Bring Back GM’s

Why a good GM makes a real difference to people and the bottom line……

Over the last decade there has been a trend away from having radio station General Managers to save costs, and remove a layer of management. Network Group execs don’t want another person they need to consult on changes they want to make, and the CEO and board see a cost centre on the org chart.

It’s all about centralising and heavy group structures – people in national roles who make all the decisions. Which all sounds great in theory and is an easy sell to shareholders.

The simple problem is that it forgets about one key thing – the people on station.

There is so much talk about “people are our number one asset” and “we are nothing without our people” but without a team leader, people feel rudderless and like no one cares.

People want to be led. They want to be inspired and believe in a greater good, beyond money.

A great GM, and I’ve worked with a few – (Liz James, Simon Ruhfus, Elyssa Preece, Cath O’Connor, Richard Barker, David Borean, and many others) will be the sounding board, an objective ear, problem solver, dispute resolution diplomat, inspiring leader, and will keep everyone honest on ratings, revenue, and costs, with a whole of business view.

Without a GM at the station, the majority of station people have no day to day leader bringing them together as a team, and helping them maximise not only ratings and revenue, but job satisfaction, enjoyment and career. People are complex to manage, and it requires time, relationships, and understanding how to deal with different people, differently! And everyday in every radio station there are some people issues- good and bad, that need an objective senior experienced head to manage. What you end up with is the Sales Director and the Content Director having to be the station team leaders, and that’s not their role. Not only have they each got huge daily jobs – people skills and broader team leadership are sometimes skill sets they don’t possess! And what happens when they disagree-? There is no one at station level to take the objective view for the whole business.

The last thing I want to suggest is to add another layer of management, and if you simply put in a crap GM, that is all you are doing. However a strong experienced leader will get the best out of your people, and look for the win/win. . It’s the synergy equation of bringing all the parts together for a 1 + 1 = 3 approach.

A great GM is the heartbeat of the radio station and will make a real and positive difference to the bottom line.  It will improve the station’s performance. The GM will let the teams do their jobs and clear the path, fight for them, build career paths, and steer them in the one direction.

Maybe its time to actually think about the real people at radio stations, rather than just talk about it.

About Sean Pickwell:

Sean Pickwell is the Director of  Waterfront, which he started 14 years ago  after a long career with Austereo working with some of Australia’s biggest marketers, radio stations and talent.

Since then he has worked with some of Australia’s biggest brands like AAMi, Toyota, LG, Pharmacare and Optus, and stars like Oprah and Pink. 0

Sean also consults to radio stations on integration programming and sales strategy.


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