CLP001 Allen Henderson – Relationships and Being Transcript (PDF)
Marc A. Pitman: Welcome to the Concord Leaders Podcast. I’m Marc Pitman, the CEO of the Concord Leadership Group. Today our guest is Allen Henderson, the General Manager of His Radio Network which has radio stations or towers all through the Carolinas and Georgia. Allen, did I say that right? Is it stations or is it towers? Or repeaters?
Allen Henderson: Actually I guess you could say frequencies, like our address is the number you dial in your radio, 89.3 or whatever. Those are frequencies and they with transmitters and towers.
Marc: I have learned a lot. I don’t know if I shared this with you, but my first consulting client ever was a membership based radio station up in Maine. That went regional. I loved the geeky part of this. For those of you who are listening, Allen and I happen to live in the same town, or happen to work here in Greenville, South Carolina. Getting to know each other over the past year and I’ve just really been impressed with not only his cutting edge use of technology and apps and trying to reach listeners for his radio station in ways where the listeners are used to. Not just forcing them to the radio, but also his long time of being in this sector. He has always inspired me as someone who’s a lifelong learner, and exuberant.
All his years have added to just building that exuberance and his desire to do what he’s doing. Allen, I’m really honored to have you on here. As we do on the podcast, what I love to hear is just what do you love about leading? What are some things that you really enjoy about being a leader?
Allen: It is a lot of great things, and challenging things. One thing that you discover when you step into that role of leadership or people reporting to you is, it’s a heavy weight of responsibility and you realize that what you say matters. Really the thing I’ve enjoyed about leadership is just the relationships that we can build, and just being someone that can help solve problems, and help other people reach their goals. The people that we work with, you don’t want to be like his boss and my way or the highway. You got to work with people, and let them feel valued.
One of the things I’ve tried to learn is that relationship is more important than the problem. Sometimes you can lose the relationship going headfirst into a problem, and you need to get all the facts before you make decisions. Hopefully let people be a part of the decision process. There’s more buy-in, and you work more like a team. It’s not like a dictatorship. It’s really a team effort, and I like the servant aspect of leading. My job is to make sure that you have everything to do your job, and realize that people are just people with families and lives, and goals and where you work or where you missed, or whatever.
That’s a big part of your life and that affects your life. I like being a part of people’s lives, even at the lower level, not just in the office but outside of the office, things that we can do together.
Marc: That’s awesome. You’ve also hinted to the other part of being a leader is I love the relationships that you talked about. You get to build relationships in just your awareness of how central work can be, influencing all aspects of someone’s life. You did mention you have to be really careful what you say. Does that go into the second part, which is describing a time when you had an issue or a challenge in leadership?
Allen: Yes. Like in my situation here, I worked here as a staff member from about 1983 to 1990, and then in 1990, I became the manager. I became like the boss, which I don’t really like that term, but it was the boss. I realized just in casual conversation, or whenever you could say something, and then some people would say, “Well you know he said this,” or, “He said that.” It carries more weight. It’s almost like you can say something casually or just matter-of-factly and all of a sudden, someone thinks you’re changing policy or something.
One thing I learned a long time ago, you can’t be a buddy and a boss. You have to really be able to draw those lines. You want to build a relationship and be a part of someone’s life, and be an encourager, and that kind of thing, but there are boundaries, I think, that you have to place. Being in an organization that is media-central, there’s a lot of creative people, you can get some drama going on with these issues. That’s a nice way of putting it.
What equipment you use, and how it’s used, it’s just a delicate balance, sometimes because when you’re working with creative people, they need to have some freedom to express their creative talents. You always come over, hey, handy that you squashed that, it’s a challenge. We’re donor-based, so the listener is premier, especially the listeners that are donors. It’s very important that we keep those relationships strong, and then only go out into the community. We are who people think we are, because we tend to be bigger than life, and then you want to be real, face-to-face, so people can say, “Hey! It’s just like he is on the radio.”
Allen: That can be a big challenge, to be real people. You’re being observed like a glass house, like a pastor or whatever. People, they read into a lot of things that you may do or say, and when you become the leader, how many times these people are going, “I want to talk to the manager”? It can either be good or it can be challenging. You do realize that you are the face of the organization, and that that’s really important how you react.
Marc: So interesting, because that’s one thing and coaching leaders, I think surprises a lot of, especially CEOs or executive directors. The weight of their words. They said something last week, but now they have the title General Manager, a CEO, Executive Director, and all of a sudden, it seems like there is so much more weight behind what they said, or their hallway conversations can’t be the same anymore because they could just be verbally expressing or thinking through something, but it comes with that weight of authority.
“Oh, the boss wants me to do this now!” When it was just an idea that you had been brainstorming the month before.
Allen: Just thinking out loud, maybe. You learn to guard your words and be careful about saying things without thinking through because like you said before, you’re just talking. Then when you become the where the buck stops with you, then you realize, “Oh, wait a minute! They may be taking that too seriously.”
Marc: Wow! Thank you so much, I think a lot of us struggle with that, and are learning with that. As we come to the end of this edition of the podcast, I’m wondering, is there a strategy or a tip or something that you have found to help you with that?
Allen: One thing I try to focus on, and a lot of these difficult situations are really based on emotion and relationships, and you got to know what’s going on in people’s lives, but I try to focus more on who I am than what I’m supposed to do. We tend to get caught up in leadership of doing, and have a board that I’m accountable to, and I’m expected to meet certain goals and those kinds of things. It becomes almost, it pushes you into just doing. I got to do this, I got to do that, and get other people to help me do it.
You forget to think about it’s really who I am, people will follow a leader that if you can get the sense of the difference in that, because some people are more, they work on tasks. They’re task-oriented. Other people think a little bit differently in the big picture. I think you need a good sense of who you are, and you need a good dose of humility and knowing that you depend on other people to accomplish your goals.
If you can’t work with people on an emotional level, and get buy-in, you’ll have so much conflict you’ll spend all your time putting out fires and you won’t be able to do really what you’re called or hired to do. Getting a good sense of yourself, being comfortable with yourself, and having a healthy view of yourself. Not walking around woe is me, I’m no good, I’m an idiot, I can’t do anything, one day they’re going to discover really how stupid I am and fire me.
Everybody feels that way. It’s not exclusive to any one person. Everybody feels unprepared, disorganized, trying to catch up all the time, and you just got to have a good sense of yourself. Another thing I think, and this is one of my biggest, is don’t take yourself so seriously. Be willing to laugh with people and just enjoy the day without getting all caught up with all the issues, even though they’re piling up like crazy.
Marc: Especially on your desk.
Allen: Oh my word, it’s unbelievable. You got all these things. How many plates are we spending today? It’s easy to get caught up in that, and forget even why you’re doing what you’re doing. A good sense of yourself, just you have to answer the question, “Who am I and what am I doing here?” Then what you need to do will come naturally. It’ll find you, and you’ll do it.
Marc: Thanks so much Allen, because that’s, it is real easy to focus on all the to-do lists and that old nugget that people have said. We’re human beings, not human doings. I think that’s really good, good reminder for us and really appreciate your sharing some of your wisdom and insights here on the Concord Leaders Podcast. For future episodes, go to https://concordleadershipgroup.com/podcast/ and replay this episode and all the other episodes of the other CEOs we’ll be interviewing, and have interviewed. Thanks so much for being here, Allen.
Allen: Thank you so much. Honor to talk with you, really admire what you’re doing, and appreciate your encouragement and all of your leadership. Helping us be donor centered and people centered in what we do.
Marc: Where can people find you?
Allen: Just go to HisRadio.com.
Marc: Wonderful! Thanks so much, Allen. Until next time, remember healthy non-profits start with healthy leaders.