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FYI

You Don't Own Me (But I Own My Own Screwups)

I’ve learned a bazillion things over the years that have helped me in my career, but this is the big one. Be responsible.

You Don't Own Me (But I Own My Own Screwups)

By Sharon Taylor

Like everyone, I’ve made lots of changes to the way I think and act over the years.  The 20-something-me in a radio station was a completely different me than you would have met in my 30s, my 40s and 50s.


Everyone grows up.

I’ve learned a bazillion things over the years that have helped me in my career, but this is the big one. Be responsible.

Once I put this “rule” into play, I was shocked at the results.  It didn’t make me work harder or longer; in fact, it got easier.  Suddenly, things that had been grey became more black and white. There was less anxiety about what I should be doing.  The path that last week, last month, last year had just seemed so tough, was much easier.  It was exactly the “rule” I needed.

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Being responsible meant I was always able to tell my management precisely what happened and where things went sideways.  I’ve told my bosses some awful and disappointing stuff over the years, and from time to time I was confident that I was going to be fired for it.  Never happened!  Oh, I have been fired, just never for screwing up and owning it.

If you need to count on other people to get your job done, don’t think therein lies a gap in your responsibility. It’s on you to make sure they know what they are supposed to contribute and that they do it right and do it on time.  If they screw it up, it’s on you.

Here are a couple of real-life examples of what I’m talking about.

My first job was in promotions at CKSL in London.  We were a CHR in a fight with rival station CJBK, and it was competitive and fun.  I had an idea that I worked hard on, pitched to management and got the OK and a teeny bit of budget.  We were going to put on a series of free concerts at the Bandshell in Victoria Park.  It was MAJOR to us.  To make a long story short – at daybreak on the very first concert day, I was perched in the bay window of my rented house looking at the sky.  It was threatening to rain.  I was dejected.  I was going to be entirely responsible for a bomb of a promotion.  Worse, my contracts were all rain or shine. People were going to get paid regardless of whether anyone showed up.

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Take a hard look at that.  I felt I was responsible FOR THE WEATHER because I HAD PICKED THE DAY (months earlier mind you) and it was going to RAIN?  Boy, can I get in a groove!

Years later I was programming CISS-FM in Toronto, and we put on a concert for clients and listeners.  We booked Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Mavericks for a show at Massey Hall.  I had learned my lesson back in London and hired Rob Bennett to produce it. Rob was amazing, and we had a sold-out show with virtually no hiccups.  Throughout I was responsible for the overseeing all costs.  It was on a Friday when I realized that when Rob was talking about one particular production cost I had been confusing it with another.  Bottom line, there was a 30K cost that I hadn’t budgeted for and didn’t have room in the budget for it. 

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I was sick about it.  I thought about whether I should lay this on my boss Gord Rawlinson right away or give us both a break and wait until Monday. 

Knowing that I’m a stress eater and confident that I would be 20lbs heavier if I waited until Monday, I phoned him.  Explained it all, explained my mistake, explained how it happened, gave some ideas on where to source that 30K elsewhere etc.  He didn’t really seem to care.  He assured me it wouldn’t be a problem and laughed at how horrified I was.  Gord, like most owners, did not routinely laugh off 30K expense mistakes that his PDs made.

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Once I was a little further in management, I realized why.  When something goes sideways, if no one is taking responsibility your one problem suddenly doubles into two.

Trust me, it’s less important who made the mistake than just identifying where along the line it happened and making a change in systems or whatever to prevent it from happening again.

Btw – the rain had stopped by concert time, there were over 5,000 at the park to hear Goddo, I got a ticket from the police for not supplying porta potties, and one of the guys in the band received a mild electric shock during the show when he stepped in a puddle.  He took it like rock n roll and we all partied on.

  Sharon Taylor is a freelance radio consultant, executive mentor and writer at large.  In the supermarket, just last week, a man commented that she had nice feet.  Text anytime 437 992 9202.

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