During my career, I’ve been lucky enough to do just about everything inside of a radio station, including being a General Manager and a Program Director. I’ve been on-air, produced commercials and imaging/promos, sold advertising, worked in the promotions department, and even filled in for a vacationing Traffic Director.
Among all of those experiences, my passion has always been in the programming arena, and that’s where I’ve enjoyed the most success. An important part of that success is because of mastering the art of managing up. If you’re unable to have a strong working relationship with your manager, one that is collaborative, the ability to accomplish anything becomes that much more difficult.
Here are Ten Steps to Managing Your Manager:
Respect – It starts with respect. If you don’t respect the person, then at least respect the position. If you don’t respect your market manager, and they don’t respect you, then you will never be able to satisfy them. They will never be satisfied with you. You will surely fail. I’ve seen situations where a PD had no respect for their Market Manager. Often, it’s not the one that hired them, and it often ends with them being terminated as the Program Director. I’ve counseled programmers that have found themselves in this situation. The decision they have to make is to find common ground where they can find respect for one another or start planning their departure.
The Objective – Understand the Market Manager’s objective for you to accomplish. What is their goal for your performance short-term and long-term? Share with them your personal and professional objectives. You and your market manager have to have clarity as to the objective. What is it you want to accomplish? Acknowledge what they want to accomplish. You have to know what success looks like to get there.
The Strategy – How you will accomplish your objective is driven by a strategy. Because most programmers come from the on-air side of the business and most managers come from the sales side of the business, it will sometimes put you at cross purposes. You will want to work with the Market Manager, and whatever outside resources you have, in helping to develop the station’s content strategy.
Communication – First and foremost; No Surprises. Having been in the role of PD, I always wanted to make sure that my Market Manager was aware of what my team was doing. Having been a General Manager, I hated surprises, because I never wanted to surprise my superior. My style, as a PD, was to copy my manager on all important memos. We met weekly in a formal setting but saw each other daily.
Be Culture Conscious – Every company has a culture and every radio station has a culture. Sometimes they aren’t the same, even though they should be. The station’s culture is set by the Market Manager. Be conscious of the positive aspects of your station’s culture and magnify them by your performance.
Amiability – Regardless of your approach, and short of needing a personality transplant, be likable. I worked hard at becoming friends with every market manager I worked with because a) it made work more fun and b) gave me insight into how to sell my boss on what I wanted to accomplish. I’m not suggesting to be fake friends or personal friends. Work friends.
Work Ethic – If you want to impress your team, never ask them to do something that you wouldn’t do. If you want to impress your manager, make sure that they know that you’re willing to put in the time and energy to accomplish the objectives for the stations. We don’t have jobs. We have careers.
Strengthen their Weakness – We all have them. What’s your blind spot? What’s your market manager’s blind spot? Without overstepping, providing you have a strength where they have a weakness, offer to provide strength where needed without calling out their weakness. This can be a slippery slope, so wear shoes with rubber soles.
Collaborate – The PD has to work well with the other department heads within a station cluster. The frustration that many programmers (creatives) have, and it’s one that I still wrestle with, is that almost everyone has an opinion on what you (the PD) should do. Collaborate with your manager. Don’t hesitate to ask for their opinion, advice, or direction. Collaborate with other department heads within your cluster. Your collaboration makes the manager’s job easier, and that makes your job easier.
Trust – Perhaps the most important step of all when it comes to managing your manager is to have trust and be trustworthy. If they can’t trust you, they won’t. That’s a dead-end for everyone. Never lie. Never allow the manager to be surprised. Be open and honest with them about everything. Everything. Never give your senior manager a reason to not trust you. Never.