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April 18, 2014

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03/13/06 Radio's Spiral Dive

My father, an experienced private pilot, lived to share this story: “The snow was spinning and it was visually impossible to tell if we were flying level, going up or down. I looked at the instruments and realized we were in a spiral dive headed for the ground. I fought the controls with all my strength, but I could not pull the plane out of the dive. Knowing I was about to slam into the ground and die, I flashed back to something an instructor had told me many years before. Let go of the controls and the plane will correct itself and pull out of the dive.”

Moments later, the plane stopped spinning and broke out of the clouds, and my father was able to pull the plane up just before hitting the ground.

Imagine the radio equalivent of a spiral dive. The pilot is tugging hard at the controls. Time is running out, yet the pilot continues to cling to his or her outmoded solutions, believing they will prevail before disaster strikes. The instruments say that stock and confidence are at an all-time low. The people at the control tower see the plane heading for the ground, but they have confidence when the pilot reassures them he can pull it out. They believe him. But how long will it be before the plane hits the ground and breaks into a million little pieces?

In his book Millionaire Manager, management guru Curtis W. Symonds says the highest rate of failure is experienced by companies that over-control their operations. “They weren't running the business, it was running them,” says Symonds. “They were so busy counting the trees they couldn't see the forest.” Every day I hear from de-motivated radio managers who complain they are over-managed. Their workload is oppressive and their core strengths of running a radio station and generating revenue are being blocked by paperwork and politics. Sound familiar?

When insulated executives over-manage, ignore employee input, and fall in love with their own solutions without accurate feedback from the front lines, they are blindly flying in the snow and will eventually hit the ground with a BANG! Boardroom utopia keeps companies out of touch with their employees and customers. Schemes are invented to seduce Wall Street. Employees offer a better way, but they are not heard and soon give up hope.

When the reins are erratically being pulled left, then right, then back, a thoroughbred cannot keep his eye on the finish line. Turning radio thoroughbreds into micromanaged paperwork-pushers defeats their desire to win the race.

In flying school, I learned that arrogance is death for a pilot. The only way to pull an aircraft out of a spiral dive is to let go and allow the plane to correct itself. What works in aviation also works in corporations where nothing else has worked. Historically, corporations in trouble go back to the basics. They bring back the best people, listen to them, and empower them to do what they do best - and stay out of their way. It's the only way to prevent a spiral dive and soar to new heights.


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