Jim Watkins is the General Manager at WHUR at Howard University in Washington DC. He’s also one of Radio Ink’s Best Managers of 2017. Watkins is credited with building WHUR, 46 years ago. He’s not only the General Manager of this top tier heritage radio station, but also been a mentor to some of the industry’s most notable radio personalities and executives.
As General Manager, Jim Watkins and WHUR have won every award imaginable, multiple times, including Marconis, Service to America Awards, and the prestigious NYF’s International Radio Program Awards for their original satellite radio programs Blues on Blues for Best Regularly Scheduled Music Program and InnerView for Best Talk/Interview Special. Jim Watkins was an easy choice as one of Radio Ink’s Best Managers of 2017. Our Best Managers list will be revealed on October 9. Here’s our extended interview with one of Radio’s best, Jim Watkins.
Radio Ink: How have you been able to achieve the success you have so far in radio?
Jim Watkins: My success is firmly based on the team of individuals, and their collective talents, that I have worked with all these years. Teamwork provides the input, ideas, and diverse viewpoints necessary to successfully complete the multitude of projects we face in this industry.
Radio Ink: Who mentored you and what did they do to help you succeed?
Jim Watkins: First of all, my parents, who stressed hard work and pursuit of your dream, fully supported my dream to become a broadcast engineer. They provided transportation to and from the radio station where I worked as a teenager and were adamant about the fact that there was no such word as “can’t.” They repeatedly stressed that there is always a way in which to succeed or to accomplish a given task and that you must give it your all and then some when pursuing your dream(s).
Later, I had three mentors: Dr. Owen D. Nichols, Vice President for Administration, Howard University; Bryant G. Harris, Director of Architectural and Engineering Services, Howard University; and Crawford McGill, Technical Manager, WETA-TV. They gave me great advice and encouragement regarding my career as a “manager.” It wasn’t until much later in life that it became obvious to me that they all saw in me what I could not see in myself. All three stressed the importance of teamwork; of bridging the gap between the technical, operational, and administrative worlds; of taking calculated risks; and of being transparent.
Radio Ink: What do you expect from the people you manage?
Jim Watkins: I expect my team members to be honest, accountable, dedicated to the good of the station, and to use their gifts to not only support and benefit the station, but to support and benefit themselves as they continue to learn and advance in their given careers.
Radio Ink: When do you know you have a great employee who has the potential to become a manager?
Jim Watkins: That’s an easy one. There’s a spark that ignites within an individual that you can see and feel. The person demonstrates a passion for the business, but also demonstrates the power of teamwork, of working and communicating effectively with others. I have the blessing of working with students as interns. Some show that spark early and those who do can be exposed to aspects of our business that they would never get in the classroom. Even experienced employees, when given a challenging task which they successfully complete, may begin to show management potential.
Radio Ink: What is the number one challenge you face every day as a manager, and how are you overcoming it?
Jim Watkins: Keeping the team focused is my number one challenge. There are competitive challenges in the marketplace that can blur the continuous mission. Consistently keeping the lines of communication clear to the team and providing consistent oversight and feedback to team members helps me keep this challenge in check.
Radio Ink: Tell us what your biggest/most proud moment at the station or cluster was over the past 12 months.
Jim Watkins: Over the past year, WHUR has had several proud moments. On Sunday, March 5, 2017, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., we hosted our Annual Helping Hands Radiothon to raise money to send our Howard University students to 10 cities across the country and to Haiti to assist communities and families in crisis. This year, we raised a record $125,000 and students were able to go to even more communities to roll up their sleeves for a week of volunteer work.
On December 21, 2016, we partnered with the Children’s Charity Foundation to give 2,000 low-income children from the District of Columbia brand new coats, hats, and gloves to shelter them from the cold, just in time for winter. All of the children were able to pick out their own winter gear with the help of WHUR staffers and the Howard University basketball team at a special Christmas Party hosted by WHUR’s very own Mrs. Claus.
Last, but certainly not least, accepting the NAB Marconi Award for Urban Station of the Year for WHUR-FM RADIO, Howard University. This national recognition of the station’s efforts reinforces staff morale and makes all our individual efforts, sweat, and tears well worth it.
Radio Ink: What does it take to be a strong and successful manager in radio today?
Jim Watkins: You have to be flexible. The business changes more rapidly than one might imagine. You must lead by example, be firm but fair, recognize good work, inspire your team to achieve, be concise, clear, and specific on your vision. Above all, be honest. Keep your word. Do not be afraid to be human. And, always treat your team members with respect.
Reach out to Jim Watkins and congratulate him on being one of Radio’s Best Managers at [email protected]