This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.
You’re not perfect. You know it and your staff knows it. Admitting your own errors (and apologizing for them, if an apology is due) builds credibility with your staff, especially if you’re going to be critical of them.
That workshop on leads that were too long (discussed in the previous post) started with a lead of mine that was too long. I made some fun of my own work (self-deprecating humor is an important management tool), and then turned to staff-written leads and what they needed to do to start writing tighter, better-focused leads.
Few things annoy journalists (who can be tough critics) more than editors who think they’re always right. Admitting an error to the staff underscores that you’re all learning together. If you’re not good at tweeting or editing video, admit that to a staff member who is good and ask for some coaching. Or ask the staff member to lead a workshop (and round up some other staff members who need to work on that skill to join you).
Your staff needs to be learning new skills and tools and new ways of thinking about news and storytelling. While it’s important to provide the training (a topic of a future post), the culture of a learning newsroom is even more important. The editor can lead that culture through humility and by learning along with the staff.
We all know mistakes are part of learning. If you make a mistake and don’t admit it, the staff will be talking both about the error and about your stubbornness and your arrogance. If you admit the mistake to your staff and share the lesson(s) you learned from it, the staff will be talking about the lesson or will be talking positively about your leadership.
— Stephen Sidlo (@StephenSidlo) May 9, 2013
Jill Geisler’s Would You Get an “A” on the Three C’s of Leadership?
Earlier posts with advice for editors
Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is tentative). What other topics should I cover?
- Accuracy and accountability
- Standing up for your staff
- The power of questions
- Respecting authorship
- Face-to-face communication
- Personal life
- Time management
- Developing new leaders
- The editor’s blog
- Role models
The posts probably will run daily Monday-Friday for the next few weeks. If you’re another Digital First editor (or a leader or former leader in another organization) and would like to propose a guest post as part of the series, email me at sbuttry (at) digitalfirstmedia (dot) com and we’ll discuss. I’m not interested in a post of general leadership tips. I’d rather have a post on a particular leadership topic. Feel free to suggest a post that might address a topic I’ve already covered, but from a different perspective. I welcome posts that disagree with my advice. I will invite a few editors I respect to write posts.