Spend Some Time In The Rearview Mirror


(By John Shomby) Have you heard this quote? “There’s a reason why the rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield – where you are going is way more important than where you’ve been.”

Granted, it’s not a good idea to dwell on your past and this quote nails it, BUT what can we learn from our past that will help us shape our future?  How about you spend a little time looking in your “rearview mirror” right now?  Mistakes are going to happen, but we should really examine what we’ve done to avoid any repeats.

I made a list of what I learned, and you’re sure to identify with some. I’ve saved the best one for last and will use it as a shining example that has haunted me for years. Stand by for that. (No reading ahead, either!)

  1. Be open to criticism no matter who’s delivering it. Listen to what your staff and listeners think. 
  2. Spend time with your boss and understand his/her personality, management style, what excites him/her, and what doesn’t, and learn from it. Manage up as much as you manage down.
  3. Collaborate with all other departments. Know roles and responsibilities and understand their issues. You are all in this together.
  4. Don’t rest on your laurels. Savor success but don’t dwell on it. You may be the heritage station but there was a time when you weren’t, and your competitor is trying to take that away from you. Don’t be content with being the “first in”, because you could be the “first out”. Always have an underdog mentality.
  5. Don’t be afraid to say, “I Don’t Know”. Show your vulnerability. Utilize the talents of your staff and other departments to help you. This helps build trust.
  6. Don’t get so excited about a job offer that you fail to do your own due diligence. Interview the interviewer. If it’s a great opportunity but your instincts tell you otherwise, go with your gut. Whatever the position, do your own employer homework.

This is where my very specific example comes in:

I had just started as a Program Director at a new CHR in Portland, Oregon. Before our launch date, I was at our sister station in Tampa to assemble the music library. There, I met the weekend/overnight talent who proceeded to pepper me with questions and then pitch me on being the next star night jock in Portland, Oregon. I had no desire to even talk to him, let alone hire him.

A few years later, I was hired to launch a new CHR in Dallas, and that same young man from Tampa – now a morning host in Salt Lake City – found me and wanted to be our night jock there. There were too many things I didn’t like about his on-air persona, so I went about my business and never called him back. At one point, our station was ranked second overall in the market, and knew someone would come after us.

Well, not one, but two, stations did within two days of each other. Not only that but guess who was the night jock on one of the stations? (In those days, nights on a CHR was prime time.) He proceeded to topple us soundly, just about by himself, in two rating periods with his relentless attitude on and off the air. I knew him as Dave but, there, he called himself Kidd Kraddick!

The rest was history. He went on to own Dallas for years and our station flipped to Classic Rock a year later.

If someone wants some of your time, give them the opportunity. Don’t ignore them. Remember – those you pass on the way up are most probably the same you will pass on the way down or, worse yet, could change the entire course of your career. 

Learn from your past. Make sure you remember what’s in that rearview mirror. Just don’t dwell on it. As Winston Churchill once said – “If we don’t learn from history, we are destined to repeat it!”

Based in Nashville, TN, John Shomby is the owner and CEO of Country’s Radio Coach. He is focused on coaching and mentoring artists, radio programmers, and on-air talent to help them grow and develop inside the radio station and the industry. Reach John at [email protected] and 757-323-1460. Read John’s Radio Ink archives here.


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