Moving The Cheese

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(By Deborah Parenti) The September 17 issue of Radio Ink profiled the 2018 slate of Radio Wayne finalists and their “secret sauce” for success. It’s the 26th year of this prestigious competition, the one award that recognizes and celebrates the sales, marketing, and management side of the industry. I’d like to discuss what the awards represent, and the attributes of the folks who get nominated.

It began as a vision of Radio Ink Chairman Eric Rhoads, inspired by his admiration for Wayne Cornils, whose career spanned decades across many facets of the industry, most especially sales, marketing, and management. Eric wanted to ensure Wayne’s legacy following a cancer diagnosis. Eric also believed this was the perfect opportunity to acknowledge the side of the hall that did not usually bring home the big shiny, trophies. Essentially, Eric found a need — and filled it. Something, by the way, that sellers and managers strive to do every day.

Because, while content is king, sales reps, managers, and marketing professionals are the ones who take that content to market and make a difference in the success or failure of the industry.

Their dedicated efforts contribute not only to their stations’ bottom lines, but help businesses, from the smallest retailers to national chains, attract and engage customers. So at the end of the day, their efforts help pay a lot of salaries and provide a lot of goods and services to consumers. That is focus of Radio Wayne, honoring the “best of the best” of the professionals who bring home our collective bacon.

While the Radio Wayne finalists have followed a wide variety of career tracks, and each has encountered and taken advantage of unique opportunities, two common themes are consistent across the board. One is their obvious dedication, hard work, and professionalism. The other is the consistent and positive support and encouragement they have enjoyed from both mentors and managers.

Study after study bears out that the most productive, satisfied, and engaged employees work at companies that provide recognition and spotlight winning performance. In a Harvard Business Review feature a few years ago, David Sturt, executive vice president at HR consulting firm O.C. Tanner Co., wrote that “recognizing employees helps drive engagement and boosts morale.” He also advised that new leaders especially can benefit from giving recognition because of how well it helps create bonds with employees.

If any industry has seen a change in leadership due to mergers, acquisitions, and consolidation, it is radio. And no matter how seasoned an incoming executive, he or she can be “new” to the acquired team. Demonstrating their mettle to the troops under their command is as important as demonstrating it to top company leadership.

But the road to recognition starts long before the shining trophy is presented. It begins with encouraging people along the way, listening to their vision, mutually establishing goals, then pausing to celebrate the milestones and victories before setting up the next brass ring. It also means sometimes allowing them to “color outside the lines.” Not all great ideas stem from the top. A lot of innovation starts at the grass roots — probably more than less.

I was fortunate over my career to work for several exceptional leaders. Dave Pearlman was one, and his philosophy was simple and direct: “Never stymie the thought process of anyone in looking beyond the obvious for answers to unprecedented business circumstances.” I remember taking unconventional, untested ideas to him on several occasions. Having a solid track record certainly helped the cause each time, but his confidence in us was also unflinching.

“You have a blank slate,” he once said. “Go for it. Deliver the results, but follow your instincts and go for it.” We did, and when we delivered beyond expectations, we celebrated the moment before raising the bar a little higher.

That pause for celebration is important. Moving the cheese before the team has a chance to savor a bite is frustrating. A perfunctory pat on the back accompanied by “What will you do for me next?” is demoralizing. It’s a frequently mentioned frustration among those on the front lines — how the cheese is constantly being moved or goals aren’t clearly outlined, how local ideas are strangled by corporate delay or indecision.

Whether you are new to management or well established, it’s important to remember that you set the goals and establish and maintain the road to your team’s success. You also build leaders and future Radio Wayne winners. In doing so, you’ll ensure your legacy, like Wayne Cornils’, is professionalism others aspire to emulate.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at parenti@aol.com

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