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Old 12-27-2007, 11:04 AM
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Default Growing to the Ranks

Hey all,

I am growing to the ranks of a chief in one of our offices. I will be incharge of 7 other shooters. I have been at the station for 7 years and know all the guys on staff and get along with them all. I am looking at pointers as to what to do to keep the ship running smoothly. Thanks for all of your help.
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Old 12-27-2007, 02:58 PM
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Congratulations!

The best advice I got was from Mark Anderson, former chief at KARE-TV at the NPPA workshop: "Praise in public, and criticize in private." No one likes to get called out in public for the negative stuff.

Stay on top of gear issues. Believe me it is always something. The older the equipment is the more time you spend dealing with it. Hopefully, you don't have gear sharing. But if you do strive to come up with some sort of assigned sharing of gear that way you can track down the problems with responsibility.

Engineers are your friends. Gear turns up for them to repair that you never knew about. Stop by and find out what is being done and when it will be fixed.

Also, chances are you still have daily shooting duties to turn. Lead by example use your tripod and lights when needed. Then be prepared to take care of the chief duties, personalities and paperwork in short quick bursts. E-mail becomes your friend as a reminder. Have them e-mail you with issues and follow up as promptly as you can.

thru-the-lens.
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Old 12-29-2007, 09:26 AM
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I just finished a 3 year tenure as chief at my station. (I'm getting out of news for a while to pursue a documentary project.)

Here's my $0.02.

First off, congrats on the promotion. It's not an easy job. The hours are lousy, you don't have overtime and you have now become a lightning rod for criticism. But hey, you're Management now!

It's a lot like being a ND, but without near as much freedom to take risks. Middle management sucks sometimes. It just does. Roll with it.

Don't take any of what you hear about you personally but make sure you listen to and respect what your supervisees are saying. Sometimes they're just whining but sometimes they have genuine issues that need to be addressed. Learn which is which and pick your battles.

Also, you were buddies with your fellow photogs before. You can't do that anymore. You can't say everything that's on your mind either, even though you really, really want to. Fight the urge.

Your first instinct as Chief will probably be to grab the best gear and car for yourself.

Fight that urge too.

You will have a better handle on what your staff needs if you have the crappiest gear and the worst car. Take care of your staff first when it comes to upgrades.
Your gear will be the weakest link in the chain, but you will have the greatest ability to do something about it. Result: Overall gear quality improves.

If you are setting the standards, make sure you live up to them. If everyone takes a night of on-call, take one too. You'll understand their concerns a lot more if you're suffering along with them.

Don't stand on your title as a means of ducking out of grunt work. Your staff is smarter than that. Respect their intelligence. Even though it will mean you'll stay later, do that live shot anyway instead of passing it to someone else. It's an investment in your credibility as a leader.

Make sure you have a good relationship with your engineering staff. Respect is a two-way street and if you make their job easier, they're more likely to have your back. 'Nuff said.

Document everything.

EVERYTHING.

For a while, I kept a shorthand journal of what happened during the day, who I talked to, and what decisions were made. If someone above you or below you doesn't hold to what they said they'd do, this is your ammunition. Don't be afraid to use it.

Make sure people mean what they say... And if YOU say it, mean it.
Lip service undermines your credibility.

Remember that your reputation is built over a lifetime but can be destroyed in an instant. (ask anyone who's made a guest appearance on NBC's "Predators" show.)

Your good name is the most valuable possession you own. Protect it.

If you have hire/fire capabilities, congrats. When you hire, don't just go by resume tapes; make your applicants demonstrate their abilities. Do a shooting test with every applicant you interview. It takes time, but it separates the poseurs from the real deal VERY quickly.

Remember that firing is the nuclear option. Never threaten someone's job, but hold people accountable when they screw up. I was always told to keep a 3 strikes rule for serious or repeated offenses. 0.verbal reminder (repeat as necessary)... 1. written warning... 2. suspension... 3. gone. My last ND didn't respect this rule and his actions created a meltdown in our shooting staff when 2 people were fired for relatively minor incidents. (3 more shooters left the newsroom within 6 months. Me included. Total loss- 5 out of 7 photogs. Very bad for a market leading station.)

On that note- know your principles and stand by them.
The Rotary Club has a rule called the 4-Way test:

1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it bring GOODWILL and better friendships?
4. Will it be BENEFICAL to all concerned?

Sometimes it is better to fire someone than to allow them to be a liability to you, the station or that person's own self. It sounds cruel but sometimes it's true. There are some people who are meant for something other than what they're doing. If you have to do it, make sure it's really for the greater good rather than because YOU'RE having a bad day/week/month/year.

Be an information sponge. If you see a story you think is especially well shot, make sure your staff sees it. If you catch a new tip or trick, pass it on. Let your staff know what your expectations are and provide feedback (good or bad) whenever possible. Let them know where they stand but be kind. (see 4-Way Test above.)

Again, My former ND didn't do this and the newsroom has seen more staff turnover since JULY than I have experienced in any workplace ever.

I used to tell people that, after 8 years, I was still finding new and creative ways to screw up... I just got better at recovering from my mistakes. Accidents happen. Don't lose your top over the small stuff but pay attention to trends and act on them. (refer back to the notebook suggestion.)

If you have to quit to maintain your principles, be prepared to. You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know you're doing what's right for everyone.

That includes you.

During the last 3 to 6 months of my employment, I realized that I was not doing the job I should be to support my staff. I was demoralized and I knew that my personal bitterness towards my manager was trickling down to everyone I was supposed to represent.

That's a big reason why I quit. It wasn't right for ANYONE if I kept on keepin' on.

I can't believe I typed all this.
My fingers are cramped and I need coffee.

I don't mean for this whole message to sound like I'm thrashing my former station. In all actuality, there are many people there whom I love, respect and owe a great debt to because they taught me and helped make me who I am today.

Management, even middle management, is a mine field. If I can help people avoid some of the bigger ones I've stepped on, I'm glad to do it.

Good luck and remember to have fun.
It's the toughest job you'll ever love.

Former Chief Photog. (As of yesterday.)
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Old 12-29-2007, 02:46 PM
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Well, said Cambot MK II. One of the best well thought out posts I've read.

Good Luck with the documentry project.

thru-the-lens.
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