You may know me.
My name is Ryan Maguire. And for nearly three decades I worked as a program director on spoken word radio (or as they now refer to the position, “content director”).
I have managed channels and channels in both sports and news in nine different markets across the country. I have lived on both the East Coast and the West Coast and in different parts of the Midwest.
I’ve worked for all the big operators (iHeart, Audacy, Cumulus), a few local broadcasters, and even some companies that no longer exist.
Well, depending on who you speak to, you will hear different things about me. Some people will say I’m a great guy and have a sharp, contented mind. Some will tell you that I am an unsuspecting idiot. Hey, you don’t spend thirty years in an industry without dragging a few people the wrong way … even if you never intended to.
Anyway, I am writing this letter to congratulate you on becoming a new program director … uh … CONTENT DIRECTOR (old habits die hard, I apologize) and to give you some advice that I think you find useful will find.
First, it’s hard to get featured in an industry as competitive as ours. I’m sure you came a long way to get here and you beat up a lot of other applicants. Hats off for that!
Second, you are facing the greatest challenge of your career. You might think you knew how tough this job is, but trust me … it’s going to be MUCH harder. Here’s the good part, as tough this job is, you could make it one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Look, I don’t have all the answers. I’ve won and I’ve lost. What I have is experience and knowledge that I have made through many mistakes.
I could write you a novel with clever ideas and concepts to help you succeed in your position. But believe me, you won’t have that much free time. So I’ll cut it down to five key things that I think are important to you.
Here you are….
PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS IMPORTANT
You’ve probably heard that everyone is talking about Ted Lasso right now. I honestly haven’t seen a minute of the show. Not because I don’t want to, but simply because I don’t want to sign up for ONE MORE streaming service. That being said, I don’t have to watch Jason Sudeikis’ curious comedy to tell you that personal relationships are gold to anyone in a leadership position.
You have to manage upwards, manage downwards and manage sideways. Here’s most people’s dirty little secret: They have to LIKE who they work with. If not, find something else to do. Hey we live in the gig economy, don’t tempt talented people to take advantage of this.
GET SOME PROFITS AND GET THEM EARLY
The worst label a new manager can have is that of an “empty suit”. The best way to earn your teammates respect is to show them that you can get things done. Find a way to enforce some things that got stuck in the pipeline. If you can’t do this, you run the risk of being faded out prematurely.
This can be something simple. Maybe it’s better communication between departments. Perhaps a delayed expense report will be approved. Maybe the television in the bullpen will be repaired. Just find a way to prove to people that you are not a “talk everything and do nothing” type.
Whenever I get a new gig, I always have one-on-one calls with everyone associated with the brand and ask them, “What do you NEED from me?” Press them for honest answers.
BE HONEST AND DIRECTIVE
Trust me, everyone on the team wants to know what you think. Don’t let her guess. One of the biggest things that stress any employee is not knowing where they stand with the boss. Don’t have a poker face. If you like something they did, TELL THEM. Don’t offer false flattery. Tell them what you liked about it and why. And whatever you do, don’t dance around difficult conversations. Not everyone will like what you have to say, no matter how well you gloss it over. Hell, some might even pretend they’re okay with what you say and they MF you in their car on the way home. However, once you’ve successfully built a relationship with your teammates, they will understand that what you are saying is real and comes from a desire to improve it. You will get pushback from time to time. It’s only natural.
FOCUS ON YOUR OWN HOUSE, NOT ON THE COMPETITION
If you’re like me, you are a competitive person. They don’t like to lose to the stations across the street. They want better reviews, better streaming and digital numbers, and higher billing. Hey, we ALL love to brag about rights.
Here’s the deal: the more you focus on the competition, the harder your job becomes. Instead, focus more on YOU and less on YOU for any metrics you track. Have you been increasing your numbers month to month, quarter to quarter, and year to year? If not why Focus on making yourself better. The rest usually takes care of itself.
DARE TO INNOVATE AND CREATE OTHERS
This can be difficult in an era of corporate crisis, but it is one that you must continue to strive for. We work in an industry that has been starved for innovative ideas. Why? We never really empowered people to produce them. Always work with your teammates. All of them. Full time, part time and everyone else in between.
Maybe it’s a promotion, a new show segment, a new podcast, an event idea or a crazy concept that you can hardly understand. RECORD ALL. It is unlikely that the best ideas will come from you. Don’t worry, this is a GOOD thing. The more you show your teammates that you want to support their ideas, the harder they’ll work to make sure the ideas are successful.
That’s the best advice I can give you. I hope, of course, that you will help.
If you ever have something you’d like to work on or just someone to venture out to, please feel free to reach out to us. Like you, I’ve made my life’s work my hobby and talking shop never gets old.
All good and continue much success!