listening in a week but radio talks to them all one at a time. Listeners to radio perceive its just the presenter, whereas with TV the viewer knows that there are camera operators, directors, producers, floor managers and others… TV is a many to many medium. Radio is small, personal, intimate but also huge, powerful and impactful.

It can talk to you with your eyes shut- try that with television, or newspapers… or social media? It can talk to you whilst your eyes are reading the newspaper, it’s still there. While you drive, while you eat, while you sleep and when you wake.

Radio is the only mass medium that you can consume whilst doing something else. You can’t even touch your phone whilst driving as it’s not safe, but you can listen to the radio.

Radio is not a music stream, driven by an algorithm. Even if the music is researched and refined, when it is done well it’s still curated and delivered in a way that creates a sense of personal, one to one communication to the listener. Listeners still believe that the presenter picks the songs and decides to play them in that order- even though for most radio stations that stopped many years ago.

Radio builds brands, creates habits, becomes part of the fabric of people’s lives. People know where they are on their commute and if they are late for work by what time a presenter does a feature- or even goes to an adbreak. People create their own natural benchmarks. Radio beats to the rhythm of the daily life of people.

Smart speakers have been a fairly new invention- and yet one of the biggest uses of smart speakers is to play radio output. A new platform was born almost upon which the power of radio flourished and thanks to Amazon, Google, and Apple, households had some new smart radios in them.

Radio is both relevant and massive. Mass market, yet totally personal communication with emotion like no other.

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  • Programming development and management.

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Are you just looking busy?

So much of life has changed because of the pandemic in the last 2 years. Don’t worry this post isn’t about that specifically! Everyone has picked at those bones quite a bit.

I once worked with someone who said to me that “being seen” to be busy, or in the office and generally “around the place” was vitally important- didn’t matter what I did, I just had to be seen. I also worked with another person once who moved someone else to an adjacent or nearby desk so they could keep an eye on them. I’ve known people who have their office lights always switched on so they appear in the office all the time. I’ve known of people with one-way blinds fitted so they can see out of their office and no-one can see in and know if they are there.

In a time when we have had a remote world because of the pandemic, and even before that, a change in the work/life balance requirements from those coming into the workforce, wanting to not travel and commute as much, this all seems a little insecure and out of step. I know of a team who were unable to recruit the absolute best candidate for their vacancy because that fantastically skilled candidate didn’t want to upend their life and move house to the required location of the position. The truth was also that they could have very easily done the job remotely or at very least hybrid as the role didn’t really require in-person, face to face contact. This happened pre-pandemic and therefore remote was seen as totally impossible. End result? They hired a person with fewer of the required skills who would physically make the move. Then the pandemic hit and they worked remotely!

Layer onto this numerous training workshops and sessions that I’ve sat in over the years talking about not spending your day being “tied to email” and doing repetitive dull tasks, about spending time “just thinking” and less time on the conveyor belt of the day in order to get some “perspective”.

It is all a bit confused and seems like two things are pulling in opposite directions. I went to see Russell Brand on tour recently and when reflecting on our shared experience of the pandemic he said something like ‘turns out all the jobs that we thought were important, were actually not and could be done remotely and all the jobs that we thought were not important, actually are’.

If you were a new entrant into the world of work you would be confused to know what you should be doing? In your Outlook email client, Microsoft Viva cheerfully tells you (via email of course) weekly how many emails you rashly answered within 30 mins of being received and asks if you want to add ‘Focus Time’ into your daily calendar and how many days you had in the last week without meetings, adding a nice dose of subliminal guilt.

Don’t disturb them, they are THINKING!

I was in a training session once talking about a manager sitting in his office, appearing essentially to be doing nothing and someone saying not to disturb them because “they are thinking”- and how good this was that they did this!

I recently was asked for my thoughts on how the working environment has changed in media particularly. Now, if anything the world of media can adapt to remote working far easier than some industries can. Its nice, but not entirely critical, to have all your audio imaging production together in one location for example. Some remote, some hybrid is possible and if the balance means you can keep your highly skilled workforce happier for longer, then surely that is worth it? Hybrid is probably the best balanced option and gives the benefits of both worlds. There are some definite benefits of face to face meetings and working, collaborating and informal interactions you find in an office environment. As a previous work colleague and friend once commented, their former employer gave them all the tools in order to work remotely in terms of the kit, and then frowned on them if they actually did it! Its folly and old fashioned dinosaur thinking to embrace the technology which enables remote working and then force people not to use it to its full extent or put in place processes to restrict it for illogical “because I said so” type reasons. It is kind of like giving everyone a digital camera and insisting they still use film to actually take any pictures and wait for them to be processed.

If you have to have your staff within eyesight to make sure they are not slacking off, perhaps you didn’t do such a sterling job in the hiring process or maybe the problem is in the mirror or perhaps to do with the working or cultural environment? The world of media has for a long time asked its various regulators over the years to manage the rules imposed on the sector by looking at the outputs, rather than the processes of its creation. Don’t dictate WHERE we need to create the output from, focus on WHAT it sounds like and HOW it achieves the goals of localness for example or whatever parameter. Perhaps the same can be done with any “must come into our building to do tasks” location remote working rules. Don’t focus so much on the WHERE the job is done, focus on the results of the work?

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  • Bespoke presentations or sessions.
  • Programming development and management.

Click the links below and lets start to have fun.

Some things I know about teams

There are lots of memes and cliches about teams. “Teamwork makes the dream work”… “There is no ‘I’ in team”… Blah blah blah. All of the glib phrases and sayings have some semblance of truth of course and come from the same place and perspective.

Over the space of my career I have built (and re-built) a lot of different teams. I’ve adopted a fair few teams which I didn’t build myself and had to manage. Whilst I will agree that no two teams are the same, there are a few things which I have found to be true across all experiences.

Teams take time to build.

There is no rushing it or you don’t have a team, you have a group of people. Groups of people tend to go off in different directions and form their own smaller teams or clusters of like minded individuals and their own priorities. Whether building a team from scratch or adopting a team its important to communicate from the top- enough, but not too much and also LISTEN. Set the course of direction but don’t get drunk with power if you lead a team. There are many times I have changed course as a result of listening to the ideas and thoughts from the after previously going in a particular direction. The team are employed to presumably be good at what they do, so let them get on with that!

Get the road blocks out of the way

I have said to many people I worked with that my main job was the get the **** out of their way, so they can do their job better. My job wasn’t to tell them how to do their job, but to enable them to do it to the very best of their ability and probably better than they might initially think they could have done it. A leader of a team should focus on getting roadblocks out of the way of the team, so they can perform to the very limit of their potential. Help people be better than they thought they could be.

Be a buffer

As a team leader you should be the buffer between the upper management above you, and the team working with you. (Note, I didn’t say ‘under’ or ‘beneath you’- Yes there is hierarchy in organisations but lets try and think of teams as flat as possible). Share the praise and good news fast (and publicly) and protect them from any negatives- that’s why you are paid the big bucks. Distil the feedback and pass it on in a way that is constructive and progresses the work momentum. You don’t want to have ‘sloping shoulders’- with a “its not my fault, but those above me think xxx”. If you are a team leader then that means LEADING the team. The buffer runs both ways too and the team need to know they can complain about things and know it doesn’t get fed back up the chain. Its not ignoring the issues, it balancing, managing and making progress rather than all out open warfare and bun fight.

Teams change

I have had the immense pleasure to work with some truly talented people and every time I have held in my head that I’m only borrowing time from them whilst they worked with me. The period of time they are working with me is precious and they will move on at some point and so you should both enjoy the time, but also be prepared for what happens when they leave, because they will. I became almost paranoid about it at one point, always looking to have a succession plan for members of the team, not because I was looking to replace anyone, but I knew that they were all good and would move along to another career step at some point and I needed to be ready. They should move on, and its a good thing. I’ve worked with people who have said, “we should keep this person at all costs” and whilst I know what they meant at the time, and of course its good to have important, critical people who are excellent, but you just can’t keep people if they don’t want to be there. You can very quickly turn someone who is an asset into a destructive force if you try and keep them beyond their reasonable limits. Don’t risk having a sour taste in everyone’s mouth by trying.

Teams are made of people

I’ve worked with organisations who have sometimes talked about a team within an area of the business as a collective term. Its natural and understandable of course, but you HAVE to remember that all teams are made up of people. Individual people with thoughts, emotions, feelings and needs. They work in a team but the team is nothing without the individual people. They are not a collective and they don’t think and breath as one. Treat people as individuals and as you would like to be treated yourself. Its not a big ask surely?

Share the glory, take the blame

Success is the team’s success. Failure is yours. It is absolutely vital that you ensure that you credit the team with the successes that you have. Its THEIR doing and as a result of THEIR hard work and diligence. Things are not always successful of course but when they go wrong, take ownership yourself, don’t blame the team. If you are leading them successfully then they will do that for themselves and you don’t need to make them feel worse. Don’t take credit for someone else’s hard work (the team) and don’t shirk the blame for your own leadership failures. I have worked with many examples of the opposite of the above, if it went right it was down to them and if it went wrong it was your fault. It didn’t foster a great energy to bust a gut for them and make things work. I’ve also worked for people and groups who did it right and the difference and trust level is immense.

Teams Flex

Just in the way that you are only borrowing someone for a while when they work with you, all teams flex and change over time. Often when I’ve adopted teams I’ve been told that this or that individual ‘doesn’t fit’ in the team and probably needs to move on. Sometimes its been true and other times I’ve found it to be a byproduct of poor management of the individual or the entire team as a whole. I have always taken on board the advice given and not ignored it, but also wanted to make my own judgement in these situations. All too often, far too many times I can recall actually, people identified who ‘really need to move on’, actually turn out to be central to what goes on, critical to the work, and at historically found themselves at the sticky end of some poor decisions or misunderstood experiences.

Nothing in the above is earth shatteringly new. Nothing is too hard to do. There are always going to be ways in which things can improve and ways in which sometimes things don’t go as well as they might due to circumstance. If you are a team leader your success is inextricably linked to the success of the team. What else do you have to do thats bigger than that?

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Hey, you should do a podcast!

I met with someone the other day who said randomly to me, “You should do a podcast”. This was shortly before I was guesting on a podcast for the Nottingham Trent University Business School, so I had a great get out of jail, jokey comment to say that I was on one and so all was good.

Everyone seems to have a podcast but not everyone seems to have a reason to have one. The world doesn’t need one more voice adding to the level of noise for no reason.

I kind of likened it in my head to those calls and requests you used to get to “come and do your show from Disney World or Universal or wherever”, which used to come into the radio station every now and then. They were always wrapped up in a fantastic offer, flights, accommodation, studio and assistance etc all tied up with a big bow. My reaction every time when presenters used to get wind of the offer, and loved the prospect of the trip (obviously) was the same… what are you going to do after you have done the first link saying where you are? It wasn’t a very popular line of questioning. Link 2 and Link 3 and an hour later is either more of the same, or just lame.

Just like when constructing a link on air, you have to have a POINT. Just doing some more random inane talking isn’t adding to the enjoyment factor of any listener. This is straight out of the thing I mentioned last week, Authentic Personality(™). Just merely having a podcast isn’t enough, you have to have a reason for it to exist. How do you describe what it is to someone? If the answer is “its just me randomly spouting off about a topic this week”- then thank you for the effort, but no-one really cares that much and by the way it isn’t all about you!

I don’t consume a lot of podcasts, but the ones I do consume I listen avidly. They fit into the pattern of my day otherwise I don’t find myself able to listen. This sounds like an obvious thing to say, but they REPLACE other listening, so when I worked in radio, I tended to listen to fewer podcasts or less avidly as it would replace radio listening, and that was kind of my job! They tend to have fallen into a ‘commute listen preference’. Now, without the guilt of not listening to a radio station I’m supposed to be programming, the in-car default is the podcast. I now have fewer commute journeys as well.

The podcasts all have a distinct reason to exist and can easily be described and I’ve listened to them for a few years now. I’ve mentioned them all in other blog posts from time to time by way of an example of something or other. “The Daily” from the New York Times is a staple and to be honest I occasionally wane. If there is a topic that ignites interest I will listen but I also listen to the production value of the show- expertly crafted. “Pivot” I have also mentioned as it covers ‘tech and business’ and the opinionated hosts are both informative and entertaining. I occasionally listen to “Sway“, again from the New York Times and depends largely on the person being interviewed. On holiday the other week, I binge listened to the marvellous Jon Holmes collaboration and creation “Cold Case Crime Cuts“- which takes songs, like “Video Killed The Radio Star“, or “Copacabana“, and humorously investigates them in a true crime/ US Dragnet style format. Again- all of the above have a REASON to exist.

The reality is also that from week to week I sometimes have to think long and hard about what to write here as a blog post, let alone to create a podcast!! It should always be the case to stop talking if you have nothing to say!

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Where ideas come from.

There are no shortage of ideas.

There are no new ideas.

I’ve heard both, veraciously argued in many settings. In reality, of course, there are always new ideas, and indeed no real shortage of them. They are just hard to come by… perhaps.

When I sat in a programmer’s chair in a radio station, there was always a desire for creating something “new and shiny”. Indeed in the days of GCap it was a mission, “We Love New” in Creation- the programming and content arm, and a strive to always do things differently, at times it would seem even if established way something being done worked perfectly well. At least that was my perception at the time. Of course coming up with something groundbreaking and new is good if you possibly can, and not easy. The truth is that even a slight tweak and improvement is worth the effort to make it happen, and I think the real desire behind that “We Love New” mantra. That I could get behind- doing something the same way just because thats the way it has always been done, and going about it unquestioningly is not the best strategy. It’s just as bad as changing things for changes sake. A blinkered progression of the same old same old without the desire, effort or push to take a fresh look is not healthy.

Creation Logo.

Where do the ideas come from? One of my regular podcast listens (PIVOT with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway) touched on this very topic the other week. Their guest Matt Richtel spoke about his new book “INSPIRED: Understanding Creativity: a journey through art, science, and the soul“. He mentioned something which I’ve always believed as true- ideas come to you when you allow your brain to wander freely, unfettered by the guilt of thought and need to ‘come up with a thing NOW!’. Chances are that organising a meeting in a white walled office with a dry wipe board to brainstorm some new ideas is not going to give you a list of cracking suggestions. The environment and the pressure is not conducive to creative thought. I have to admit that I have done those things all too often myself, and its always out of necessity of timing, convenience of the workplace or a pressured timeline. Thanks to the talented bunch of people I have worked with I’ve always come away with a few useful things, but it took a toll I think on the creative power stored in the team.

A really creative space!
Photo by Paula Schmidt on Pexels.com

Knowing the time of day when you are personally at your most creative is a good to understand. Are you at your peak in the morning, afternoon or evening? Some people I know like to look through the detail of an issue last thing before sleep, and then let their creative, unshackled mind work it all out in their sleep. They wake with a new idea or answer. Matt Richtel talked about the “flow state” and whilst it can seem a bit “tree hugging”, I get the idea. Your rational mind has a trigger of guilt when you think- you evaluate the thought, the reasoning, the time taken to spend on that thought and that impacts your creative process. It limits the ability to wander and jump from idea to idea and just muse. Apparently the period of time just before sleep is an example of when you have thought freedom, judgment free. Lying in the dark before going to sleep, there are no consequences from the thoughts, no time wasted thinking about them, and so you think and wander unfettered by the usual restrictions. I’m not suggesting we hold all ideas meeting just before bed, or install bunk beds into the white walled, dry marker board filled rooms! Not that it would work anyway, but if that is the best time for you to think without self judgment and criticism, just think how far removed it is from those meeting rooms and flipchart festooned rooms.

When I was in GWR Group, we worked with a consultant we met at a Morning Show Bootcamp for presenters and programmers in the US. Bill McMahon created a process for creating content and delivering it, called the Authentic Radio Personality (Now renamed Authentic Personality©). My job with the founding group bringing these thoughts to the GWR Group was to work with Bill and create the UK, de-Americanised notes, forms, paperwork and process. Now, much has been said and thought about ‘ARP’ and it isn’t a panacea for all ills or content creation. The process application within the group was also a bit “counter creative” perhaps too (we may have loved new but we also loved a process a bit too much too!). Ultimately the nucleus of the ideas in ARP/AP were and are, absolutely sound. What has this to do with where ideas come from? One of the first things that we taught, and Bill taught, was to be more aware, not just of what is happening around you, but also how you personally react to things when you see them.

When looking for content choices, link ideas, concepts etc, observing things as you go about your day is important, but also to note and recognise what and how you react. How did you feel or think at the time. Its something which takes a time to perfect, and is almost like trying to view yourself, viewing what you are seeing and making notes on how you react. Ideas come from being more observant and from being more aware of reactions and feelings.

Idea Shop. A actual shop in Santorini and photo taken by me!

Its important to have time to create and of course that isn’t always possible. A sales person wanting an idea for a client yesterday, isn’t going to wait for you to sleep on it, dream a bit and wander to get some great ideas. The perfect world and the real world always conflict but its important to have enough time to create something worthwhile. I always use to say, “you can have a bad idea now, or a good one later”. To be fair quite often the retort back would be that they want a great one right now! Typical!

The more you allow your mind to create and have the freedom to, judgment free, think and wander- the more you have a bank of decent ideas or thoughts so when the timeframe is short and the urgency is there for something stellar, you have something to fall back on from when you had time to think that you can use.

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