Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Management’

Carry a marshal’s baton

In Business on 12 Jan 2017 at 2:46 pm
Conrad Fink, courtesy University of Georgia

Conrad Fink, courtesy University of Georgia

When I was working as a young journalist in Georgia, the name Conrad Fink was legendary. And not just for those amazing eyebrows. By then, he had been a journalism professor at the University of Georgia for three decades. He was a former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and eventually a vice president of the news service. He wrote a dozen books.

One of them was called, “Strategic Newspaper Management” and it was published in 1988. When you think of all that has changed on the media landscape since then (he writes that he expects the boom times for newspapers to continue for decades… whoops), it’s interesting to note what hasn’t changed. Specifically, the need for newspaper managers to plan for the future, to understand that top-down edicts will draw eye rolls, and the hope that young reporters consider the future. The book is sort of dedicated to that last belief. It begins:

Many of Napoleon’s foot soldiers, it is said, carried marshal’s batons in their knapsacks, such was the French leader’s reputation for spotting and promoting talent in the ranks…
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A special day in Sierra Vista

In Ideas on 26 Aug 2016 at 8:10 am


Wick Communications directors, group publishers and others joined CEO Francis Wick for a very special workshop in Sierra Vista, Ariz., on Monday. We were the beneficiaries of the largess of the Knight Foundation, which paid the tab for a visit from Stanford Design School trainer Tran Ha.

Tran ran through the fundamentals of design thinking. I’ve touted the benefits of this new paradigm in this blog before. In a nutshell, design thinking is a mindset and a process that calls for empathy with users as a precursor to prototyping and testing new solutions to sometimes old problems. I thought I would point out just three of the high points from Monday in hopes you might take something from them too.

Ask the right question. Too often, we jump to solutions without asking the most important people – readers, advertisers, employees – about their lifestyles, needs and hopes for our work. Empathy for the people we serve is the key to the whole ball of wax. It’s not difficult and it doesn’t cost much. If you have a problem, ask the end user before deciding on a new course.

Design-thinking doesn’t have to take all day. Again and again, Tran told us to take five minutes, three minutes, one minute on a creative assignment. Don’t let the process paralyze you. … Read the rest of this entry »

The other kind of management

In Management on 30 Jun 2016 at 2:55 pm

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 5.02.08 PM

Henry Ward is a handsome lug and the president and CEO of eShares. That is pretty much all I know about him (except that his concern allows private companies to manage equity electronically and that he likes to ride his bicycle in my neighborhood. Thanks, Google!)

Oh, and he’s also the kind of manager we all deserve.

That last bit I know because of his own blog post earlier this week. If you manage people in our organization, you should really take a look. Most of his tips are simply compassion masquerading as management style.

That said, a couple of them strike me as profound. How does he get employees to perform better? By telling them what they are doing well. To wit:

Most managers attempt to minimize an employee’s bad work instead of maximizing their good work. When 98% of an employee’s work is great and 2% is not, managers give feedback on the 2%.

We do this because schools taught us to. Tests started with a maximum score of 100 and points were deducted for every wrong answer. If tests started at zero and awarded points for every correct answer, we would be encouraged to continue doing better. Instead, we learn to fear mistakes and point them out in others.

He is entirely correct. This focus on the bad stuff tends to skew our relations with employees and just makes both sides unhappy. Obviously, you can’t ignore the problems. But don’t you want to maximize good work instead of minimizing bad work? … Read the rest of this entry »

Make time to coach

In Management on 11 Sep 2014 at 9:46 pm


“When you are swamped with your own work, how can you make time to coach your employees and do it well?” That is Angela Herrin’s question beginning an hour-long webinar available now for free from the Harvard Business Review.

Is there a more important question for Wick managers to consider? I don’t think so. Strange, then, how little we talk about it.

The HBR webinar is essentially a lecture by Ed Batista, a leadership coach and instructor at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He uses a lot of biz-babble – “growth mindsets” and “momentary cheerleading” and “experiential learning” and “diagnostic inquiry.” Despite that, he makes a lot of sense.

“I (once) came into a job with a model of leadership that said, ‘I needed to have the best ideas, and I needed to champion them really aggressively,’” Batista said. “Essentially, I needed to win.” Batista says he benefitted from a mentor who suggested a leadership coach. The coach helped Batista realize he was alienating people and that his job wasn’t a solo pursuit, but that he needed others to be effective. Isn’t that true of all of us at Wick? … Read the rest of this entry »

Trust us

In journalism on 24 Jul 2014 at 2:47 pm


Jim Conaghan has me thinking about the concept of trust. He is the vice president of research and industry analysis at the Newspaper Association of America, and this week, writing for NetNewsCheck, he brought attention to current research on whether the public trusts the mainstream media.

The answer is somewhat mixed, though I think we would all agree that we could use a shot of credibility these days.

Here’s one aspect of his column I found fascinating. Quoting a study from the University of Haifa that looked at impressions of the media in 44 countries, Conaghan notes that people who look at mainstream media more often are more likely to trust what they read, see and hear. Why is that?

I suspect it is partly because those who spend the most time with us are likely to realize that, while we make mistakes from time to time, we are trustworthy on the whole. They see enough to know we are trying. … Read the rest of this entry »

Make meaningful work possible

In Management on 24 Jul 2014 at 2:43 pm

Brainy quote I want to speak to editors and newsroom managers now: The most important thing you can do as a manager, right now, today, this instant, is to help team members engage in work that is personally meaningful to them. Say it to yourself until it becomes a mantra.

Monique Valcour is a management professor at EDHEC University in France. She discussed this management truism in an essay last week published by the Harvard Business Review.

Provide the people in your employ with opportunities to engage in meaningful work. Keep saying it.

It’s why I find it pretty easy to hire reporters and photographers. Folks in our field want to contribute to the common good and communicate with the people around them. I can help them with that opportunity. It’s a much more powerful motivator than money. Don’t think so? Consider how many fulfilled people work in nonprofits and how many miserable pro athletes you see on television.

But here’s the trick. After you’ve hired a talented, competent reporter who is intelligent, curious and interested in the people you cover, you have to empower her to engage in work that is personally meaningful to her.

When workplace disharmony gets in the way of our task at one of our newspapers, the root cause is most likely that managers don’t see the forest because they are lost in the trees. They want more production from reporters. They argue over covering weekend shifts or night meetings. They dither over byline counts. They would do well to put ego aside and help their team members engage in work that is personally meaningful to them. … Read the rest of this entry »

An editor’s first priorities

In Editing on 20 Mar 2014 at 3:57 pm
R. Sanderson Taylor, editor of the Brisbane Courier from 1925 to 1933.

R. Sanderson Taylor, editor of the Brisbane Courier from 1925 to 1933.

What are the priorities for a new editor?

Someone asked me just that question the other day. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the first two things that came to mind are perhaps the most neglected aspect of the job for folks who, like myself, have been rooted in place for a while. That’s weird, isn’t it?

First, get to know the staff: The first job for any new hire (I suspect this is more or less true across industries, regardless of whether you are hired is a manager) is to meet your coworkers. As it relates to new editors, I don’t mean simply getting the names straight. You have to understand your human assets in a much deeper way.

I might suggest three approaches. First, you’ll want to have formal meetings. Make notes on how the beats are carved up. Ask yourself whether they seem rational. Take note of body language and enthusiasm in these meetings. Who speaks up; who is demure. Next, meet with everyone in the department individually. Learn their outside interests. Ask after their family. Understand the pressures that drive them at work. Finally, read their work. Do your new charges have a handle on their beats? Does the writing sing? Do they use real people as sources or just the mayor and police chief? Do they think outside the box for graphics and presentation?

All of this is just a start, of course. Consider these initial observations sort of a baseline. … Read the rest of this entry »

Is ‘lazy’ really the right word?

In Management on 19 Sep 2013 at 2:39 pm

lazy pic

You may or may not manage any people at your workplace, but you are probably managed by someone. That is a fraught relationship, isn’t it?

All of us want to be competent and even excel. Most of us think we are giving our best effort. So it hurts when we find out through a regular employee review or, worse, through the grapevine, that our boss thinks somewhat less of us.

I both nodded along and cringed a bit when I read Jill Geisler’s excellent column on management on the Poynter site. It’s aimed squarely at managers, like me, and I’m sad to say I see myself in some of the half-dozen pointed questions she poses. If you are an editor or a publisher, please take a moment to open the link and see if any of that stuff hits home for you.

Here’s part of the problem, as I see it: There is a natural tendency among humans to be overly reductive when describing complex problems. So, instead of explaining to our own boss why, say, one of our direct reports doesn’t do a good job on his beat, we simply describe him as “lazy.” We know it’s not that simple. The guy may be lazy, but here’s betting that isn’t the root of the problem.

Terms like “lazy” and “stupid” and “slow” turn job performance into character assessments and that is a huge mistake. For one thing, these become self-fulfilling prophesies; if you expect someone to be slow, she surely will be slow. These terms are ineffectual for managers. They will not help you fix the perceived problem. But more importantly, these reductive terms are unfair on a human level. … Read the rest of this entry »

Monkey with your stress

In Management on 1 Nov 2012 at 3:08 pm

Are you stressed out? If so, perhaps you just don’t have enough control over your situation.

You’ll have to stay with me on this one because it may not seem to have much to do with our chosen profession. But, after nearly 30 years in the business, I think it just might.

An academic has written in the New York Times about managing stress and it boils down to biology. It turns out there are these professors who study baboons in the wild. They measure the amount of cortisol – a stress hormone – in various members of baboon society. (Baboons, like congressmen, newspaper people and Walmart employees, arrange themselves into elaborate hierarchies. So there are analogies to be made.) These researchers have found the baboons at the top of the chain of command have lower levels of cortisol. Other Harvard researchers found the same is true of human decision-makers.

All of this flies in the face of our traditional vision of leaders. We think presidents carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, but it could be that they perceive some measure of control over the world around them and they therefore sleep more soundly than, say, a mother of three scraping by on two part-time jobs. … Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook friends

In Management on 8 Oct 2010 at 8:01 am

In Sunday’s New York Times, there was a story about a pair of Facebook friends. The story begins:

Every Monday, a bit before 10 a.m., Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, dashes off a quick e-mail to her boss, Mark Zuckerberg. “We have a routine,” Ms. Sandberg says. “I e-mail, ‘Coming in?’ He replies, ‘On my way.’”

The story goes on to say the two executives — two of the most important personages in Silicon Valley — huddle for an hour on Monday mornings and again on Friday afternoons. They discuss big picture things. They also keep each other grounded. The article states that the two superstars of the Internet age provide each other with perspective that sycophants won’t touch. And because they meet regularly, bad blood never has a chance to boil. I bet they are honest with one another and that they share gossip, bad news, their fears and an occasional joke… Read the rest of this entry »