Archive for the ‘CMMA’ Tag

The 8 Essential Leadership Skills for Today’s Communications Manager

By:  Tom Morse, Principal Multimedia Project Manager, SAS

What does it take to be an effective leader of a corporate communications team? True leaders embody qualities that enable their team to deliver results and value, while building employee loyalty. At a time when market forces, globalization, and a new generation of employees is changing the workplace, the old command-and-control approach to management no longer works. Corporate communications managers must engage with employees in a way that leads to their success, the success of the department and the corporation.

Leadership and Management
Media_Leadership_QuoteMuch has been written about the differences between leadership and management. In many cases the terms are used interchangeably. While each has their own function and system of actions, there is a difference. Leadership is a broader concept involving strategic vision, while management involves the fundamental skills required to deliver tactical objectives. In most cases communications managers must do both because the relationship between leadership, management, and followers is complex. Experienced leaders understand they don’t have subordinates, because to lead is to have followers, and following is always voluntary.

Thanks to many of my CMMA and MCA-I colleagues for sharing their ideas about leadership. Their thoughts have helped shape my thinking on the eight behaviors central to your success as a corporate communications manager.

1. Vision/Purpose: As the leader of an organization you need set a clear, compelling vision for your team and the work they deliver. It’s about establishing a vision, not necessarily being seen as a visionary. A well-reasoned vision for the work of your team is critical in uniting your people behind a purpose they can feel confident in supporting.
Leaders: Inspire and empower – Managers: Provide resources

2. Character: People follow those they can believe in – leaders who demonstrate integrity, honesty, determination, and respect for others. As a leader it’s important you model the behaviors you want demonstrated by members of your team. Their attitude and work ethos is largely a reflection of your approach to the job. As a leader it’s important to know the skills of the people on your team and delegate accordingly. There are also times you should take the lead. Not to show you are “part of the team,” but to stay grounded in the understanding of their needs and to earn their trust and loyalty.
Leaders: Lead from in front – Managers: Provide structure

3. Listen Courageously: While a manager can establish controls, a leader must do more. To succeed it’s important to be a good listener, remain open to input from all stakeholders and respectful of their ideas. A leader needs to learn how to ask questions and not be afraid to utilize the collective knowledge of those around them. A successful leader must develop the ability to listen carefully and act courageously when called upon to do so.
Leaders: Seek opportunity – Managers: Control risk

4. Communicate Clearly: Interpersonal skills and the ability to motivate people has become a core competency of leadership. As a manager you must communicate effectively with members of your team and serve as the principal ambassador of your organization. Be transparent – those around you will respond positively if your decision-making process is viewed as open, fair, and consistent.
Leaders: Energize and inspire achievement – Managers: Coordinate effort

5. Demonstrate Flexibility: The speed of business requires constant monitoring of business trends, directions, and opportunities. Armed with this information, it’s your job to listen courageously and communicate clearly any change in direction. Consider the best ideas from those around you and formulate goals the team can rally behind. But remain true to your principles and the mission of your organization. Being flexible does not mean constantly changing direction. Your credibility as a leader requires focus and directing the effort of your team on the most promising opportunities.
Leaders: Deal with change – Managers: Deal with status quo

6. Embrace Risk: Guardians of the status quo can never be leaders. It takes courage to seek new and better ways your team can contribute value back to the corporation. As a left-brain, right-brain activity, this is one of the most challenging aspects of being a leader. But, it’s not about taking risk for the sake of doing something different. It’s about developing new ideas that deliver true business value. Be prepared for change and when the opportunity is right, pursue it.
Leaders: Pursue innovation – Managers: Facilitate process integration

7. Technical Competence: As a member of the management team you’re accountable to the organization for delivering business results, not demonstrating technical prowess. As a leader you need to be fully abreast of rapidly changing technology. You need a keen understanding of the issues and the expertise needed to address these challenges while ensuring the success of your team. It does not mean you need to be a technical expert in all aspects of communication, but you must stay informed about the forces shaping our industry.
Leaders: Create a learning culture – Managers: Process control for sustained results

8. Build Your Team: A leader is only as effective as the team they build. Be passionate. Inspire others to dream and provide them the opportunity to achieve. Demonstrate you value them as people, as well as contributors to the organization. Recognize and reward their efforts and that of others to reinforce those actions. As a leader your success will be measured by the success of others.
Leaders: Select talent and mentor – Managers: Guide and provide direction

Leadership Journey
To become a better leader think back to a time in your career when you were a follower. Which leaders inspired you to make your best effort? Each of us possessed strengths, talents, and the wisdom that comes with experience. We also have flaws, something a successful leader never loses sight of – we’re human after all. Some people are born to be leaders; others develop the skills that enable them to lead. If you truly aspire to a leadership position, or want to make the most of your opportunity, work hard at these eight skills. It promises to be a rewarding journey.

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Advice from Don Corleone, “Crash” Davis and Others for Todays MediaPros

The lessons in life are learned in many ways. As children we learn from our parents. A solid education teaches us to accept the challenge of learning on our own. But through it all there is one constant, one source as reliable as Don Corleone in The Godfather promising, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” I refer of course to the movies, a source of wisdom for the ages.


Lessons in life are learned in many ways

As media producers the movies have a lot to teach us about how to create effective programs. Some of the best lessons I’ve learned about this business crystalized in my mind hearing movie dialogue. Here is some of what I’ve learned.

Beginning, Middle, End: “If you’re going to become true dodgeballers, then you’ve got to learn the Five D’s of dodgeball: Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge!” DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story – From this small classic art film, dodgeball legend and Coach of the Average Joe’s, Patches O’Houlihan, (Rip Torn) offers great advice. Programs need a beginning (Dodge), a middle (Duck, Dip, Dive), and an ending (Dodge). The beginning and end are usually the easy parts. Avoid the flying wrenches and budget time for the hard work of constructing the middle.

Trust Your Instincts: “You just got lesson number one: don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.” Bull Durham – When veteran minor league catcher “Crash” Davis (Kevin Costner) gives hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) this advice, he should listen. “Crash” has seen it all, done it all, including life in “The Show.” As media producers we bring our own experiences to every project. Trust your instincts and build upon what you believe. “Crash” believes in, “the hanging curve, high fiber, good scotch… that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone… and there should be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter.” What do you believe in?

Own the Project: “We can do that; we don’t even have to have a reason.” Caddyshack – When golf course maintenance is entrusted to Carl Spackler, (Bill Murray) life at the upscale Bushwood Country Club is never the same. In reviewing a client’s messaging needs, what production element inspires your creativity? It could be an idea of how to creatively frame the message. An off-beat narrative style might fit, or contracting a composer for an original score might work. Like gophers on a golf course, ideas pop up constantly. Find something about a project that can get you excited. Than do it. Why, because you can. Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) the club’s resident Zen ace golfer offers this bit of timeless advice, “There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”

Take Creative Risks: “Greatness courts failure.” Tin Cup – Roy McAvoy, (Kevin Costner) former golf prodigy turned driving range pro sees life differently from most people. Never afraid to take a risk, to put it all on line, Tin Cup believes that “When a defining moment comes along you define the moment or the moment defines you.” As media producers there are times to lay up and times to go for it. After losing his chance to win the U.S. Open Tournament by recording a 12 on the last hole, his girlfriend assures him, “Five years from now nobody will remember who won or lost, but they’re gonna remember your 12!” When the project is right, and maybe sometimes when it isn’t, just go for it!

Go with Your Strengths: “Forget about the curve ball Ricky, give him the heater.” Major League – With the game on the line Indian’s Coach Lou Brown (James Gammon) implores Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) to go with his strength. As a media producer you need to know your own strengths. There are projects to push the boundaries and stretch creatively. Then there are those projects that need to be done to keep the lights on and the bills paid. As team catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) tells prima donna third baseman Roger Dorn, (Corbin Bernsen) “Ya know Dorn, I liked you so much better when you were just a ballplayer. If you wanna be an interior decorator now that’s none of my business. But some of us still need this team.” Remember, the media business is a business, first and foremost. When bills need to be paid, do what you do best.

Share Success: “I did it all, I listened to the voices, I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what’s in it for me!” Field of Dreams – A client comes to you with their project and you produce it. What did you produce? You produced their project. Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) learned this lesson and shared all that he had. Sometimes we’re fortunate and can initiate our own work, but more often than not work comes from paying clients. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster) may never had a turn at bat, but discovered his true calling. Much as you have a job to do, so does the client. Production, like baseball, is a team sport. Hold onto your values, never sell the farm, share in the success… and they will come.


Production, like baseball is a team sport

What inspires you? To be successful as a media producer, or in any avenue of life, find what motivates you and pursue it. As communication professionals we’re fortunate to work in a field that opens doors to opportunity for expression. Every project is an opportunity to find ways to overcome obstacles and help others deliver their message. We use equipment people in other professions envy. So make it fun and never, never refuse The Don.

Joy of the Job: Turning Work into Play

As communication professionals, work is often less about where we go than the things we do.  Often our work is done at home, while seated in 23A, on location, or somewhere in the cloud.  Yet how fortunate we are to work in a profession that provides an outlet for creativity and imagination.  If that’s not how you see your work it’s time for a mindset reset.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  This quote from George Bernard Shaw offers the philosophical view.  Business entrepreneur and investor, Sir Richard Branson, puts it into actionable terms, “Create the kind of workplace and company culture that will attract great talent.  If you hire brilliant people, they will make work feel more like play.”

Not part of a company?  Doesn’t matter.  Branson’s analogy still holds.  Communication work is normally done as a team.  Some projects can be done solo, but more often than not our work is done in teams.  What about turning work into play?  It doesn’t mean you don’t work hard or never face boring tasks.  But would you rather be doing something else?

I asked a number of friends and professional peers about their experiences in the business and how they find joy in the work they do.  Here is a quick mindset reset about the Joy of the Job.

Freedom to Create:  There are many ways to structure a communication that meets client objectives.  Once you understand what the client needs to communicate, look for ways to construct the project that will interest you and keep you excited.  “Too often, we operate under the premise that Corporate Video needs to be dull and uninteresting,” suggests Bill Marriott, Sr. Marketing Director – Video Communications & New Media at SAS and CMMA Southeast Region Director.  “Dull and uninteresting are not great differentiators for a business.  As a producer it’s important to find something about a project that pushes you to deliver work that excites.”

Make it a Team Effort:  Last year the Boston Red Sox won baseball’s World Series title.  Some argue they didn’t have the best individual players among teams that made the playoffs.  What they had was an intangible, they played as a team and looked like they were having more fun than every team they played.  While other teams stressed under pressure, the team of “Beards” became more than the sum of its parts.  Gary Shifflet, a former MCA-I President, recently started a new position at Creative Solutions Group as Sr. Project Mgr./Technical Director helping create large scale trade show exhibits.  “I joined the team with the specific goal of helping enhance the interactive experience of visiting an exhibit space.”  Gary hit the ground running because of his experience and skill working with production teams towards a shared goal.  “Every division is responsible for their own tasks, but also empowered to help each other to reach their goals.  It’s an awesome feeling working in a collaborative environment!”  Working with a team of empowered professionals is one of the great joys of working as a MediaPro.

A World to Explore:  How many professions offer the opportunity to learn something about almost everything?  We participate in developing programs on subjects as diverse as our client base.  “As a voice talent, one of the aspects of my job I love the best is the variety of industries I get to voice for,” says Liz de Nesnera, Owner, Reservoir Road Productions and MCA-I Secretary.  “In fact, it was through a narration job that I discovered the wonders of hydraulic cement!  Thanks to what I learned in voicing that job, I was able to fix quite a few leaks in my old basement floor!  Who knew?  Voice a job, fix your basement.  Bonus!”  Whether working as an independent or as an in-house MediaPro, the range of topics we’re exposed to can be fascinating if you really pour yourself into a project.

Tools of the Trade:  We have great, fun tools to work with.  That’s why so many groups across an enterprise want to create their own video productions.  As exciting as it must be to fuse a framersham, it’s much more fun to make a video about it.  Chris Barry, AMM, Sr. Director, Yellow Tag Productions at Best Buy and CMMA President reminds us it’s not cameras, edit systems, and encoders that make great programs – its people.  “Technology has revolutionized our business.  The tools we use today to light, shoot and edit are more accessible and less expensive than ever before.  But, the skill, experience and ability to use these tools to tell great stories can’t be commoditized.”

Opportunity to Show Off:  The projects we deliver are often viewed publically.  To clients, the release of every project is like a Hollywood premiere.  While most corporate projects don’t have credits… we know.  If a program is posted to YouTube, tell me you haven’t sent a link to someone and told them of your role in the project.  “I love making other people look good!  That’s half the battle,” admits Gerry Harriss, Media Services Manager at Asurion, LLC and CMMA Eastern Region Director.  “To be able to craft a message from your work environment and elicit an emotional response is what pushes me toward the next best production.  There is no better feeling than people throughout your company saying, I laughed, I cried, I thought, or I felt proud because of the video you produced.  You made us look great.”

Ours is a fun profession, or it should be.  Golf writer and CBS Sports Analyst Peter Kostis likes to use the phrase, “work like a major leaguer but play like a little leaguer.”  If you’ve played any sport you know that practice is hard, but that’s usually not a problem because practice itself can be fun.  The same should hold true when managing the work of communication project.  It’s work.  Yet if in the process you surround yourself with teammates who make the work fun, amazing things can happen.