Note: I've been in communication frequently with Lee Abrams this week due to his unfortunate departure at Tribune. Like Paul Harvey used to say there is always "the rest of the story" and what hit the press has another side (see it on Radio Ink.com). Lee has a lifetime of credibility in the radio industry and I told him that though he was recently painted with a brush, which was out of character, my guess is that the industry who knows him knows there is another side to the story and therefore his career is not tarnished. In any event, during our discussions Lee sent me this piece, which he wrote, which is worth repeating. Enjoy.- Eric Rhoads' (published as provided and not edited)
The old wave of content companies, as well as a lot of other companies are in trouble. Not too hard to figure that out. But if you look at those that are clearly the future, I think you'll see certain cultural characteristics that make it possible. Re-sizing, re-thinking, re-inventing are all parts of the equation, but to accomplish any of those ingredients, it takes a culture...an attitude, to pull it off. Here are a few of those characteristics that you'll see in most if not all of the 21st Century game changers:
*Freedom from Politics: Almost impossible on a scale of a big company...but these leaders are surprisingly short on infighting, fear, and political nonsense. Many have giant "teamwork" signs in the workplace, but they create more of an eye roll than actions. we really have to work at this one.
*Youthful thinking: That doesn't mean young as much as young thinking. I'd venture to say that part of Obama's appeal is his relatively youthful thinking...or Steve Jobs, no young guy himself, out thought the old school veterans and re-invented music distribution.
*Hungry: There's not a lot of hunger at the big companies.
*To Hell With What Anyone thinks: If outsiders or competitors are appalled, but you think you're doing the right thing, then do it. In today's blog society you need thick skin to cut through the sharp criticism and do what you believe.
*Mental diversity encouraged: Different kinds of people...different POV's...different M.O.s. All viewpoints coming together into a newer and more relevant plan. Veterans, newbies and everyone in between contributing. Breaking down the ivory tower.
*Spirituality: Not in a traditional religious sense, but in the idea that you're simply not doing a "job"---it's a higher calling.
*AFDI: Having the ability to execute dreams. Can't stress this enough. Dreaming is easy...doing is the hard part.
*Rule Breaking: Challenging the rulebook...understanding some rules are timeless...others are not.
*Create fans not users. Take Apple...or the early MTV...or even Southwest Airlines. They have fans. Fans don’t just happen...but when they do, you have a whole new dimension to your potential.
*All the senses: Eyes, ears and minds. In TV we sometimes forget about sound...in newspapers it's the eyes.
The thought is trying to stimulate people on as many levels as you can.
*Visionary leadership. On the local level. Is the person leading a "boss" that is inflexible or one with a vision that creates the environment for brilliance?
*Complete Package. These companies rarely tweak. They deliver the complete package from customer service to every element of the product.
*Meeting free: Meetings are simple, fast, actionable. No painful all day meetings that go nowhere. The meeting is way out of control at most media companies...it makes forward motion a painful and tiring experience.
*Passion: Self explanatory...BUT--The passion has to be channeled into a singe direction. being passionate about the past is fine, but its more important to be passionate about NOW and the future and the plan that'll get you there.
*Not Average: Average is not acceptable. You know that most companies accept average as the standard. Exceptional ones do not. EVERYTHING gets pushed beyond average.
*Radical thinking OK: These companies don't have an 'out of bounds'. Radical ideas are fine.
*Mobility and Urgency: Good idea. It gets done. quickly and well. There's no time to drag out things.
*Instincts: Smart People have good instincts...and trust them. Not recklessly, but there IS confidence in the instincts of themselves and their people.
*Fearlessness: If we had the same fearlessness in everything we did as we do in our fearless approach to journalism, we'd be better off.
*Loose: Uptight companies are not conducive to creating amazing products.
*Truth: They don’t lie. No silly marketing slogans that substitute excellence with slogans. Truth is an under-rated selling tool.
*Living on the streets not the conference room. Why are Hop Hop and Country the Top 2 music genres? Because they are based in Nashville and Watts, not the 42nd floor of the Sony Building
*Challenge tradition: Challenging is in their DNA. Doesn’t mean blowing up tradition...but going through the exercise of challenging it.
...None of these are easy because a memo aint going to do it. We, collectively have to force this spirit.