Last week, Paula and I had dinner with an artist friend. He was giving us a tour of his studio and I asked him why he stood at his painting easel while painting. He said, “Most artists do that. You have to be able to back away from the painting in order to get perspective.” He went on to say, “Sometimes you even have to leave the room for a while and come back to see it differently.”
Running TV stations and TV groups are incredibly challenging jobs. They’re jobs that seem to be becoming more challenging almost by the minute, especially in a year when there’s so much coming at us. And, because we’re all so busy, I wonder if we take enough time to step back from the painting and get perspective.
I don’t work in a TV station day to day, which I sometimes think causes me to lose perspective. But I think that not staring at the business every day also gives me the ability to look at a bigger picture. I see that these seemingly random events – like Ford’s spending changes or the decline in National or fundamental changes in the car dealer business – are part of a bigger picture. More significant challenges to our business that, for me, suggest we need to have a higher level of urgency about bringing change in the day-to-day operations of our stations and our sales departments than we’ve ever had before. Little changes = little results. But, serious changes can produce serious results, and the way we approach revenue development in our business needs to make serious changes. I’ve outlined some of them in previous articles. New business efforts on steroids… different approaches to sales staff compensation… looking at your team structure in order to be making significantly more local sales calls. And other ideas.
But, here’s the problem. If you’re spending too much time staring at the canvas, you might not see how big the problem really is. And without that perspective, making the small changes seems like it’s okay.
An artist backs away from the canvas to gain perspective. Our artist friend told us that when you do that you see the larger picture. You stop, for a minute, being consumed by the details and get the chance to see the whole scene.
What might you do to back away from the painting? Perhaps it would make sense to take all the people involved with revenue development out of the building for a day or an afternoon. Look at the whole scope of the challenges we face. Start brainstorming about big solutions, not small incremental ones. Remember, little changes = little results. So, don’t look for small solutions to a bigger problem. I think that’s really dangerous because we think we’re solving the problem when in reality all we’re doing is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
What’s your perspective? If you see the business as needing incremental change, you might be in danger of losing the big picture, and the big picture for me is that we need to make the most significant changes we have ever made in the way we take TV stations to market.
A final note to this article. Our artist friend also said that sometimes you even have to leave the room to be able to take a new look at your canvas. For many years, I felt a sense of pride for how little vacation time I took. Today, I see that as a huge mistake. I need to back away from the day-to-day in order to take a little quiet time to look at what’s really going on.
Perspective. The ability to look at the bigger picture. Pretty important for artists… and for those of us who run TV companies.
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