Curse change, and you curse yourself

My first hour in the newsroom of The Sun, where I was to be a downtable sub, will never leave me.

Editor Kelvin MacKenzie, something of an industry legend, greeted me with a blizzard of profanity about what he thought of Australians and demanded I leave “our women alone” . . . and then he offered these long-treasured words: “When you think you are in, son . . . you’re out.”

He spun on a heel, headed for his office yelling over his shoulder, “I gotta go speak to The Boss”.

MacKenzie’s advice was prophetic for him more than me. I listened to it.

I offer his wisdom – some might say his warning – because we are all deep in the belly of lasting change as corporate strategies manifest themselves to embrace digital, offering opportunity for some and disappointment, even bewilderment and anger, for others.

A recent Association survey of colleagues shows 57 percent say they have the skills needed for the next five years.

That’s a bit optimistic. As new technology and business approaches emerge, so too can existing skills diminish in value and purpose.

The aspiring general news reporter looking for a job a decade ago would have no chance in today’s market.

To be competitive, you need at least some digital publishing knowledge, scripting skills and an ability to do a piece-to-camera, even if it’s on an iPhone.

Being able to write 300 words from a local court doesn’t crack it. And if it does, it’s commodity stuff.

Salespeople who can’t tell a byte from a bite should rethink their career, or professional development plans. Marketers who believe social media is for attention-seekers need to get the religion or get another job.

In any industry, senior managers are always vulnerable. Longevity can breed detachment from modern business realities and a personification of that dreaded phrase, ‘that’s not how we do it around here’.

Those whose leadership I have enjoyed have always had tremendous energy, loved a new idea and performed with great integrity. Even the best, though, can get stuck with projects that are not core business – a dangerous place to be in a phase of transition.

When business is under pressure and needs to recalibrate culture and strategy, the question must always be, ‘what value are you bringing right now?’ In a well-run company, there should be nowhere to hide; only places with potential to succeed.

None of this is new. Management consultants, business educators and magazines such as Fast Company were banging on about responsibility and accountability in the late ‘90s.

With change blasting through newspaper companies like a sou’wester, it’s a good idea to get on board, say ‘yes’ and enjoy the ride.

Curse it, and you curse yourself. The Association survey left me optimistic about the future. Many colleagues are responding to the challenge of change, with more than 50 percent investing in their own skills.

It is vital to make yourself a desirable, results-oriented employee with skills that any company might value.

This is one thing Kelvin MacKenzie did not say, but is equally true – his philosophy works both ways.

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