Are You Here To Serve or To Be Served?

“Too many leaders act as if the sheep… their people… are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.”
~Ken Blanchard

I talked with Ken Blanchard recently, and I felt bad.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able read all of Ken Blanchard’s books.  Yes, they’re usually short, and told in story form, but there are so many of them!  But we were talking about leadership when he mentioned, “Are you here to serve, or be served?”

Ahhh… ok, that’s a really good question, rooted in one of his books I hadn’t read, “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do.”  He teamed up with Mark Miller of Chick-fil-A on this one.  This co-author thing he does is one of the things he was asked about, and his response itself was a good lesson in leadership.  “I like to collaborate.  I’m better when I collaborate.”  I thought a lot about that, and then realized that I am too!  Is it possible that we all are?

But wait, that’s what I’d mention to talent as a rabbit trail.  We’re talking about service.

My answer was that I’m here to serve… except when I’m not.  Like a lot of people I focus on serving, but get caught up in being served – the struggle for recognition and the perks that come with the cool title.

Even the term “servant leadership” is irritating sometimes.  Serving means the perks and bennies aren’t as important as the tangible legacy you leave.  It means we all have to win, not just one of us win.

It’s entirely possible I’m preaching to the choir at this point, because those who want to be served will have stopped reading after the last paragraph.

If you’re still here, Blanchard and Miller indicate great leaders serve in at least five ways:

  • See and shape the future:  The leader is responsible for vision.
  • Engage and develop others:  The leader is responsible to develop those around him or her.
  • Reinvent continuously:  Life doesn’t idle, a true leader understands the need for change
  • Value results and relationships:  You need to be able to exercise both in order to lead
  • Embody the values:  If you say one thing and do another, you’re not leading.*

Just think about those qualities.  They’re all higher focused and bigger picture than most alleged leaders concentrate on.  I’d go as far as to say these five actions are the difference between leadership and management.

*This is the leadership principle that causes the most “leadership” failures.  Or, you can think of it as the number one thing that holds people back from growing from managing to leading.  There seems to be an inverse principle where the higher you get on the organizational food chain, the more you think you can fool people.  But people are never as unaware or stupid as we may think.  They hear you, but they also see you and your actions.

Frost Advisory #318 – We Made Each Other Better

I was recently reunited with some guys that I worked with more than 30 years ago at a very special station in each of our careers.  One of the reasons it was special was that we set a record for highest ratings for an FM station in that market up to that time.  Double digit stuff, don’tchaknow!

As I try to gain perspective on that time in my on-air career I realize that a very simple but illusive idea contributed to our success.

We made each other better.

The GM had a close relationship with the staff, the PD poured himself into developing the talent and executing fundamentals, and the talent held each other accountable.  None of us wanted to be considered to be the weakest link, but each was suspicious he might be.  This was particularly true for me, the youngest and newest member of the team.

“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards.  They either help us to become the best version of ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves.  We become like our friends…  The people around help to make us great.

We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves.”
~Seth Godin

So, how does this play out at your station?

  • Do you hear the station playing in the hallways, or does it feel more like a lawyer’s office?  (This is a more significant indicator than you might think, because it is a direct reflection of passion for the product!)
  • Do your people go about their work in silos, where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing; or do they interact openly as teammates?
  • Is your team willing to speak truth to leadership, or do they have to hold their tongue for fear of repercussion or ridicule?

I hope that someday, maybe even 30 years from now, you’ll look back on the those you’re working with now and be able to say they were people who made you better.


This Frost Advisory is dedicated to Tim, Ed, Bob, Kevin, and Casey: teammates that made me better.

Tommy Kramer Tip #162 – The Two Rules about ONE

In the last tip, I talked about Repetition and Redundancy, two things that can wreck a show.

(It also hurts Imaging and commercials, by the way. Imaging doesn’t need to say “Magic 102.9/102.9” with that second time repeated or slightly overlapped.  Ugh.  And I’m sure we’ve all wanted to unload a double-barreled shotgun at the TV when we heard a phone number given for the thirteenth time in one of those “Call right now!” spots.)

Anyway, the last tip ended with this:

Repetition HURTS breaks.  Redundancy KILLS them.  Radio – at least GREAT radio – is always about how concisely you can get things said.  A good rule of thumb is “say things ONCE.”  What you leave UNSAID is just as important as what you say.

Now let’s add two more rules to that:

  1. Make ONE point.
  2. Give ONE example.

When you do more, it’s tedious, and makes breaks SOUND longer than they actually are.  And remember, trying to be thorough is the enemy of editing.

There’s a LOT more to this… but as John Lennon said when a reporter shouted out “Sing something for us!” during the Beatles’ first U. S. press conference, “We have to have money first.”

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Living In The Bubble

“I prefer to live in my own little bubble of my own reality.”
~Lauren Lee Smith

Grand Ole Opry Resort

I’m sitting on the balcony of my room at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, catching up on some work. The weather is beautiful, but then again it’s always beautiful because of the glass dome covering the entire hotel.  It’s sunny outside now, but it could become cloudy or even rain and I wouldn’t know it.  While I’m here I’m living in a bubble where everything is always perfect.

It’s the same way we want to think about radio. We’re living in a bubble where radio will always be as strong as it is, disruption will hit everything else but leave radio alone, and Millennials will soon grow up and become responsible…and then start listening more to radio.  The primary purpose of social media is to support radio, and streaming is only meant for the station signal.

Baby boomers will never grow old and retire or die, and will have more than enough money to donate, even when they are on social security. Millennials will suddenly be inspired to write a monthly check to support nonprofit radio stations.

Well, the problem with being in a bubble is that you wind up leaving it sooner or later.  I’ll get on an airplane, fly back to California, and be deposited in another world without the bubble.  There will be sunshine, but there will also be storms and rain.  There will be fires in the surrounding counties and the same people will be waiting for San Francisco to slide into the bay so they’ll have beachfront property.

Radio will continue with an extraordinarily strong reach, but clear trending down in time spent listening. Millennials will continue to contribute up to 18 hours a day to media, but the majority to Social Media that isn’t in support of radio.  Cars will continue to have dashboards that evolve in such a way to cause it harder to find the radio.  Radio IS being disrupted and will continue to be.

This isn’t a downer, unless you want to continue to convince yourself you live in a bubble that doesn’t exist. This is a call to a new reality that we need to address and strategize about.  Our efforts have to cover a spectrum of media, and be based in engagement, community and relationship.

Frost Advisory #317 – The Only Place People Talk About Their Seat Assignment is at the Airport

The thing that radio has the potential to do so well is the very thing we do so poorly.  Right here.  Right now.


In the aftermath of the Dallas tragedy I heard several radio stations in Texas capture that immediate intimacy.

Jeff and Rebecca at KCBI in Dallas shared their grief about the events that happened literally four blocks from their studios.  I have stood in their studio and looked west out the very window that was their vantage point to a stunned city.

The remarkable Frank Reed at KLTY shared song lyrics that gave fresh context to the hope in the music we play.

The talented duos of Steve and Amy at Spirit 105.9 in Austin, and Carder and Rachelle at KSBJ in Houston opened their hearts and gave their listeners a way to be a good neighbor, the audio equivalent of carrying down a casserole and flowers across the street for a someone in need.

My talented friend Sterling Tarrant created a mosaic in sound of listeners and leaders, pastors and police with the lyrical epiphany, “When I look into the face of my enemy I see my brother.”

Immediate intimacy.

So, what’s my point?


It is admirable for our format to step to the plate in times of need.  Often remarkable, as cited above.  But we have the opportunity to have this kind of immediate intimacy every day, not just in reaction to a horrific event.

Too often we default to the routine ‘partly cloudy and 75’ stuff I saw on Facebook or something that sounds like a boring homework assignment with instructions to go to the station’s website.

The more immediate, the more intimate.

Your listener cares about…

…that ten mile back up on I-4 when she’s five miles into it and late for a big meeting…

…that hail storm coming in from the west when he’s trying to get home to put the cars in the garage…

…the rainout of the baseball game when the son has his hopes up and it’s his last season to play…

…their seat assignment, but only when boarding the plane.

The more immediate it is, the more intimate it becomes, because the more it matters.  Right here.  Right now.

If what you’re talking about is relevant, then it is just four blocks away… to somebody.

Maybe we should always sound like it.