It’s a snap judgement we have all seen in every business, every industry, and almost every Mom and Pop shop. The employee fails. Brings disrepute to the company. Management can’t suspend or fire that person fast enough to save face and stop the profit margin bleeding. Blame the individual for failing to “follow procedure”, “going rogue”, “having a bad day without the use of chemical substances”. Whatever excuse makes you happy.
Do I have to say “United Airlines”?
However, in the case of KXXV-TV in Waco TX, let’s take a different tack. Take a step back. Breathe. Let it out. Strap that knee into place so it doesn’t jerk too fast and nail you in the chin.
What happened here is not entirely the fault of the individual(s) in question.
It is, at the end of the day, showcasing a greater need for training, motivation and leadership. It points to the need for managerial skills which will consistently motivate and oversee those within her or her charge. And despite the seriousness of this incident, let’s consider a really unique and intelligent reaction.
Don’t fire anybody. It’s worst thing you as a manager or CEO could possibly do. Because it reveals what you yourself have missed, and opens the door to creating a much more cohesive and motivated work force.
Only one outlet I could find covered the story in depth, and because it’s always possible the link won’t last forever, (here it is just in case), this is the “cut and paste” version of what happened from the website “TV Spy”.
KXXV has retracted a story and issued an apology after a story featuring the Waco Police Department aired Thursday night.
The story featured a man who accused a police officer of assaulting him. But according to a post on the department’s Facebook page, issued the next morning, the station never reached out to verify the man’s claims.
Last night at 10:00 pm Channel 25 (KXXV) did a news story that was inaccurate and untruthful. We would like to clarify the points of misinformation they told their public and put out the actual facts of what occurred for those interested to read. I will also say that KXXV made absolutely no attempt to verify the information with us before they produced the story.
24 hours after the story aired, the Raycom-owned ABC affiliate pulled the story and issued an apology on-air and on social media.
Once the station acknowledged its mistake and issued the apology, the department thanked them.
First, the Waco PD’s first salvo on Facebook when they were backed into a corner by the erroneous reporting. It’s long and detailed, but necessary to understand what happened:
Follow that with the KXXV social media response:
And the station’s very necessary on-air apology:
GM Eric Duncan did exactly as he should have. As the guy with “The Buck Stops Here” on his desk, he wasted no time taking complete responsibility for the actions of his people. He cut off any controversy before it had a greater chance to steamroll him and his organization.
Again, do I have to say “United Airlines”?
Let’s deal with this from the aspect of the specific industry, and then how it relates to those whose only connection to the media is turning on the TV or dialing up the proper app.
Broken here is the most basic element of news reporting after being told where the washroom is, and why you don’t bother the person listening to the police scanners.
VERIFY THE STORY. Make the phone calls. FACT CHECK. A few procedures which are daily missed by plenty of newsrooms across the country for three reasons. Reasons which, at their core, also speak to every corporate culture.
- People have become lazy thanks to the Internet. There is a generation that now believes, shocking as this may seem, that if it’s on or NOT on the Internet, then it must be true. Instead of picking up the phone and actually calling the local authorities, which in this case would be a Waco PD PIO (Public Information Officer), the person hired to disseminate information to the press, reporters and fact checkers turn to their computer screens and use that for their main source of information and research. This speaks to EVERY corporate culture. Train your people to be thorough by providing them consistent motivation and training to ensure their image and that of the company remains a positive one.
- Local television stations are just like their network brethren. They want to get it out there FIRST so they can proclaim “WE BROUGHT IT TO YOU FIRST!” in newly-produced, flashy graphics style on-air promotions. All of which in the end might return another .01 in the ratings, but is a cornerstone, sometimes unfortunate, of marketing and sales. These promos are, in essence, an echo chamber. Yet reporters are urged to go out there and get us that “BREAKING NEWS” so there’s a reason for utilizing that new graphics package with the blinking lights and “WHOOSH” sound effect. The old adage rings true. It’s critical at a TV station or in any company to press that it’s more important to get it right than be the first to say something. Ensure that your staff is given room to express themselves and doesn’t fear going to management.
- Management has failed to instill in it’s team the proper procedures. Sure, they may talk about it from time to time and probably have staff meetings on occasion, but they are not consistently working with their reporters with education and positive motivation. Not only have I been there, but I still get reports from stations across the country I work for and with delivering the usual horror stories. And it’s not only from media outlets, it’s from companies that deal in everything from health care to the making of widgets. Employees that all have the same story of how management fails to give them the necessary direction and shifts the blame downward when the spit hits the fan. Be consistent in motivating and training every employee, from management on down.
The standard call here usually is, and has been in this case, the calling for someone’s head to roll. That the reporter(s) involved should be fired. That management up the food chain should be fired as well for giving the “phony news media” wags more ammunition.
Wrong and wrong.
Firing the people down the line only sends a message of anger and fear to the rest of the staff. It puts people on edge and will only be the cause of more mistakes. Dropping the sledgehammer on people’s heads with the idea that “ONE MORE SCREWUP AND I’LL FIRE THE LOT OF YOU!” does zero for their confidence, their ability to think independently, and their efficiency in doing the job. It also has everyone from the intern to the top dog out looking for work, threatening the all-important employee retention. Why would anyone want to work for a place that uses threats as a way to encourage loyalty?
Our corporate culture here in the 21st Century demands intelligence, fast thinking, and consistent motivation. Holding the occasional staff meeting isn’t enough. Sending people to Human Resources for “re-evaluation” is seen as punishment and a scarlet letter around the office. Handing over a manual and saying “READ THIS” is insulting and demeaning.
Upper management must learn how to talk to their people. How to motivate them. How to be consistent in delivering the message of teamwork and cooperation. And when the time is right to bring in someone outside the “echo chamber”.
It’s the reason why I developed “The Playbook” program as part of “The Undefeated Image” Series. It’s about not merely training people in leadership, image and responsibility. It’s about consistency in training and motivating. It’s about listening to the staff and making smart decisions in driving them to be better personally and professionally. It’s about “1 on 1” education and training that HR is not charged with delivering.
Because in the end, it makes for better working conditions, a better corporate culture experience, greater production, employee engagement, and a more successful company effort.
KXXV provides a number of lessons for broadcast media outlets and every other corporate entity in America, from the small staff of 5 to the major company of 5,000 or more.
Consistent leadership and motivation is what makes people and companies successful. It takes time, effort, and investment.
All worth it. IF ownership decides to make the investment.