Michael Anderson was the CEO of Mediaworks and my boss for more than three years. We talked a lot together, particularly about the difficulties of managing people within media companies, and two days before I left my news director job in 2020 I asked his permission to record our final conversation.
At the time, I was much occupied with the ideas of Alfred Adler, an early 20th-century Viennese psychologist. Adler’s ideas form the basis of The Courage To Be Disliked, and after reading that book, I distilled his wisdom into 10 short encouragements I thought might be useful for a manager. The encouragements are:
- You have chosen to feel the way you feel
- Being normal is ok
- You have a job to do
- Forget about being liked
- Forget about recognition
- Forget about approval
- Every work problem is a people problem
- Stop providing solutions
- Making a contribution is the key to job happiness
- Each person needs a place to belong
These ideas need explanation, in that many of them seem intuitively wrong or empty. I’m not going to do that now, but I would urge you to read The Courage To Be Disliked and its sequel, The Courage To Be Happy. To be clear, these encouragements don’t appear in the books, but if you read them you’ll get the context. These are not normal self-help books.
It was all part of me trying to understand how to be a good manager, how to be effective in a newsroom, how to work with people who were distrustful. I found myself moderating my need to have answers, and my belief in hierarchy. It is easier to recognise fears in others when you have recognised them in yourself first.
So two years ago, I began bouncing the encouragements off certain people. Michael Anderson was one of those people. He was also someone I had been in the trenches with, as we fought a rearguard action to mitigate the effects of lost TV audience and build a viable media business. Anderson was a great boss for me: strategic and interested in developing people and ideas.
During the conversation I asked Anderson what I had been like as an executive, and he replied at length. I have cut out that part for the podcast as I decided it was too self-indulgent. The essence was that I had been a good report and could be relied on to get a job done, but I was too black-and-white and that I led “potentially from an extreme”.