The Future Comes To Those Who Make It

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln


When you’re walking along the beach, early in the morning, everything past the waves on the beach is invisible. You know there’s an ocean out there, but due to the fog bank, you can’t see it. Just like you know there’s a future out there, but you can’t see it.

This is where so many visions fail. The people involved can’t see past the fog bank, so they avoid anything about the future, missing the people on the small fishing boat and the ocean liner carrying passengers to far away places.  There’s a critical shortage of the Christopher Columbus’, John Glenn’s and Elon Musk’s who saw a future and made it happen.

Some of this is a simple vision block, we tell ourselves we don’t have a vision and so concentrate on the tactics that wind up taking us nowhere.  But some of it is also because we’re so tactically oriented that we don’t take the time to dream.  We think we have to be in a state of constant busyness – and you know what they say about a body in motion staying in motion.

Finally, there are those who think that planning gets in the way of a grander scheme to which we’re only a part of.  There’s an almost Biblical ban on strategy because it could get in God’s way.  I could be wrong, but I subscribe to what a famous dreamer, Galileo once said, ” I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, intellect and reason intended for us to forgo their use.

The perfect way to predict the future is to create it.  There’s a wonderfully simplistic, strategic sense to that, Abe.

Unsinkable Radio

If you look in your dictionary you will find: Titans – A race of people vainly striving to overcome the forces of nature. Could anything be more unfortunate than such a name, anything more significant?” – Arthur Rostron, Captain of the rescue ship Carpathia

This photograph is believed to be the last for the HMS Titanic, before it sank.

Everyone bragged on the Titanic in its time. It was too large to fail, it was unsinkable, and it was unthinkable that disaster could strike them. All those rich people would not have scrambled for tickets on the Titanic if they knew it was going to sink.

Sorry, but this still reminds me a little of radio as we vainly strive to overcome our own forces of nature. I am told almost daily that radio is in great shape and always will be. But actually, I can’t stop, because I remember history.

I am not anti-radio, and understand what it has done for me, but I can’t accept that everything will be as it was.

Change is inevitable, a part of life.  The radio industry is changing and won’t be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday.

The days of radio, television and print as the dominant media are ending, and the era of audio, video, digital and social have begun.

Toward the end of the Titanic’s cruise there were several things that were missed or neglected.  Had they acted on any of them the ship’s name “Titanic”  wouldn’t mean anything to us.  I’m wondering if we’re not seeing the signs and ignoring them, and are headed to a similar end?

Don’t fear change, embrace it!  Make change happen, don’t wait for it to happen.

Now Turn Right

True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.- Bill Owens

It’s hard to remember the days of paper maps, and going into a new town, driving while trying to figure out where you are. Just one of the reasons I love the navigation system in my Z4 as it “guides” me to places I haven’t been before.
Being that it’s a German car, the Nav voice is very specific and precise. “Turn right in one mile…now turn right.” I’ve been given the instructions and you can hear a subtle edge in her voice that I’d better do it.

But it’s more than being ordered around by a disembodied female voice, if you look on the screen you can see a place for instructions, and a map to give me context. What would it be like if the voice just ordered us around without the ability to glance at the map for that important context? She doesn’t tell me after I turn right I’ll have to immediately turn left, but the map does provide that context.

Somehow, being me, this reminded me of my early days as a Program Director. I was much more apt to tell people what to do without providing any kind of context…the why. Naturally, without the context, I wound up getting precisely what I’d asked for from the other person’s perspective. I’d often be frustrated that I didn’t get the result I wanted. Now I realize that without the context, I was asking people to read my mind…and that wasn’t a part of their job description.
My problem was that I was still managing, not leading.

A leader knows his or her role is one of people, not activities, and can’t afford to ignore the context. No one will automatically understand and you’ll be frustrated. Plus, the individual will never understand how their role connects to the bigger picture and the “why” for what they’re supposed to do. Instead of a team of motivated and challenged people, you’ll eventually earn a group of frustrated, unmotivated, unskilled robots who are waiting for you to do everything.

Believe me, one way is much more productive and fun than the other.

You See What You Want To see

“There are no facts, only interpretations.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I’ve been deeply involved with exploration into the Millennial generation for the past 18 months, and it’s an interesting venture.

No matter what we find in the research, there are people that are going to see the group as slackers, entitled, living with mom and dad, and even the generation that will destroy America.  The truth is that Millennials are an exciting generation that will bring huge, important changes to society that are good, as well as their own “lens” on life.  I was at a meeting with some interns last week, and I left the meeting feeling very optimistic and excited to see what the future holds with these talented people.

But, no matter what research we present, or how many Millennials they talk to, some people will only see them through the lens of their own interpretation or perspective. They aren’t able to see the potential good, only the negative image portrayed by the media.  Some of those who are unable to change their interpretations will miss an opportunity to build a sustainable media palate that appeals to Millennials, and will wind up fading away with the boomer generation.

Whether you are a small, single station in the Midwest, or a larger broadcast organization on the West Coast, or yes…a Network, you’re going to be impacted by the Millennials, a generation significantly larger than the boomers.  Simple facts of life – like nobody gets out alive – means that things are going to change.  Every day, 10,000 baby boomers file for social security. It’s inevitable.

But it’s not “bad.”  Do your own investigation of the generation, talk with them and really listen, understand how they’re different, and how they’re not.  Embrace the change, and ask for their help in navigating through the changes.  Don’t just sit there complaining while the juggernaut gets closer and closer, and finally runs right over you.


Are You Here To Serve or To Be Served?

“Too many leaders act as if the sheep… their people… are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.” – Ken Blanchard

I talked with Ken Blanchard recently, and I felt bad. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able read all of Ken Blanchard’s books. Yes, they’re usually short, and told in story form, but there are so many of them! But we were talking about leadership when he mentioned, “Are you here to serve, or be served?”
Ahhh…ok, that’s a really good question, rooted in one of his books I hadn’t read, “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know.” He teamed up with Mark Miller of Chick-Fil-A on this one. This co-author thing he does is one of the things he was asked about, and his response itself was a good lesson in leadership. “I like to collaborate. I’m better when I collaborate.” I thought a lot about that, and then realized that I am too! Is it possible that we all are?

But wait, that’s what I’d mention to talent as a rabbit trail. We’re talking about service.

My answer was that I’m here to serve…except when I’m not. Like a lot of people I focus on serving, but get caught up in being served – the struggle for recognition and the perks that come with the cool title. Even the term “servant leadership” is irritating sometimes. Serving means the perks and bennies aren’t as important as the tangible legacy you leave. It means we all have to win, not just one of us win.

It’s entirely possible I’m preaching to the choir at this point, because those who want to be served will have stopped reading after the last paragraph.

If you’re still here, Blanchard and Miller indicate great leaders serve in at least five ways:

  • See and shape the future: The leader is responsible for vision.
  • Engage and develop others: The leader is responsible to develop those around him or her.
  • Reinvent continuously: Life doesn’t idle, a true leader understands the need for change
  • Value results and relationships: You need to be able to exercise both in order to lead
  • Embody the values: If you say one thing and do another, you’re not leading.*

Just think about those qualities. They’re all higher focused and bigger picture than most alleged leaders concentrate on. I’d go as far as to say these five actions are the difference between leadership and management.

* This is the leadership principle that causes the most “leadership” failures. Or, you can think of it as the number one thing that holds people back from growing from managing to leading. There seems to be an inverse principle where the higher you get on the organizational food chain, the more you think you can fool people. But people are never as unaware or stupid as we may think. They hear you, but they also see you and your actions.