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by Dave Gordon

As a new general manager coming from Programming, one thing I was not prepared for was the changing of roles. Suddenly, the office chatter was about me. My hair was trimmed shorter. I started wearing a suit.

Of course, moving from PD to GM has its appeal. You are the station decision-maker, community leaders ask for your assistance, your name becomes synonymous with the station's call letters, and your income usually increases.

But with the rewards come the challenges. If you're an experienced programmer and have looked to the end of the hall and thought, "I'd like to do that," you first need to answer three important questions"

1. Do I really want the job?

As a programmer, you have the freedom to develop and execute the station's image (within certain boundaries), all the while knowing that you are not ultimately responsible for its failure. If it succeeds, you are a hero. Should it flop, the GM takes the heat.

Are the title, the big office and the extra money worth the responsibility?

2. Is there an opening?

It's quite possible your first shot at managerial duty will come at your current station. Who better to step in than someone who knows the market, the staff and the operation?

Often successful managers start as the interim station manager before moving into the permanent role. This offers the individual on-the-job training while the owner auditions him/her for the job.

3. What's the owner looking for?

Most owners are not looking for a manager who can simply prepare budgets, hire experienced department heads and look good behind a big desk. They want competent leadership, someone who will cast a clear vision to each staff member while backing it up with high personal and professional standards. Are you a developer able to produce productive people?

If you are not yet ready but think you would like to be there someday, you can make two critical moves in the meantime.

First, let your current manager in on your little secret so you can begin your training now. In a non-threatening manner, offer, "I'd like to know what it takes to become a station manager with this company."

Second, get to know and understand the objectives of your station's sales manager/underwriting director. What makes him/her tick? How do they sell? How do they hire, train and motivate their staff? Does it work?

Finally, pull the FCC handbook out of the station's public file and spend time in it. The top priority of a manager is to protect the license of the radio station. It is paramount that you know the current rules. Then, tag along with your engineer on his next transmitter site trip. Ask questions. Learn the basics.

It is safe to say that most current station managers who came from programming did not start in radio with the goal of holding their current title. But, at some point, they made a decision to begin observing, studying and practicing leadership skills.

Take the challenge of evaluating your role in radio.

Look down the hall.

Maybe it's time to say, "I'd like to do that."

Dave Gordon is General Manager of KLUP-AM and KSLR-AM in San Antonio, Texas.

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