By Alan Miller
Associated Press Media Editors
Successfully managing change in newsrooms during this time of significant change hinges on five points, according to Butch Ward.
First, newsroom managers need to provide clarity to middle managers and their staffs about expectations and how they will support them, said Ward, of the Poynter Institute, during a presentation at the Associated Press Media Editors conference today in
Ward said they also need to invest in the ambitions of their staff members, coach them and provide feedback on performance, provide tools and training, and take a risk with staff members when appropriate.
Providing clarity is as simple as being clear about your expectations for the staff in covering and presenting the news, said Ward, a former newspaper editor. Not everyone does that well, and the lack of clarity allows for confusion and aimlessness.
Investing in employees' goals starts with a manager asking people about their dreams. "Being asked by my boss what I want to be and do says a lot," Ward said. And it gives managers an opportunity to coach their employees and support them toward that goal.
Coaching, he said, involves feedback that will help end the need for managers to put out daily fires. "Coaches know that if I said …'if we spend 10 minutes on a problem today and never have to deal with it again,' everyone in this room would do it."
He said that coaches have their heads up as opposed to down on today's work: "They have their eyes on the arch of a person's career and know that feedback is the most important thing they have to offer," he said.
Provide tools and training, he said, because they reinforce the commitment to your staff members and their development.
And when it comes to taking a risk, Ward said, remember the boss who took a risk on you. "That boss who took a risk on you is like a hero."
When we find someone who is really good at what they do, he said, we tend to leave that person alone. But taking a risk with that person to help him or her grow toward a goal or into a bigger role often pays dividends for the individual and the news organization.
"It is an investment in your relationship with them that they will never forget," he said.
Summing up, Ward said, "Remember this: You can't do it alone; get your team involved.
You can't do it from the weeds; you need to get above the daily production. And you can't do it overnight; change and relationships take time."