Q It Up: "I'm a Prodder!"

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95by Sterling Tarrant

Everyone in radio knows what the abbreviations GM, GSM, MD, CE, and AE stand for. General Manager, General Sales Manager, Music Director, Chief Engineer, and Account Executive. (Although, I always thought GM stood for "Giver of Money.") Looking at the list, there's no abbreviation for Production Director. For example, when the receptionist or OM (Office Manager) or TD (Traffic Director) answers the phone and the caller asks to speak to the PD, do they ever send the call to your desk? No, it goes to the Program Director. Program Directors don't get too happy when you say to others, "I'm the PD." So I've been thinking. What's a good abbreviation for my position?

I've occasionally used "Prod. Dir.," and one day it hit me. That's really a pretty good explanation of what I do. I prod Account Executives to get their spots in on time. I prod announcers to get their spots done. I prod myself to figure out how to communicate ways to get listeners to respond to a message. I prod along, cranking out copy after voice-over after production ad infinitum all year long including late on Friday nights and an occasional month of Sundays, so that in the end I can stand proud, shoulders back, chest puffed out, regal expression on my face as I defiantly struggle to mutter the words after an exhausting week of reading run-on sentences like these: "I'M A PRODDER!"

1996 is here and I'm still prodding. But I'm making some decisions to make my prodding more organized, productive and effective. I've been reading "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. Actually, this is the second time I'm reading it. The first time, I checked it out from the library and effectively just watched it sit on my coffee table. My mother-in-law also loaned me her set of tapes that go along with the book. She thought it was about time I became effective at life as well. In her own special way, my mother-in-law's a prodder, too.

After reading, listening, teaching and applying the material, I have decided not to make any New Year's Resolutions. You see, I've made resolutions in the past, and I've never kept them. Covey explains this. He says if you make promises and don't keep them, that's big time withdrawals from people's emotional bank accounts.

For instance. You promise an Account Executive that you personally will complete the spec spot for their big new client "Hunky Dory Hankies" by Monday. Tuesday rolls around and it's still not done. You've broken your promise to the AE. She's upset, as well she should be. What's worse is that from now on, when you promise her a spec will be done by a certain time, she's not gonna trust you. You're overdrawn in her emotional bank account toward you.

The same thing happens to yourself. If you promise yourself that you're going to have new promos done every Thursday, or you're gonna keep a weekly lunch meeting with a co-worker, or you're gonna lose weight, or...or...or...insert whatever here, and you don't keep those promises to yourself. Pretty soon, you realize that your word isn't your bond. Now you don't even bother feeling bad if you break your promises. You knew your own character wouldn't allow you to keep them anyway.

So as an effective "prodder" I'm not making any resolutions this year. No, I'm making promises. And the first promise is this: I won't make any promises unless I know I can keep them. The second promise is: I will keep all promises.

Another promise: I will spend time every day on the things that are important, but not urgent. This is also explained in the Covey book. For Prodders, this would be things like teaching others how to do what you do, spending time building relationships, learning what makes good copy and production, expanding your mind to new ideas and new ways of doing things. For me, personally, it means losing weight, exercising, devoting myself more to my life than to my job.

How am I going to do this? Good question. I only know some of the answers. I think Suzanne Becker's comment in last month's Q it Up about limiting the Account Executives' time to only two hours a day with her was good. Now that may not be the best for you, but think about the concept of "limiting time." You only have a set amount of time in the day--time for writing, for producing, for organizing, for answering phone calls, for teaching, for training, etc.. I plan on limiting my time for phone calls to once a day, for instance, right before lunch, unless it's a bona fide emergency. And I'm going to train my staff on what that is. All other times, take a message. I plan to devote my mornings to writing and my afternoons to production, because that's when I do those things best. My lunch hour is going to be devoted to exercising, and I'm working on the ways to accomplish that. I'll organize first and last thing every day, and plan out, not just today or the next day, but schedule for the week. That's another thing that Covey teaches.

One other thing, I am going to be accountable. I will set others in position of accountability over me in my personal life to make sure I'm living up to my promises. For the major promises I will write them out and have them signed by witnesses so that there will be something that I can be bound by.

Sounds strict, doesn't it? It's really not. When you know what you have to do to be effective and successful, and you know how you're going to do it and what values you're going to do it by, and when you have others who are willing to help you do it, then you find yourself truly free. It's interdependence, working together with others as a team to accomplish what's best.

That does it for Q it Up this month. I know the subtitle says "The RAP Network Speaks" but I really wanted to take the full column this month, mainly because when I think of the noble profession of "Production Director," I don't want to be just a "Prodder." Prodding reminds me of moving cattle with electric shocks. I would much rather think of a Production Director being a leader in radio, one who has talents above voice work, multitrack recording, mike placement, EQ settings, and copywriting. Those are all good, but my vision of the best "Prod. Dir." is one who strives to be a director of others, one who gets the trust, confidence, and respect from others that makes them want to do the best Production possible. Welcome to 1996. Let's not just be facilitators, organizers, and creative gurus. Let's be the best. Period.

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