Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Workplace’

Keep your chin up

In Deadlines on 11 May 2017 at 2:18 pm

Keeping a positive mindset is incredibly difficult to do when the pressure to succeed feels like the open ocean around you.

Those are the words of Julie Zhuo, one of my favorite bloggers and an all-around interesting person. She is the VP of design at Facebook, among other things. Last week, she was addressing morale and how to keep going when things are hard. When is that not a relevant topic?

Zhuo has three suggestions and none of them are groundbreaking, but all of them bear repeating: Accentuate the positive, step back when it feels like you are rushing forward, and ask for support when you need it.

She cautions us against overdoing what I call urgency mandates. “Good, creative work doesn’t come out of fear of failure or pressure to perform,” she writes. “In fact, you tend to favor more conservative ideas and make compromises that water down the soul of what you are trying to do.”

Deadline pressure can be helpful, in the right context. It’s great to have a goal and to know that your work is important to the overall effort. This work we do is our livelihood. We can’t afford less than your best. However, it is unhealthy both personally and to the organization if you are overwhelmed by the pressure of the job. Unrelenting pressure to perform might work when you are shipping widgets or manufacturing thingamajigs, but it will not motivate people in creative professions like journalism. … Read the rest of this entry »


What give you energy?

In Workplace on 13 Oct 2016 at 1:20 pm


So, I’m reading this book. I know, I know. Clay has a book to recommend. Big deal.

Before you click away to the latest on the presidential dysfunction, let me just mention one of the many exercises suggested in “Designing Your Life,” which is based on the most popular class at Stanford University. It’s called “The Good Time Journal Activity Log.”

It’s pretty simple actually, and you see one of my log entries above. The idea is to note what you do each hour of the day and how that work allows you to engage with other people and whether it gives you energy or drains you. Draw about eight lines on a sheet of paper – one for each hour of your work day — and put those funny gauges on the right for “engagement” and “energy.” Positive engagement and energy get an arrow to the right of the gauge and so forth.

In my case, I found generally that my excitement for my job was higher in the morning hours and tended to dip after lunch. That might not feel like a revelation in and of itself, but if you look at it in black and white, it might suggest ideas for a more fulfilling, more productive work day. For instance, I have always left about 1 for a coffee break. Well, my log entries taken as a whole (the book suggests doing it for about three weeks) strongly suggest that my afternoon pick-me-up isn’t working. Maybe I should try something else, like going for a 10-minute walk or using that time to check in with friends. Maybe that caffeine is no more than an addictive problem…. Read the rest of this entry »

Coping with stress

In journalism on 22 Sep 2016 at 3:34 pm
From Career Cast

From Career Cast

Hey, are you feeling a little stressed out? Come on, everybody, let’s stretch and sing a little song to get the cobwebs out!

Now that you have cussed me under your breath and thrown something at your computer screen, I’d like to introduce you to Katie Hawkins-Gaar. She is on the Poynter Institute faculty and writes and speaks regularly about digital innovation. She is also half of he brains behind the #happynewsroom, which is an effort to inject some fun into our lives  — an effort that somehow apparently rubbed some people the wrong way. (Because some people refuse to be happy, damn it.)

She was questioned by a colleague this week in the wake of another poll showing that journalists have stressful careers. (Duh.)

There is a feeling that our jobs are more stressful than ever. Perhaps that is so. I didn’t work as a journalist during the typewriter era (OK, I came in right at the end of it), but I can imagine that was pretty stressful too. Urgency, the need to be right all the time, uncompromising bosses and readers … the tools have changed but I’m not sure the business is “harder” than it was in 1960.

Anyway, Hawkins-Gaar has some ideas that are both obvious and unusual for dealing with that stress. My favorite? Getting together with your team and listing all the individual mundane tasks that make up a week and brainstorming ways to streamline or even eliminate some. We will be doing that at the Half Moon Bay Review. … Read the rest of this entry »

Email never dies

In Communication on 11 Aug 2016 at 1:18 pm

care with email

Virtually every day someone writes to me in a way that makes me want to punch a pillow. You misspelled my name. Don’t print my arrest or you will hear from my lawyer. Why do you always cover X High School?

I get it. Sometimes you want to blow off a little steam in the general direction of your kind readers. Plus, we’re good with words. This is what we do. So, you wanna do email battle with me, do you?

Stop. Don’t send that email. Get out of your chair. Remove yourself from the vicinity of your keyboard. You will be glad you did.

Email isn’t like Snapchat. Your words won’t disappear after a while. They will remain in searchable form in your enemy’s inbox forevermore. Nine times out of 10, that isn’t so terrible. But know that your written clap back is likely more eviscerating than you know. There is something about written communication that conveys more punch than we often intend and sometimes we’re the ones who are knocked out when we find out just how much they hurt our email sparring partner.

Remember: When you send that snarky email giving someone what for, that person is likely to send it to someone else. It could be sent to a group of friends or copied to Facebook or, perhaps, sent to your boss. … Read the rest of this entry »

What experimentation means

In Ideas on 6 May 2016 at 8:24 am
Geneticist and cytologist Margaret Mann Lesley (1891-1988) earned a Ph.D. from University of California in 1921. She was presumably a better experimenter than I.

Geneticist and cytologist Margaret Mann Lesley (1891-1988) earned a Ph.D. from University of California in 1921. She was presumably a better experimenter than I.

I have been thinking a lot about experimentation and what comes after we try something new.

See if this feels familiar: You hold a meeting. You decide to use some new tool and see how it goes. Maybe you are going to post a lot of photos from the Little League Opening Day on Instagram, or cover a street fair on Periscope. You make it happen in some imperfect way. And … then what?

I love this piece by Robin Kwong of Financial Times. He says something that, for me, is very important and has taken me some time to get my head around. Among other things, he says that using some new toy isn’t by itself an “experiment.”

… it is important not to let the tool frame your goal. So, for example, instead of setting a goal of “using Snapchat for the first time,” you could frame it instead as:

“To figure out what type of stories lend themselves to live Snapchat coverage.” Or: “Our target audience is on Snapchat. We want to figure out how we can reach them there.” Or: “We’ve tried it once before and got good results. This time, let’s figure out whether we can simplify the logistics so we could be doing these once a week.”

This is partly because the goals of the tool or platform may not be the same as your own goals. For example, your organization’s intention to drive traffic back to its own site could clash with, say, Snapchat or Instagram’s goal of keeping users on their platforms. …
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The editor and publisher

In Communication on 2 Oct 2014 at 2:35 pm

David Bell is second from the left, and that’s Monica, second from right, and they are surrounded by their colleagues.

Recently, Wick Digital Media Sales Manager Jim Keyes sent a lovely email to some of the company brass, noting the special relationship between Publisher Monica Watson and Editor David Bell. Jim notes that the relationship between editor and publisher is absolutely critical at any newspaper and that the one Monica and David share contributes to their success – including the fact that Safford has made budget eight of the last nine months.

I could not agree more. I have written about the importance of the editor/publisher thing before, so this time I thought it was time to hear from David. Here are his thoughts on nurturing that relationship.

— Clay

It was a nice surprise to receive kudos from Jim Keyes in a recent Wick Communications e-mail.

And when Clay asked us to come up with something for The Kicker on our working relationship, it prompted us to think about what we’re doing. And we’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no secret to the working relationships here in Safford, Clifton and Willcox. Any success we’ve achieved is a result of communication. … 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 »

Lessons from Seven Days

In Management on 3 Jul 2009 at 7:40 am

I had the good fortune to attend the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies annual convention in Tucsonthumb-staffpic08 last week. It was great to be around so many talented journalists who are committed to providing their communities with a unique voice and stories unavailable anywhere else.

For my money, one of the most inspiring discussions revolved around employee morale at Seven Days, the award-winning weekly in Burlington, Vt.

The paper was founded more than a decade ago by publishers Pamela Polston and Paula Routly, who said the last thing they was thinking when they formed the company was how to assure the paper succeeds after they lay down their red editing pens. But lately, after a terrifically successful beginning, they have been thinking about the future.

With that in mind, they promoted three committed staffers – an editorial star, an advertising specialist and the organization’s creative director – to associate publisher positions. The succession plan itself wasn’t what interested me. I was more taken by the obvious love the five leaders of Seven Days have for one another and looking for tips about how to recreate that esprit de corps at our own newspapers. If you were a publisher or someone’s boss, wouldn’t you like to read quotes like this from your employees? … Read the rest of this entry »