In the economy of any organization, what gets airtime has value.
You know what airtime is. In the music business, artists and labels work hard to see that their songs get airtime on local radio stations. In the publishing business, when a new book is released, publishers work hard to promote airtime for the book by getting the author on TV or radio shows across the country.
Within any organization there are mechanisms that serve as the functional equivalent of “airtime.” The in-house newsletter, the boss’s weekly e-memo, announcements made during a church service or at a staff meeting, etc. In every case, someone makes decisions about what to focus on and what to overlook. There is always a limit to the quantity of time or print space available, so decisions have to be made. Whether they articulate it or not, everyone in the organization recognizes that those things get public time and attention are the usually things of higher value.
You feel truth of this principle when people come to you to complain that their personal project, contribution, or value to the organization is being inadequately represented in the channels of corporate communication. You have had people knock on your door to complain about ‘being left out.’ You have heard the complaint that it seems you are showing favorites. Each of these experiences is a reminder that airtime is the currency of organizational status.
However, on the proactive side, this principle opens up a host of opportunities for creative organizational influence. Think about the ongoing challenges faced by every leader: What are some ways to effectively shape corporate culture? How can we champion new or desired behavior in such a way that others will emulate it? How can we raise up a model or process that others can reproduce? Apart from spending moneywe don’t have, how can we esteem people for the work they have been doing?
In these and other situations just like them, consider how you might use airtime to meet these needs. Airtime might be one of the most important commodities at your disposal for shaping the direction, culture, and values of any organization. By taking time to tell the stories of those women and men whom you would like others to follow, you are championing critical behavior. Through the wise use of airtime-public announcements, print space, story-telling, and promotion-you are communicating to your people what is of highest priority to you.
Some specific implications of this principle:
- Airtime is not neutral. How you spend it will shape perceptions and expectations throughout your business, church or organization-either positively or negatively.
- Don’t give away airtime indiscriminately or to placate people. Others will read into your decision an intentionality you never intended.
- Tell stories about the behavior, character, and experiences of those whom you would like others to emulate. Be intentional about making heroes of those whose lives and contributions you would like multiplied.
- Treat the airtime available to you as a precious commodity. You can only spend it once.
- Unlike money, airtime cannot be saved and stored up. However it can be protected and spent wisely.
- As the most precious commodity in the organization, we should not be surprised when people fight for it.
- Thinking about the things you talk or write about in public within your church, business, or organization…what are the subjects that regularly receive attention and which subjects are typically ignored?
- Which people or type of people are you most often telling stories about? (What are these stories or announcements telling people that you value?)
- What behaviors or values would you most like to see replicated by people in your organization? Who best models it and when could you have them tell more of their story in front of your people?
- Whose stories or announcements do you need to cut back on?
- When is the next opportunity for communication with a larger group of your people? (Newsletter, church service, staff meeting, ??) What are the top 1-2 issues that need to be placed in front of your congregation and who best embodies those issued.