You finally get that PD job you’ve been working so hard to get. You have plans, ideas, talent, and changes racing through your brain. A new branding campaign and thoughts of marketing the station are at the forefront. You’re getting ready to set a meeting with the new staff. It’s an exciting time.
Before you do any of this, I implore you to understand how important “Managing Up” will be to your success. You have a boss or more likely bosses—GM, Market Manager, National Director of Programming, National VP. While you are now the programming “boss” you still have a lot of people to keep happy. In this week’s column, I’ll teach you how to keep your bosses happy by successfully “managing up”.
The key to managing up is getting to understand the people above you. What information do they need, how often do they need it, and how do they like it communicated (email, phone, in person)? Depending on the boss and their level of interest in your station—they are more than likely responsible for multiple stations—the amount of information they want or need will vary greatly. Some bosses will want to know everything that’s happening and all of your plans for the next year. Some will just want to know of any problems or potential issues. I’ve had bosses who wanted a daily check-in in person and some who just wanted a written weekly report emailed to them. How many people have worked for someone who wanted you to email them something that you just talked about so they would remember it? It’s really incumbent on the PD to figure out the answers to these questions, so they can communicate effectively with their bosses.
I didn’t learn “managing up” overnight. Unfortunately, I learned it the hard way. In 2003 I had my first PD job at a little start-up now called “610 Sports” in Kansas City. I didn’t take any of the steps that I suggested above. As the PD, I thought that everyone else—the GM, the Market Manager, the GSM, the VPs from corporate were all getting in my way of getting the station ready to launch. They wanted to hear the new station’s imaging, review plans for events and remotes, talk about shows and talent. I was so frustrated which is really funny now because I see it so clearly. They all have bosses to answer to who wanted what they needed—information, progress reports, and to hear how their new station that they’d invested millions of dollars in would sound. I guess we live and we learn, but at the time I was so perplexed by my perceived lack of autonomy in the PD position.
At SiriusXM my boss was Steve Cohen, Sr. Vice President of Sports Programming. As his title would suggest, he’s responsible for all sports programming. That includes original programming, third-party programming and live play-by-play. I learned rather quickly that Steve was bad on email, better on the phone, and best in person. Since he’s based in New York and I was in Washington, DC the “in-person” option was often not available. But if there was something that we really needed on the college sports channels, then a trip to NYC was needed to talk about it in person. If I hadn’t understood that, I would have been stuck sending him emails with attachments that would’ve died on the vine. Instead we were able to have constructive discussions about my plans for college sports on SiriusXM.
The lesson—until you are the CEO of a radio company, we all have bosses. Heck, even the CEO typically reports to a board of directors and is responsible in a public company to its shareholders. Get to know them and you can even be upfront and ask them what information they want and how do they like to receive it. Building that relationship above you in your organization will give you a strong foundation and enable you to focus on making your station grow and sound great, every day!