Saturday, May 12, 2007

Photo: Spring Flowers Series 50

Kelly Hafermann

Cool pic, thank you!

"Presentation rule: when something appears on a slide presentation, assume the world knows about it and deal with it accordingly." William Swanson

Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management: unwritten rule number five...

"Don't think that what shows up in a presentation is private. It will come out. Accept this as a given, and deal with this fact up front. As a leader, when people try to convince you that something you are looking at on the screen - proprietary, competition sensitive and so forth - will never leave the room, assume it already has and deal with it accordingly.

In fact, assume that it will be published in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times or The Washington Post. And always maintain an atmosphere of total integrity."

Recently the day job has me involved in a number of new initiatives where an NDA is required. After decades of work in the confidential activities of startups, turnarounds, acquisitions and divestitures my sense is William Swanson is correct. As a practical matter the NDA is not worth much. It does serve to memorialize the sensitivity of the situation, it does put all parties on notice creating a record in the process but it does not prevent disclosure. Further, it does not provide for any realistic remedy. Seems to me you either trust those involved or you don't. Swanson is right. Total integrity, always.

Congrats & cheers: Paul Gallis, Clark Weber and Jim Scully on a simply outstanding event! The Chicago's Music Row reunion was one to remember, a rare moment filled with bold-faced names. The magic of the gathering was the diversity, the depth, the rich mix of those attending. Different generations from different career paths coming together. New kids on the block, folks at the top of their game, and pros from all walks hanging out with true legends. A heady time for us mortals in attendance. Many played catch up, others met for the first time. Fun for all attending. Art Vuolo rolled video and is certain to release one if his commemorative DVDs. Paul tells me the official photog will have pics to share soon. If you happened to have been at the event and have pics to share please send them (jpeg) to Paul at Chicagosmusicrow (at) gmail (dot) com.

While in Chicago enjoyed an incredible dinner with the legendary Fred Winston. Fred has a knack, a gift for discovering and sharing really exceptional small rooms; he finds places packed with character and overflowing with amazing food. The groceries were terrific and Fred's company purely one-of-a-kind. Tom Kent said it best recently. Referring to the Robert Redford character in the film The Natural, Tom said "Fred is the Roy Hobbs of radio, he is the best that ever was."

Speaking of Redford his first Sundance Cinema opened here yesterday. As a former theatre circuit owner allow me to say it is one beautiful property. Kudos and cheers to Redford and company. Dean Robbins has the back story via Isthmus here.

Where is the line? Who draws it? It's the topic of discussion. Imus, Sharpton, O&A, JV & Elvis. How far is too far? What should the consequences be? My suggestion is the marketplace is the best arbiter and should be in all cases not involving violations of the law. It's a shame, too many operators are afraid to stand up today. What is needed now more than ever is for operators to stand up in support of their performers. We need operators who understand the importance of doing the right thing, standing up to defend their way of doing business. Operators willing to allow the marketplace to decide.

Leadership must take responsibility. Performers don't just go off the rez by themselves. In my experience this most often happens as a result of benign neglect. What management allows it encourages. Performers need guidance, need coaching, need direction, need to understand where the boundaries are (even the ones we draw in chalk, having a show road map on a magic slate is far better than no understanding). The Imus, O&A and JV & Elvis incidents each represent a failure of leadership. Consistently, the #1 complaint of performers is "no feedback," the #2 complaint is "when feedback is given it's negative." The secret is to catch performers doing something right. The process begins with a deep understanding of standards, expectations and consequences.

The operating practice "not to offend" was born in the earliest days of broadcast. From his new book, Same Time, Same Station, James L. Baughman writes "They (CBS & NBC), in effect, collectively signed a social contract by entering radio. They would curtail their freedom of expression - laboring not to offend the moral guardians - in exchange for continued access to the great audience of radio listeners...Television's first generation of executives and producers understood radio's basic commandment: the moral sensitivities of any significant portion of the great audience must not be upset. That 'portion' might not represent most viewers. Indeed, a minority adept at letter-writing wielded extraordinary power...Broadcasters were expected to behave...Remarked the actor and producer Desi Arnaz, 'You are coming into their house." ("The Mother of Television", pgs 15, 25).

The notion of being "an invited guest" in someone's home, the once accepted operating mindset, may now seem quaint, indeed anachronistic. Too often it remains the single perspective of law makers, regulators and the gang of self-proclaimed media watch dogs. Work done or positions taken in the name of protecting our children has become a popular, albeit potentially chilling, cause celebre.

Perhaps the lesson learned is the power of the freak show. The monster that must be fed. The always on world of the 24-hour news cycle. Sound bites driving storytelling without the homework of proper context.

Closed circuit to TV producers: Stop calling Al Sharpton. The man is a hack past his best used by date. Granted having him comment on matters of race is the quick and easy solution to getting a "black pov" into the mix but here's the deal - Sharpton has a pattern, he does not speak for others but only for his own benefit. Hint: neither Jessie, Tavis, or any other single public figure speaks for or represents the community. What's needed here is clear. Do the homework and develop a stronger, more relevant rolodex of qualified thought leaders. You should not be waiting for a race issue to invite persons of color to join the conversation. When the talking heads are all white and male you have lost your way.