(By Deborah Parenti) There are probably as many management styles as there are managers. No two managers are exactly alike, any more than are those they manage. And there is no perfect model. Like parenting, some days you get it right, and some days, well, the day gets you. As someone once said, “By and large, radio people are good people.” And so, too, are managers.
Over my career and before I became a manager, I worked for three distinctly different and, I might add, excellent managers. Each had their own unique approach to the business, as well as to those under their command. Thanks to each one, I learned new ideas, and collectively, they helped inspire my own style of management.
I was hired into radio by a man who knew how to nurture and encourage talent. His name was Jim Bennett, and a lot of people owe a debt of gratitude to him for their careers, including names you would recognize, like Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson. Jim had a penchant for tapping the best in people by encouraging them to find their passion and follow it.
I remember being called into his office for the obligatory three-month rookie review. After a brief chat (my palms were sweating — this is the boss and I am all of 19), he walked over to the showcase window that extended end-to-end in his office and, gazing out, asked what my dream was. Not in a stern, authoritarian voice, but person to person. And not in employee-evaluation textbook terms. Dreams. Everyone can relate to dreams.
The palms immediately dried up, and I found myself walking behind his desk and sitting in his chair. “This would be nice.” He smiled and nodded: “And you will.” In that instant, he encouraged me to believe in myself. And he continued to do so for the dozen years I worked for him, opening doors to opportunities and tremendous growth in experience and knowledge. Great managers develop talent.
My second manager was someone who challenged me to step outside my comfort zone. Telling me I had “radio in my blood,” following a brief hiatus in my career, he entrusted me to head up the business office at one station, and after scolding that, “you’ve done everything but sell,” reluctantly agreed with the sales manager to give me that opportunity at another.
Alan Gray inspired me to stretch, to stand my ground, and taught me the importance of tenacity. And he let me argue. He didn’t always agree — and conversations, while respectful, could get heated. But while he might not back down easily, he didn’t expect you to, either. He understood the importance of diversity of opinion and a variety of perspectives. So he sought those out in everyone. Great managers nudge people to dig deep, develop, and not be afraid to disagree.
Finally, there was Bill Wells. He was one of the most congenial people you could ever meet, and Bill’s management style was a 180 from Alan’s, low-key but also brilliant. He gave me wings to fly. Bill believed in his team and allowed them to soar.
I can’t recall an instance where he held someone back because of a divergent opinion. If you believed your path was correct and could demonstrate it wasn’t reckless, you had his support and he had your back. I remember one budget meeting, reviewing the upcoming year’s revenue projections. He passed a notepad to me before he was to get on the phone with corporate.
I don’t know if it was intentional or an oversight, but the note included a scrawled asterisk at the bottom of the page. “These numbers – don’t question – from Deborah.” I think because Bill never openly expressed doubt, everyone on his team went the extra mile to make him right. Great managers unshackle and inspire.
No matter the style, it all boils down to listening, encouraging, nudging, and believing in people. That’s what managers do.
PS: Join us as we count down the Top 10 Best Managers of 2020 in a special Facebook Live/YouTube event on October 20 at 11 a.m. Eastern.
Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink Magazine and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]