Thu. Jul 19th, 2018

It Pays To Hit Shuffle

I’m all over the place with music. Hitting shuffle on my Spotify playlist is quite the experience. We might start off driving on Slayer Avenue, and weave our way to Johnny Cash Lane and DMX Boulevard. Heavy metal is my favorite genre, but classical guitar was actually my minor in college. Spanish-style classical always hits my ear like an old friend I haven’t seen in awhile.

Some of the classes I took at Ball State were really enjoyable. I absolutely loved music theory. Ear training was cool too. Other classes, not so much.

Something called “sight singing” should be a punishment if you get caught shoplifting. The teacher would hand out a brand new sheet of music. You had to identify the key, be in rhythm, and sing everything in solfége. That’s the do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti stuff. Nightmare. Absolute nightmare. I’m the furthest thing from a singer. I’d just sit in front of a piano and practice matching pitch while thinking, “How ‘bout I just play this on my guitar? ‘Cause I’m, you know, a guitar player.”

I didn’t see it then, but I see it now. Each class — guitar reading, performance, sight singing, you name it — was designed with a purpose. It wasn’t intended to make you so crazy that it shaved five years off of your life (although it might’ve). It was intended to make each person a better musician. It was all connected. I hate to admit it because some classes drove me crazy, but it actually worked.

I was able recently to visit 102.9 The Game in Portland, OR. In between seeing the beautiful scenery and getting a feel for the town, I got to meet many people in the building from various departments. It wasn’t just the programming people. It was salespeople, the VP’s, the market manager and owner.

A sports radio building is just like my guitar classes — it’s all connected. At least it should be.

Some sports talk buildings are splintered off. Departments are random mixtures of disjointed sections. Sales does sales stuff. Programming does programming stuff. Engineers do engineering things. While I know that a worker in one department won’t have an intimate knowledge of what it’s like to work in every department, having a general understanding of what your co-workers are faced with goes a long way.

I can remember a sales person calling me two minutes before my show to ask a question. That told me the person had zero concept of what it’s like to host a show. Little things like that can turn into bigger issues. Animosity can grow between departments when a co-worker has no idea or even cares about the challenges you deal with.

This is how cliques develop. A radio station can turn into high school where the jocks only hang out with jocks and the outcasts only hang out with outcasts. Pretty soon the promotions department turns into a gang that’ll shank you if you’re wearing the wrong color. The sales team only interacts with themselves while walking around like Big Sean saying, “Ain’t nobody fresher than my [censored] clique.”

All of this can be avoided if you genuinely show that you want to understand what your co-workers go through. Ask questions. Show that you value them and what they do. It isn’t hard to treat people like they’re actually people.

Do me a favor — the next time you go out for a bite to eat, pay attention to who others are hanging out with. It typically involves people that share the same race, gender, and similar age. It might not be all three categories, but in many places it’s rarely less than two of them. I’m not saying that friends who share the same race, gender, and similar age are bad friends who always see things exactly the same. I’m saying that people with different life experiences are likely to have different viewpoints. You won’t grow your thoughts as much if you fail to expand your reach of those influences.

It’s the same concept with a radio station. A person with different work experiences is likely to have different viewpoints. It’s impossible to grow your mind as much if you only spend time around people from the same department. You won’t be able to speak the same language and know the challenges of the sales team if you only surround yourself with on-air people. Diversify your radio portfolio.

Many people from programming think, “Can’t you just sell it?” Many people from sales think, “Can’t you just get higher ratings?” Sure, but it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers. Ask to sit in a meeting with a different department. Understanding the hurdles and difficulties can change your outlook on why things aren’t exactly how you’d like them to be. More importantly, it can change how you approach other departments, which can make it more likely that those goals will actually be accomplished.

It boils down to this — understanding goes a long way. When you show that you understand the obstacles your co-workers are faced with, it changes the dynamic greatly. It’s disarming. Instead of tearing down a co-worker and making them defensive by basically asking why they suck at their job, they’ll push even harder if you show that you understand their challenges and still believe in them.

You always hear in football that the offensive line is a “cohesive unit.” That’s the way a radio station needs to be. Each department needs to blend and mesh with each other. If your sales team is Dallas Cowboys tackle Chaz Green who can’t block Atlanta Falcons defenders, you need to be the running back chipping and helping out instead of pointing a finger. Blaming doesn’t help. Helping helps.

There’s a big difference between being valuable to your department and being valuable to the entire building. Always be a positive asset who interacts with your co-workers and understands the problems they experience. Don’t just hit shuffle on your playlist. Hit shuffle with the people you interact with.

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