The Prescription For Your Show’s Dysfunction


(By Randy Lane) We often encounter talented team shows with high dysfunction when the mics are off. Some can pull it off and sound cohesive on-air, and with others, it becomes noticeable to the audience. Neither situation is healthy.

What causes the dysfunction? Creative people are typically sensitive emotionally, while others are insecure or have LA-sized egos. A common cause of team dysfunction is management putting a team together with two drivers or two reactors. The host and cohost both want to set up content or react to it.

Dysfunction can prevent new shows from getting off the ground, and established shows will eventually implode. One high-profile show we coached had a host and cohost who were formerly producers and had two opposite styles of executing a show. They coexisted and had great success for many years, but dysfunction ultimately caused them to go their separate ways.

Most personalities can set up content and react to it; however, most are usually better at one or the other. A smaller percentage of talent is only effective at driving or reacting to content. This leads us to which talent opens the mic first, as it’s often a cause of dysfunction.

The talent who is more skilled at setups and mechanics is usually tapped to open content segments. As a manager, it’s important to point out that no matter who speaks first, both roles are equally important. The cohost or second mic reactor is often the bigger personality.

Mic order

New shows need a precise mic order (mic one, two, three, etc.) to establish a familiar pattern with listeners. Once shows are established, the talent who will be the segment’s focus can open a content segment.

Eliminating team dysfunction

RLC recommends conducting a team exercise at least once a year to maintain team cohesiveness.

Our team exercise for radio and podcast shows was adapted from Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a TeamCohesive teams are built on five key levels: trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and results

Cohesive teams function most effectively on a foundation of trust and healthy conflict. This creates an atmosphere free of politics, where everyone can openly express their views on all ideas and their execution.

One key component of the team exercise is for each show player to identify their peers’ contributions to the team and one or two areas they must improve or eliminate for the show’s good. It is vital to maintain harmony by delivering the improvement points in a sincere, matter-of-fact, and non-personal tone.

The audience expects their favorite show to be friends and hang out with one another. You don’t have to be best friends, but you can cohesively coexist by practicing these guidelines:

  • Rather than obsessing over differences, embrace and build on them.
  • Communicate respectfully and non-personally when the mics are off and during planning sessions.
  • Practice and encourage vulnerability and transparency.
  • Regularly remind everyone constructive feedback is necessary and good.

Three final words on eliminating team dysfunction:

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Randy Lane is the owner of the Randy Lane Company, which coaches and brands radio and television personalities, business professionals, sports personalities, entrepreneurs, and pop culture artists, helping them master communication skills to have an impact on their audiences. Read Randy’s Radio Ink archives here.


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