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Marc Morgan

Are You A Manager Or A Mouse?

6-21-2013

You see it quite a bit in the political arena. In fact, it was a radio talk host who got me thinking about the idea for this article. In the course of discussing one of the issues du jour and whether Party No. 1 would handle it better than Party No. 2, he said, Party No. 1 isnt really advocating anything newer or better than Party No. 2. Party No. 1 just wants to be in charge. I soon began to notice this in the business world as well. The performance of Company A is deemed unacceptable to investors, shareholders, etc., and the current management team gets blown out. Then the new folks come in, throw a fresh coat of paint on things, do essentially what their predecessors did, and the results stay the same: unacceptable.

Clearly, this isnt a new concept. But Ive been seeing it more and more, especially in companies, industries, and institutions that are either exceptionally challenged or just flat-out broken. So I felt compelled to try to describe it in terms that would put a clearer perspective on the phenomenon. After all, Ive had the opportunity to be around an industry that is exceptionally challenged, radio, and an institution that is flat-out broken, politics. So Im asking: Do they really have a better mousetrap, or do they just want to be the new head mouse catcher?

Lets take a closer look at this: If youre the newly elected mayor of Pork Belly or the new general manager of WXXX, you probably got your new gig because A) some contingency of folks the electorate, the station owner, etc. thought things werent going as well as they should be, and B) the aforementioned folks thought you were the person who could turn things around.

And it begins. Youre in the ultimate pressure cooker. Scrutiny, judgment, second-guessing, and much more have now entered your world, big time. And you have to make a choice: You can actually try to develop a better
mousetrap (focus on a solution), or you can use the bully pulpit of your new head mouse catcher status to just try to keep your job (focus on survival).

If you choose to take the solution route, here are some thoughts that will help you:

Clarity is necessary before solutions can be developed. Every problem Ive ever seen has been surrounded by clutter. It comes in the form of everybody elses opinion and analysis (noise). It comes in the form of individual agendas and self-interest. Listening to people who have knowledge of your challenges is crucial to developing good solutions, but remember two things: First, there will always be forces that will disagree with whatever it is you do. Thats just the nature of things. And, second, you got the job because you know what youre doing. Trust your abilities.

Clarify which issues are the ones that are having a real, material effect on performance. It is still amazing to me that people in both politics and business will beat their heads against the wall trying to solve a problem that isnt a core issue. Is your sales problem caused by product issues, your sales systems, or your people? Or all three? Get clarity on what the real problem is, then begin to work on solutions.

Some problems arent yours to solve. The size and scope of your operation might preclude you from being able to solve certain problems. For instance, as GM of WXXX, you cant have as big an influence on certain technological issues or public-policy issues as the NAB, or the whole industry working together. So you voice your opinion to the appropriate parties, then move on to other issues, like developing content consumers will seek out or making sure you have great sales talent who are skilled at selling multi-platform solutions and developing great relationships with customers. The point is, dont get roadblocked by the macro issues that garner a lot of trade press. Solve the problems that are within your scope, and your success will have a ripple effect on the industry.

Solutions arent real unless theyre tied to results. Solving a problem is supposed to better your condition in some sort of measurable way. If you identify a core problem and then develop a solution, there has to be a way to assess just how good your solution was. If your identified problem is sales and the root of that problem is your sales talent, you would evaluate your success based on some kind of talent assessment of the new sales team youve hired and, ultimately, how much your revenue grew. And dont forget one very important rule: When you and your team are developing solutions, dont let people leave the room until everyone agrees on what success looks like after the implementation of the fix.

As a longtime believer that great organizations are built from the ground up, with good, basic practices, I can assure you that focusing on solutions makes focusing on survival less of a necessity. Good luck, all you mouse
catchers!

Marc Morgan is the former SVP and chief revenue officer for Cox Media Group; he retired in 2011. He can be reached at marc@marcmorganconsulting.com.



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