Does Your Talent Respect You?

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “The Bigger Picture” series, written by Charese Fruge on February 16, 2022 

Have you ever heard the concept of having to leave a place of business that you have worked at for a while in order to get promoted? It’s pretty common in the broadcast and audio business. It happened to me a lot during my early career. I have had to move on, on more than one occasion to move up to the next level of my career, because the people in the place I had been at for a while didn’t realize my potential.

I was having a conversation with a younger Programming client of mine just the other day about his inability to get a PD job at a station he had been APD at for a few years, because the powers that be did not believe he could manage the older, successful “Talent” in the building. They did not believe he would be taken seriously. This brought us to a deeper conversation about something he would face often moving forward in his career. How do you get “Talent,” especially “Seasoned Talent” to respect you? It’s something he will have to face each time he makes a new move in a new market with a new station. More importantly, right now, does the “Talent” he currently works with respect him, and could he convince the higher ups that he was the right person for the job?

There is nothing worse than a new PD going into a station and demanding instant respect from consistent talent. Especially if the PD has actually never been talent before. Let’s face it, that plan is never going to work no matter how long you have been in the business. The good news is, if you have actually been on air talent before, and successful at it, that’s half the battle. But keep in mind, you’ve still got a long way to go. Respect is mutual and mostly earned, whether you are the CEO of the company, or the mail room guy or girl. Of course, there is chain of command and professionalism, but if you’re the CEO and a jerk to the mail room guy or girl, don’t expect that person to want to kill for you.

The best way to handle a new situation with talent at a new station is to first find out the wants and needs of the talent in the building, especially if they are seasoned and successful. Your first question should be, “What do you want to achieve moving forward, and how can I help you get there?” But keep in mind, that should also be the question coming from the other side, the talent side too. If you open it up to them first, that will give you the opportunity to explain your goals as well and give them ideas on how they can help. But don’t forget to acknowledge their previous success. That, again, will give you the opportunity to explain yours, and allow you to give examples on how you can win together.

As far as dealing with a situation where you want to become the PD of a station you have been at, with seasoned and successful talent, the best thing you can do is get them on your side so they fight for you with management and make it clear that the respect would be mutual moving forward. The best way to do that is to “earn” their respect quickly. Find out what is important to them and if possible, fight for it. If it’s out of your control, explain it to them in black and white. Communication is key, and so is choosing your battles wisely. If the PD position becomes open, go to them, and express your desire to work with them in a management role and help the station grow. Explain to them that that means helping them to be successful and hit their bonuses. Have straight forward conversations about management style and ask directly what it would take for them to understand you are their biggest fan and you will fight for them as much as you can, but at the same time, the final call is yours, because it’s your name on the line. Either way you will find out if it’s worth a shot or if you are wasting your time with talent that has no interest in your success. Because at the end of the day, your success is dependent on their success and vise versa. And if the two parties can present a united front, then Upper Management will have no choice but to take you seriously for the open PD position.