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Old 02-11-2006, 06:56 PM
Brad Brad is offline
 
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Default Improving a department of photojournalism

Lets pretend I cant fire anyone!
Now…Anyone have any experience in improving your departments performance. At my place when we see a problem I take the camera guy aside and have a discussion. I am told most large markets have monthly meetings with their guys where they discuss or have mini-seminars on a variety of issues.

I am wondering how many of you out there have a monthly group meeting with your guys?

A meeting in which you discuss stories that worked, or didn’t work for that month. Stand-ups that worked, didn‘t work…i.e. Maybe the Chief shows some good “CBS 60 minuets” or “PBS Frontline” examples. Maybe you get the lighting kit out and talk and show how to rembrandt light a subject.

Love to hear from Large market guys on this as well.
Thanks
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Old 02-11-2006, 10:21 PM
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There are a lot of variables to consider. I'll just throw you a couple of ideas.

First, I always praise in public, criticize in private.

Second, Personally, I don't find coaching "en mass" as productive as individual critique. Why? Because some folks need a whole lot less "help" than others. They get easily bored, then you have distractions.

Now,I can't watch every single show, so I have to be pretty selective. But I will slide up to a staff member every month or so & ask 'em to give me their last 4 packages on a tape by the end of the week.

First I view it alone & get a handle on any areas needing atention.
I make pretty specific notes along the way. Than we watch it together...just the 2 of us. I'll go over each story. Always POINT OUT THE GOOD, as well as the "not so good". Try to make sure there's a balance...sometimes that's not easy, but it's important to make the individual on the receiving end feel like they're NOT getting lectured, unless they REALLY need one.

It's important to make sure everyone knows what YOUR standards are. Especially other members of the management team. If your ND applauds something you find unacceptable, then the staff gets confused. Make sure all the bosses present a unified front...especially in front of others. If you must disagree...do it behind closed doors.

In house mentoring is also a good thing... asking a more experienced photo to "look after" someone provides the senior staffer w/ a sense of responsibility, while making sure the younger staffer gets feedback without working YOU to death. Then there's more than 1 set of eyes keeping an out. Peer pressure can be a wonderful coaching tool. But make sure those you ask to be mentors can be trusted to impart your message. Otherwise you can have anarchy.

I've just started a "story of the month" competition or my staff. They enter, I pass all entries to the ND & assistant ND, the 3 of us do the judging. I'm not eligible. Winner gets bragging rights and $10.00 from my pocket. Small potatos to be sure, but a little friendly little in house competition should be fun. It if turns out not to be fun, it will go away.

Remember the most important thing...every one is different. The methods that work w/ one staffer probably won't with another.

Good luck! If I can help, feel free to PM.
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Old 02-12-2006, 11:12 PM
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I agree with Imachief. Praise in public, critique in private. Having said that, it’s very important to find positives in someone’s work. I know that can be hard to do when all your thinking is “This is crap”

Document everything. Keep a record of the appraisals/revues. Keep a record of what was discussed or assessed and comments made. This will help should that person ever challenge you or your decisions via a manager or Human Resources or worst case, the Union. It will also help you to see how he has improved hopefully.

Have documentation of his issues. Field tape, comments from other staff, reporter or producer. Allow him to question and respond to allegations/criticisms.

Provide positive feedback and a plan to support and help him to overcome problems/issues. Provide a mentor. Set realistic goals/challenges in place for him with a definitive/practical time frame.

Have regular reviews/updates of his work. Maintain pressure at a reasonable level and obtain feedback from reporters/producers.

Provide incentives/rewards. This might be a trip or a special job/project or movement to another show/department. Allow him to be a part of the team. Give him minor responsibilities. Perhaps in charge of fleet care. Perhaps looking after the crew room or equipment.

These are just some ideas that I have used and they work well. Sometimes bad work is just that. That’s one reason, but there are many others that can lead to bad work. That’s why you’re the boss.

Good luck.
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Old 02-13-2006, 09:42 AM
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I woulda like to have a chief like you guys back in the day.
I had no knowledge of the job, but it seemed once a photog went chief, you never saw them again. always buried in paperwork or god knows what else.
Also, it didn't help that in the last several years mngmt didn't seem to care about quality, only making impossible slots.
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Old 02-13-2006, 07:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
I am told most large markets have monthly meetings with their guys where they discuss or have mini-seminars on a variety of issues.
We do quarterly meetings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
Maybe the Chief shows some good “CBS 60 minuets” or “PBS Frontline” examples.


As the NPPA says “surround yourself with greatness”. Show anything that works. Show them stories from Texas Country Reporter, NPPA quarterly tapes, and your competition (if done well).

Bribe them with pizza, soda, and OT. They’ll come to the meetings. Expense it as “office supplies”.
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Old 02-13-2006, 07:40 PM
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Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Lead by example. If you slack off on vos and vosots, your staff will too. Gotta do a crummy meeting package and you don’t shoot the ever loving s out of it, you’re staff won’t either.
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Old 02-17-2006, 07:56 AM
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formal monthly meetings are nice... but try informal get togethers as often as possible... hang in the photo office....or lounge or storage room....what ever you call it and just talk about the day as your people come in and out... encourage sharing of ideas....what works and doesn't... and build a culture of staff teaching staff.

once it gets started you can just stand back and smile....while they teach you some new tricks you hadn't thought of.

oh and when the griping starts.... send em back to work and get the griper alone to explain why things are the way they are...and how to get around whatever the personal problem may be.
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Old 02-18-2006, 09:07 PM
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Please watch the newscasts as regularly as possible. Get in the habit of finding something good every day, then after being a regular complimenter, start talking about stories that could have been better. Find out what the problems are, and advocate for solutions (late starts, bad assignments, slow writing reporters, etc) Only then will folks really listen.
I like the idea of an inhouse competition.
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Old 02-20-2006, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
Maybe you get the lighting kit out and talk and show how to rembrandt light a subject.
I think thats a good idea. I imagine that the problem in that would be keeping everyone in the dept interested. Having a department with a variety of experience levels, some folks might get tired of people teaching something that they might already have exposure to. I im agine the trick would be keeping it fresh.
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Old 02-20-2006, 07:32 PM
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Can you break into groups after the general meeting stull is addressed? Can the gal known for lighting grab a few people while the super editor mentors a few others? You may already have an idea who is eager to learn, and who is eager to teach.
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Old 02-20-2006, 10:15 PM
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Before you do any of this, go to the library or amazon.com and get a book called "It's Your Ship" by Michael Abrashoff.

It's one hell of a book on leadership and you can read it in a couple of evenings.

The book changed my life.
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Old 02-20-2006, 10:58 PM
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I agree with David R., I'm reading that book right now and have already seen a change in how I look at my job and how I deal with my staff.
Listen to your people.
Build their confidence. It's contagious.
I'll have more when I'm done reading...
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Old 02-21-2006, 12:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
Lets pretend I cant fire anyone!
Now…Anyone have any experience in improving your departments performance. At my place when we see a problem I take the camera guy aside and have a discussion. I am told most large markets have monthly meetings with their guys where they discuss or have mini-seminars on a variety of issues.

I am wondering how many of you out there have a monthly group meeting with your guys?

A meeting in which you discuss stories that worked, or didn’t work for that month. Stand-ups that worked, didn‘t work…i.e. Maybe the Chief shows some good “CBS 60 minuets” or “PBS Frontline” examples. Maybe you get the lighting kit out and talk and show how to rembrandt light a subject.

Love to hear from Large market guys on this as well.
Thanks
Forget "60 Minutes" and "Frontline" fo such meetings. You're facing a tough audience and the first things you'll hear muttered are "...but they had a lighting guy and a sound man and a focus-puller and a field producer..." or "...they had seven weeks to shoot that..." or "they had all morning to light that interview..."

How about showing examples of stellar work done by your own people? You accomplish about three things instantly:

--very public praise of the person who did the good work. That may be the best human motivator there is.

--you have instant feedback from the person who did the good work. No need to guess how it was shot or lit...put him or her in the spotlight to explain.

--the good work you spotlight is instantly recognized by co-workers as an accomplishment done under the same time constraints and working conditions that they face every day.

Finally, as a manager, your most important function in these meetings might be simply to start the discussion, then keep your mouth shut and your ears open. The very best managers know how to elicit and act upon information flowing up the chain of command. If the flow is always downward, your ship is headed for the rocks and you might not realize it.

(I'm giving you a hint of what you'll read in "It's Your Ship.")
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Last edited by David R. Busse; 02-21-2006 at 12:46 AM.
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  #14  
Old 02-21-2006, 08:55 PM
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Thanks guys. Love the tips! Our first meeting is in two weeks, I am sure it will go great.

I just purchased "It's Your Ship" by Michael Abrashoff online. I cant wait to read it.

Cheers
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Old 03-24-2006, 02:39 PM
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I need to work on doing this with my people too.

The tricky thing is that the new people we hire here not only have never touched a camera in their lives, but they also have never even laid eyes on one until I show it to them.

So when I train people I'm literally starting from scratch.
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Old 03-24-2006, 05:04 PM
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Something I found that's helped recently is keep things possitive. It helps the staff both in product and in personality. My station is going thru alot of negative times. Keep up the smiles, possitive feedback, and listen to there gripes.

It's helped make things more of team.
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Old 03-24-2006, 05:12 PM
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p.s.

Thanks for the suggestion on the book.
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Old 03-25-2006, 09:58 PM
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... and all these nice stations are where?

Pizza bribes? I guess I'm still the n00b who tries to eat heathily, even on the road.
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