As so many of you get caught up in the nature of grinding out news and meeting deadlines, we often forget to slow down and share in the fellowship of helping out our colleagues.
Dave Wertheimer and I had a mantra that we followed as best we could when we were at KSTP: Rewarded behavior is repeated. Barring breaking news, we made it a top priority and intention to drop everything and constructively critique with fellow staffers, weekly, if not daily. While we weren’t perfect at it, I can honestly say we gave our best considering the nature of news.
It was not uncommon for us to page team members with a daily page of what they did right. Sometimes it was as simple as a great ending shot or a wonderful tight shot. We came to find out later that staffers were having a contest who could get the most pages.
Our thought was if we do not provide a target for our staff to hit, they would be aiming at nothing, like a blind archer, and that simply leads to frustration. People want to know where the target is located. Don’t hide it from them.
For staffers to hear what you are saying you have to apply the 4:1 rule of being heard. That means four positives must be shared first before a negative is shared, otherwise the negative (or constructive comment) will never be heard. It’s just human nature. Great leadership starts with understanding human nature, or relational management, and people want to be heard. NOTE: Your positive comments have to be sincere and not just a fleeting attaboy. Make it timely and specific. Don’t wait to say something great, do it now.
Whatever your station’s philosophy is when it comes to covering news, rewarding that behavior is paramount. Don’t wait until the yearly review to share your feedback. There is nothing more frustrating when staffers never hear from their leaders. If you want active writing from your reporters, reward it when they do it right. If you want your run-of-the-mill crime stories to be more memorable, reward it when they do it right. Better yet, show them how to do it with your daily communications. Find story examples from other markets that do hit the target and share with the staff. Provide the target!
At KSTP, Scott Libin, Mark Ginther and fellow staffers often started the morning meeting with a story from the previous day that hit the mark. You can imagine how it felt to the photojournalist and reporter when their story was shown as an example of great storytelling. It made them feel good, and when people feel good about themselves they often produce great results. Sometimes it wasn’t the entire story that was shown at the morning meeting. Sometimes it was as simple as a camera angle, a memorable live shot, etc. Whatever the case, it was an example of rewarding the right behavior that you want repeated. Rewarding behavior works. Ratings were going up and we were twice in five years NPPA Station of the Year, and morale was excellent. We certainly had our own challenges, but we did our best each day, and those challenges made us stronger.
Part of my job today is leadership coaching. I encourage people that they don’t need a title to be a leader. That means you can help to create the culture that you want by going out of your way for your colleagues and offering feedback. Sometimes, and most often the case, simply listening and honoring their presence is the best gift of all.
News can be a tough business. More than now your friendship and support is needed around the newsroom. Don’t wait for your leaders to step it up, you can take the first step yourself and lead the way. Don’t just show up to work, BE there, and be present. Your colleagues will appreciate your efforts in giving back and going out of your way to offer genuine feedback or a listening ear. You never know, that small effort can be the beginning of creating a new culture.