Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Taking a new step; uttering a new word is what people fear most." Dostoyevsky

"To be free is precisely the same thing as to be pious, wise, just and temperate, careful of one's own, abstinent from what is another's and thence, magnanimous and brave...To be an opposite of these is the same thing as to be a slave." Milton

"What is a good man but a bad man's teacher? What is a bad man but a good man's job? If you don't understand this you will get lost, however intelligent you are. It is the great secret." Lao-Tzu

Today's image: Trees, Snow and Fog by Peter Bowers. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

Trace v. Piers
No contest

In the Celebrity Apprentice competition Trace never had a chance. Had it been a contest of personality, a match awarded to the most charming or the nicest guy Trace would have walked away with it. But it was the Donald's game and in the world of business cash is king. Piers consistently "billed" better, game over. After all, management is paid to produce, responsible for results.

Did Piers game the system? Of course. Was Piers a jerk? Perhaps. It is safe to say he's got a sharp edge, a "shark's attitude" especially when compared to the reserve grace of the gentleman Trace.

The outcome serves to confirm one of the fundamentals of business. Being a nice guy is not enough, you've got to deliver; winners get the job done. Nice guys do finish first but only when they perform.

Truth be known a significant number of business failures can be traced to nice people not doing their jobs. Nice guys that don't do their job are working against the venture itself. Moreover, they too often are allowed to hold their job without the usual continuing qualification.

The nice guy can be dangerous if he's a mediocre or failed performer. The nice guy's social engineering skills may help him to gain popularity, leverage with the staff ("Everybody likes Alex, he's a great guy"). That popularity may even provide him with an unfair pass, one others don't get, a pass that hurts the enterprise ("Alex dropped the ball again but that's Alex, the guy really does work hard, he's doing his best"). The nice guy that fails to perform after being given fair warning and a chance to turn it around needs to be reassigned or released.

The failed nice guy is holding down a job that should go, to the ultimate benefit of the business, to a more productive person. In the words of the great Norm Goldsmith "If they're not helping you, they're hurting you." You need to do the right thing, move along the failed nice guy and make room for a contributor, an effective producer.

Some of the most dangerous sellers in media are the ones who do their best selling in the office. These are the champions of graduate level dog ate my homework. These sellers are always seen to be very, very busy. They have confused activity with progress and so have their managers.

Similarly, there are times when work ethic buys the wrong person a pass. Recently we were asked to take a meeting with a struggling director of NTR sales. This person was very busy, so tightly-scheduled with calls and related presentation prep, that we had to meet over a 6:30 am breakfast.

Bottom line - lots of activity, very few closed sales.

The person was openly failing on the job but given a pass time and time again because of work ethic ("The hardest working person in the company", "First in the office and last to go home every single day", "The hardest worker on the team, a class act") A classic mistake, the case of rewarding diligence over delivery.

We each earn our place on the team one day at a time. My personal preference is a positive work environment driven by values, a team where jerks are simply not tolerated. Freaks and mavericks always being welcome and valued additions.

The best performing teams are those that are held to established standards. Standards with well known consequences.

Meritocracy works best when everyone knows the rules of the game, when performance trumps personality, when productivity and progress are the most prized metrics.

Bonus: Never be late again. Thanks Googlers for GMail Custom Time.

It's what we don't know that will hurt us: Peter Ferrara deserves credit he's not yet getting. First, he gathered a group of radio's best and brightest for an idea summit early last month to discuss what was and what was not working with initiatives directed by the HD Radio Alliance. Second, he killed the ill-starred 2008 HD Radio Alliance creative campaign ("It's your radio") along with the two-year old "Discover it" tag line. Informed by his idea summit, Peter has refreshed the creative and developed a new tag line - "It's time to upgrade." Clearly, that's commendable progress.

What's still missing in these initiatives is disclosure, a serious and firm commitment to transparency. Going forward what are the goals and objectives, how exactly will performance, progress be measured? What were the goals/objectives in first quarter and how did we do? It comes down to defining success, establishing fair and reasonable quantitative metrics. What's par? Are we winning or losing? Making real progress or falling behind? It's what we don't know that will hurt us.

The HD Radio Alliance needs a scorecard, one that's shared and openly discussed with the industry. It's the right thing to do.

2004: "...increasingly it's all about audio and not at all about radio. We must dedicate ourselves to recruiting music programmers who possess an effective skill set eclipsing Selector expert and plays well with others...Going forward music radio must abandon the role of jukebox...Let's agree to stop describing our programming as compelling unless something actually happens on the radio station after the morning show that is not a liner, a sweeper, a promo, that day's music log, or one exceptionally good phone bit with a contest winner. Read the entire post here.