This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.
Staff members are entitled to a life outside the newsroom.
When work has to intrude, acknowledge the intrusion. Apologize for calling at home or for interfering with dinner or vacation or weekend plans. Thank the reporter who came in on a day off or skipped lunch to deal with your demands or questions. Thank the editor who worked late on a breaking story even though he had a Cub Scout meeting that night. Commend the reporter who took the initiative to cover news that broke on personal time. She might have irritated a spouse or missed an important family event. Thanks are in order.
Sometimes thanks should be personal, sometimes public, sometimes both. I like the way Nancy March, editor of the Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., publicly praised staff members who worked through the night to provide her community timely digital coverage of developments in the Boston Marathon bombing case.
Part of respecting personal life is giving it space. An editor should not pry about staff members’ personal lives. When they open their lives to you by telling you about a spouse, partner, children, parents, pregnancies, engagements and illnesses, show genuine interest and concern. But if they choose not to share details of their lives with you, you should respect that choice.
If something (known or unknown) in a staff member’s personal life appears to be affecting performance, it’s always a good idea to discuss the situation with your human resources department before addressing the matter with the employee. If the situation might involve an illness or disability or a family situation that might involve leave, you want to understand your options when you discuss the situation with the staff member.
You also need to respect your own personal life. You have a demanding job. You will meet those demands better for the long haul if you protect and respect a healthy personal life. If your job cuts into family time, as many news jobs do, make an effort to spend the remaining family time enjoyably. Be creative in finding meaningful ways to use time with your family.
Tend to your own needs as well. Find time for exercise. Make time for a hobby or some pursuits you enjoy. Get an annual physical, and don’t delay getting treatment for any physical discomfort or emotional distress. Have fun. Regularly. Especially when you’re feeling stress on the job.
You may experience a personal crisis, such as a troubled marriage, troubled children, health problems, a death in the family or an ailing parent. Confide in your supervisor and discuss whether you need some temporary relief from some of your job stress. That’s a sign of wisdom, not weakness. And it will help your career better than appearing distracted without explanation or collapsing eventually under the combined stress.
Confide in your immediate staff about the personal crisis, too. You may be sharing your stress in ways you don’t recognize, and they’re entitled to a general understanding (but not necessarily all the details).
How have you (or an editor you worked for) shown respect for the staff’s personal lives (or appreciation for how the demands of news intrude on personal life)? How do you protect your own personal life, so you’ll remain a strong editor for the long haul, rather than burning out?
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. Sue Burzynski Bullard provided such a post on organizational tools.
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.
Earlier posts with advice for editors
Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is tentative). The posts probably will run daily Monday-Friday for the next few weeks. What other topics should I cover?
- Role models
- The editor’s blog
- Time management
- Developing new leaders