It’s All About Control

Can you give it away?

Boy, there’s some good stuff available on the web, and Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project is one of my favorites.

Each week, he interviews someone whose ideas are making a difference in our world, sort of like a smaller, private, TED video.

This week, he talks to a former fast-attack nuclear submarine commander, David Marquet.

Marquet took over a sub that had the worst morale and retention rate in the Navy, and turned it into the top performing submarine crew of the fleet in one year.

He did it in a way you would never expect, especially in the military. He gave up control to his crew.

It was bumpy at times and very scary, and he found he had to train for core competency, and change the style of leadership he had been taught at the Naval Academy, the type of leadership practiced in almost every government and private organization: Leader-Follower. Top down. Do as I say.

The lessons he learned in the process can be applied to any business, but especially to ours, and I highly recommend his book, Turn The Ship Around: How To Create Leadership At Every Level.

The interview runs about 37 minutes, and if you don’t have time for it right now, the take-aways are just below…

If you just have people who are robots and they’re working on an assembly line — it doesn’t matter whether they’re making tanks, airplanes, cars (or radio content*) — it doesn’t matter what the goal of the organization is: they’re just doing what they’re told.”

All empowerment programs fail because they’re in a framework of top-down disempowerment.

The problem with empowerment programs (is) if they’re living within the construct of Leader-Follower, it’s being bestowed upon you, so even the fact that I’m empowering you is, I’m telling you to be empowered. And, oh, by the way, you don’t have the ability to empower yourself. How empowering is that?

In a Leader-Leader organization, it feels totally different. Instead of dividing the world into Leaders-Followers, we’re all going to be Leaders.”

If you want to start down this path in your organization, start with control.”

Give away control until you’re uncomfortable and then think about why you’re uncomfortable and then tackle these things. And these things typically are:

  1. Competence
  2. Clarity

Control without competence is chaos.”

As we look at what corporate Radio has become post-consolidation, what Marquet is describing is as fundamentally different from that top-down Cumulus/Clear Channel/CBS/Entercom model as it can be.

The most competent talent, in programming, promotion, and on-air has often been fired or released because they’re expensive, and sometimes difficult to manage. Less competent people have taken their places.

To avoid the chaos inherent in incompetence, control has moved further up the food chain, until 1 or 2 people in these big groups make all the decisions and local staff just implements the directives.

We know what has happened. We know why it happened.

Now we need one brave company to try something new, to try the David Marquet model. It’s going to have to be Dan Mason or David Field. We already know Bain and the Dickeys won’t do this.

Hire, or teach, competency. Communicate goals and expectations with clarity.

Then, have the wisdom and courage to give up control to those running your ships in each market.

As Marquet says, “When you do this, stand back because your people are going to take off.”





*my insertion — but tell me that doesn’t describe almost every consolidated radio station today. Do what you’re told and stay off the firing radar.