About Jim Carroll
Jim Carroll is one of Australia’s most experienced media executives having been the long serving Director of News and Current Affairs at both SBS and Network Ten and he also held senior roles at the Nine and Seven Networks.
He has led editorial strategy and news teams for more than 30 years and travelled extensively to cover major international stories, including a period heading Seven’s European Bureau.
Jim has worked across all platforms starting his career in newspapers, moving to radio and then television and digital.
He left journalism for several years to work as a senior advisor to the NSW Premier. Jim is a Director of the Australian Science Media Centre and a former member of the Australia Day Council (NSW).
Jim holds a degree in economics and is a graduate and member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Lesson 1: Play to your strengths and know your limitations 01m 51s
Lesson 2: Building Alliances and Maintaining Relationships. 06m 64s
Lesson 3: Be decisive and organized 11m 42s
Lesson 4: Present strategic options and argue for your preferred position. 16m 54s
Lesson 5: Don’t tell me how good you are – Show me 22m 11s
Lesson 6: Identify talent, promote quickly, be alert to the quiet achievers 28m 57s
Lesson 7: Your best career path may not be what you think. 31m 21s
Lesson 8: Listen widely 33m 32s
Lesson 9: Beware the noisy, self-absorbed few 37m 08s
Lesson 10: Be a decent person 43m 24s
Ten Lessons – Jim Carroll
[00:00:06] Jeffery Wang: Hello and welcome to the podcast 10 lessons it took me 50 years to learn where we talk to inspirational leaders from all over the world to dispense wisdom for life, business, and career, in order to provide you shortcuts to excellence.
My name is Jeffery Wang, the founder of Professional Development Forum and your host today. This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which helps diverse young professionals, of any age, find fulfillment in the modern workplace today we’re joined by former news director Jim Carroll.
Jim is one of Australia’s most experienced media executives, having been the long serving director of News and Current Affairs at both SBS and Network 10. And he also held senior roles at Nine and Seven Networks.
He has led editorial strategy and news teams for more than three decades and travelled extensively to cover a major international stories including a period heading up Seven’s European Bureau. Jim has worked across all platforms, starting his career in newspapers, moving to radio, then television and digital.
He left journalism for several years to work as a senior advisor to the former New South Wales Premier Barry Unsworth. Jim is a Director of the Australian Science Media Centre and a former member of the Australia Day Council in New South Wales. Jim holds a degree in economics and as a graduate and member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jim as he’s a Director of Judith Neilson Institute’s Community Voices program, which seeks to give underrepresented Australians a greater voice in our national conversation of which I’m fortunate to be a participant.
Thank you for joining us today, Jim.
[00:01:48] Jim Carroll: Jeff really appreciate the opportunity and nice to see you again.
[00:01:51] Lesson 1: Play to your strengths and know your limitations
[00:01:51] Jeffery Wang: So, uh, that’s just jump straight into it then. Lesson number one, “Play to your strengths and know your limitations”.
[00:01:59] Jim Carroll: Yeah, look, I guess a lot of these are going to sound pretty obvious, but I guess it’s sort of getting below the layers. Yeah, let’s be honest. There aren’t too many shrinking violets in media. I’m not going to name names Jeff. I don’t want to get, I don’t want to get sued, but yeah, there, there are those that would trample over their grandmother to get in front of a camera or microphone.
But for every person that makes it in front of that camera, there are thousands that aspire to be there. I realized pretty early on that there were people that were better than me in those kinds of prominent personality-based roles. And also, it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.
You know, it’s actually quite a reserved kid growing up. but I did like the media I did like storytelling, and what I discovered quite early, it was, I was actually pretty good at the process of news gathering, managing the process, and getting other people to perform in delivering their stories.
And I liked it and it was a hell of a lot more secure than, you know, actually the other side of the camera. Cause people come and go. But you know, if you were half decent at the management side, uh, then, you tended to the thrive and you know, the fact that I survived in a pretty cutthroat business for 40 years, very few of those have 40-year careers on the other side of the camera.
So, knowing your limitations, is reflected by understanding that as a leader, You also can’t do it all. The best CEO I work with, I mean, look he had his flaws. but what I noticed about him is that he built a team of experts in their divisional responsibilities, but who were also really supportive of each other and got on well as a group And that CEO would primarily focus his attention on the areas that he knew where his core where he’d come from. So, he was out of the sales area. So, he didn’t delve too much into the news space or, or the legal space. but because he was so strong and sales and marketing, that’s where he continued to make his strongest contribution.
while still maintaining an oversight of the entire business. if you stuffed up, he would pull you into line. So, I just thought he was very effective at managing that process and maybe he was fortunate because he had the right team at, at the right time. And that business was incredibly successful.
It became the most profitable media business in Australia, despite the fact that it was much smaller in numbers terms and in staff terms then any others But it was the most profitable business for quite a few years. Alternatively, I’ve also seen leaders who thought they could do it all.
And then there’s a great story about a particular CEO who was a very short lived at, at one of the, one of the networks, who would even go as far as sitting in the edit suite while they were cutting promos for the network and you’re going, I think he had more valuable, things to spend his spent his time on, but.
Apparently, you could never get him to make a big decision about anything, but he’s in there helping, uh, an editor cut a promo, for programs coming up on air. So, I think, that danger of thinking you have to be all things to all people, as opposed to pulling a team together that are subject matter experts, that will work together from a broader strategic perspective, but also be the best operators available in, in their specific area of expertise.
[00:05:18] Jeffery Wang: And so how does one become aware of what their strengths and limitations are?
[00:05:26] Jim Carroll: As I said about myself, I mean, hopefully people are self-aware enough, although, you know, when you watch some of those, those talent shows, you wonder why, you know that person’s parents let them go and sing on the voice or Australian idol or any of those programs.
I mean, sometimes there is a lack of self-awareness. Yeah. Look, I think it is the self-aware people that that level in most cases. Even if, if some of those people that you thought were self-aware do start to think I can do it all. I think it is a case of trying to bring those people back into line. And that’s not easy, but you would hope that that at the board level they would be conscious of it, but I think also if you’re dealing as, as an executive committee, as an ex-con, hopefully there are appropriate and open relationships there where you can have those, those kinds of discussions. And you can push back, you know, if someone is intruding into your area of responsibility and I’ve certainly had cases of that, but I’ve got to say it was probably more in the latter stages of my career, where you kind of pretty comfortable with yourself.
You know, you’re not thinking about the next promotion and, you know, you can push back and say, well mate, I don’t think that’s the right way to go. And it looks certainly, you know, that that’s, that’s happened on occasions where, you know, a particular CEO was very passionate about particular issues and wanting to take angles on particular issues.
But you have to push back, if you just surround yourself with yes people, you’re only going to be told what you want to hear and that is not a great recipe for, for business success.
[00:06:54] Lesson Number 2: Building Alliances and Maintaining Relationships
[00:06:54] Jeffery Wang: agree with that. And that sounds like a great segue for a lesson number two, building alliances and maintaining relationships. I think you alluded to this earlier.
[00:07:03] Jim Carroll: Yeah. Yeah. Look like, I guess everything kind of interweaves and it seems pretty obvious and everyone talks about it, I think at the senior level, but it’s also in the doing, it’s not just talking about it and, I’ve come across many people who see relationships just about the here and now, you know, that they are very friendly to someone while they’re directly working with them, or they can get something out of them or they can do a deal. And, you know, they’re inviting them on the golf course and inviting them out to, out to lavish dinners.
And, and as soon as that necessity disappears then the relationship disappears. Whereas I think Jeff, you’ve probably experienced this, you know, with it, through the community voices, that I’m being very focused on maintaining relationships. It’s very important, not just for what you can get out of them, but yeah, I think as a person, I think you become a stronger individual.
If you work hard at relationships and you build them, You don’t necessarily have to be friendships, they can be professional relationships. But where they can be both that can, that can be a really good thing. And as we were talking about earlier if you have that kind of relationship with your CEO or your COO, and you say, mate, hang a bit, I don’t think you’re heading in the right direction, and you can have those robust conversations. As I said, I think it’s a lot easier when you’re at the end of your career, as opposed to hope the boss, doesn’t fire me for, uh, for, for pushing back so heavily”. But I think it’s something that you need to be very conscious of.
And as I look, I’ve never seen. A relationship just for a particular purpose, as something that I would think about, I have ongoing close relationships and friendships with people and I met 40 years ago, 30 years ago, 20 years ago. You know, some of my best friends were when I worked in politics in the eighties and at channel 10 and channel nine.
I think strong relationships form when you’re in the, in the trenches together. And, and you know, Jeff, I know you’d be aware of this in politics. There is, there is probably no more robust battles than those that, that exist in politics. And you do feel under siege. And certainly, the period that I worked in politics and the particular government was, was under very heavy pressure.
So, there is a bit of that siege mentality where, uh, you know, you’re kind of in this together and that. Formed very close bonds, but the fact that those bonds continue to exist, you know, 30, 33 years later. I think it’s a really good sign, but you do have to work on it and yeah, those, they are people that you can call when, when you’ve got a challenge, when you need advice, you may not still be in the same workplace, but you want to be able to do that. You know, if you want to call up someone for advice someone that is going to present at community voices and give some great insights to people like you, the fact that you’ve got those relationships, and that you’ve worked hard on those relationships. And that it’s a two-way situation then, it’s a good thing. So yeah, people you work well together with, because you saw and shared a common purpose are the ones that you want to maintain those relationships with.
And importantly, you want to choose people that will also want to support you and you want to support them. Let’s be honest. You need allies to help you do a job, to help you keep a job and to even get a job. you know, not too many jobs come through classifieds anymore.
I think the vast majority of jobs, particularly at a senior level is through relationships, through someone saying gee I know that Jeffery Wang he’s a really good guy, really good at his job. Really good at relationships, really works well with people” that is worth a million dollars in terms of the recruitment process.
[00:10:41] Jeffery Wang: And I can see the impact that you had on the people that you’ve known over the years as well. I mean, through even the Community Voices program, marching into Q and A the first night, the first thing I saw was Hamish McDonald coming up to you saying, “Hi Jim!” and that is just a, a testament to how well you treat the people that you’ve worked with in the past.
And if I recall correctly, you also gave Hamish a job earlier on in his career as well. So that certainly is a testament to how well you treat the people that you come across. And clearly over the years you guys stayed close and have a very strong bond. But I also like to add that, you know, it’s not just for careers, in life, you need these relationships.
and you know, we are relational creatures. I do believe a big part of our wellbeing and happiness relies on the quality of the relationship we have with those people around us. Those people that’s close to us. And so that’s certainly something of great consideration as well.
[00:11:42] Lesson 3: Be Decisive and Organised
[00:11:42] Jeffery Wang: All right, moving on to lesson, number three, be decisive and organized. Now I would have thought that that would be a given. What do you mean by that?
[00:11:49] Jim Carroll: Well, do you think it You think it is? I’ve worked in a lot of places that people aren’t organized, even people at the most senior level and actually trying to get a decision out of senior leadership, let alone middle management can be incredibly difficult.
[00:12:06] Jeffery Wang: Why is that? Do you think, why are people having such difficulty making these decisions, knowing that they have to be made timely?
[00:12:14] Jim Carroll: Yeah, like I think it’s, it’s about people being wary of taking responsibility if things go bad, I’ve been a big believer that, you know, an occasional bad decision is better than no decision at all. I’ve seen many situations, you know, particularly in the public sector where there’s so much consultation you end up with, uh, you know, an ineffective mishmash as a final outcome.
I, I think the reality is, too many people are reluctant to take the responsibility for making a tough call. Overly anxious about the potential negative repercussions, I suppose. upsetting people if it goes bad. As we’ve talked about before them damaging career prospects, when they might be in mid-career, I don’t think I’ve been afraid of making decisions, which I hope is a key reason why I kind of stayed in leadership roles for a long period of time. And I guess I was identified as, you know, it’s a 21-year-old, well, he’s a bloke who can make the decision about things. Let’s put him in charge. And, and, you know, that was leading journalists who were you know, 15, 20, 30 years older than me, but there was no real pushback on that.
I think they just said, here’s a kid who can actually make the calls on things. It was leading people who weren’t natural decision-makers, who are there to do a task. And they were quite happy. They saw that as their role, was to go out and report on stories.
Um, and that was their preference. They didn’t want to make the decision about which stories to cover or which order those stories ran. They just wanted to go out and do the stories. And I guess maybe that was just the stars aligning that particular time where I was the guy prepared to say, well, why don’t we do this?
And it’s much easier for people just to agree with something. Then to come up with themselves or to make the ultimate decision on it.
[00:13:55] Jeffery Wang: What makes you particularly good at making these decisions?
Is it because you’re just better at envisioning what would be a good story to run? Is it because you’ve just got a good instinct? Or is it a bit more of a dark art? Is it just because if you decide people just go along with it, like how, how do you know that you’re making the right decisions? And is there a framework?
[00:14:17] Jim Carroll: Do you ever know if you’re making the right decisions until you see in the outcome? Look I think it’s probably a combination of all those things. No, I don’t think I was an overconfident person, but I always felt that I was a thoughtful person and a considered person.
But I also believe that you couldn’t pro prevaricate you really had to make a call on things. And, you know, in some cases, this is putting people’s lives at risk if you’re sending someone into a dangerous situation. But you know, you consider all local on safety and security factors, but you can spend so much time doing that, that the decision, the requirements that the using is almost past.
So, I think if you’re given the responsibility and that’s what I got, I guess I was given an affiliate. You thought I was given the responsibility. I took up that responsibility. if you’re given the responsibility, You have to take a hold of it, because you are given charge to lead.
And if you don’t do that, don’t take the job. And particularly you saw this in media because they were high profile journalists, or broken particular stories that they moved them into management roles. And some of them were not very good because that wasn’t their skillset, their skillset was going in and doing a great story. Making a decision about who to assign that story, or making a decision about how that story will ultimately be placed on your news platforms, or making decisions about the promotion for that story. That’s not necessarily their strength.
If you’re the best journalist, then be a journalist at the age of 60. If you are an average journalist at 25 or that’s not your passion, but you’re really good at some other aspect of the business that you’re in, then follow that path. It may not be as glamorous. You might not go to as many exciting parties Jeff Yeah. but you’re going to get a better outcome as a result. I got better in, in the latter stages of my career. I made better decisions. but you’d hope that you hope that with more experiences, you make better decisions.
You are more willing to make tougher calls, when your job isn’t under threat as a consequence of those calls and, you know, I made mistakes. I’m sure there are plenty of people I’ve worked with over the years that said I’ve made terrible calls on things or employed terrible people, you know, we all make mistakes, I’ve made the wrong call on covering stories sometimes. Have I appointed the wrong people? Sure. But in the end, someone has to make the call, and to succeed both as the decision maker and for the best interest of your organization. You have to do that. Someone has to do it.
[00:16:48] Jeffery Wang: And I do think that there is an element of people willing to take that responsibility as well.
[00:16:54] Lesson 4: Present Strategic Options and Argue for Your Preferred Position
[00:16:54] Jeffery Wang: I mean, I do see too many managers and I use managers as opposed to the word leader, who is more interested in the status and the position of the job rather than the responsibility of the job. Which is to take the responsibility for the decisions that they make, which makes it, a great segue to lesson number four, “present strategic options and argue for your preferred position”.
So again, that sounds like something that you would think everyone should be doing this. Yeah.
[00:17:20] Jim Carroll: Well, my, my experiences Jeff, that you’re not that likely to get great ideas coming from boards. Plenty of directors will provide valuable insights on the strategic direction.
I guess that’s their job, you know, that they are not there to create the strategy. But yeah, they are there to assess and decide upon the strategy. But to be honest, I’ve been pretty shocked at times with how little directors know about the business, actually, that they’re actually a part of.
Um, I, I remembered this was many years ago. I was in a board meeting, and I remember a director, this director, particular director lived in Sydney. and he was saying that the network should do a program like the rugby league footy show, because this network had the and said all, you know, we should do an AFL taught footy show.
And then, it didn’t need to be pointed out to him that another network had been running the AFL footy show for about 20 years. And it was one of the highest rating, most awarded programs. But this person who was a director of a TV network did not know that. More recently, there was a director who, it was the newish director and was being shown around the, around the newsroom being introduced to staff. And he asked the prime-time news presenter. they’d been in the job for quite a few years, what this person did. He was a director who had not actually watched the most significant and important program on the network on which they were on the board.
So, you’re going wow, but you know, they make their contributions in other way. You don’t necessarily need to have them watch the news every night, but you would hope that they would have a depth of understanding of business. The point is don’t expect too much inspiration from directors, if you get it, that’s great.
I think my experience with executive teams is that each executive tends to have their level of expertise in their area of divisional responsibilities.
Now I was the news guy, so hopefully I knew a lot of that news and current affairs. I would always like people have a view about the product. I’d hope that they watch the product. Sometimes it concerned me that other executives didn’t tend to watch the product that you were making, and yet would have a view.
Sometimes you are in this kind of position of, of isolation that you are dealing with fellow executives and directors who actually don’t know that much about what you’re doing. They may not have even watched what you’re doing, even though it’s important, but we’ll have a view on it yet. They will still have a view even though they haven’t actually watched it.
[00:19:49] Jeffery Wang: So, you’re really saying is that the knowledge or the good ideas should come from the floor and go with the way up, and you should have the courage to argue for that. Now, what you are saying also is that you should argue for your preferred position. So why is it so important that you settle on that particular recommendation?
[00:20:10] Jim Carroll: Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle there. I mean, you’ve got one, one outcome you want to achieve, but you’ve got to ensure that there are other options there. You put all your focus on, on the option that you want them to support, but you need to ensure that there are other alternatives there because otherwise I think, oh, he’s just trying to bluff me. He’s just trying to bulldoze this thing through.
There’s a bit of subtlety around that. Present strategic options and argue your preferred position. Of course, you’re going to do that But within each of those, it’s that nuance, it’s understanding who you’re dealing with and, and what their expectation is.
The board expectation is that they want to make an easy decision. They want to make the right decision. They want to have enough input to show that they are interested in contributing. And I think if you can give them an opportunity to do that, but then everyone will leave satisfied.
And I think, you know, as I talked about that previous CEO, we’ve got a really good, executive committee together that we’re not only strong in their own areas, but knew a lot about the business more broadly. And I think that’s the sweet spot. If you can get that. Because what will happen then is that if you’ve got a cohesive executive committee, they will support you.
You know, if you’ve built those relationships with your fellow executives, even though they may not necessarily know much about what your plan is, and you will just have that kind of, sweeping overview can get them to support you, you are 99% of the way there. So, it’s relationships helping you get the best strategic option delivered by the executive committee and ultimately by the board.
[00:21:33] Jeffery Wang: Sounds like what you’re doing is to show them that you’ve presented them with a option that is clearly thought out and well considered. what you’re effectively doing is to make it easy for them to take that particular recommendation, uh, and show that they’ve contributed. So that’s a great insight in there.
[00:21:50] Jim Carroll: Almost giving them no choice. You want them thinking that’s a no brainer. There is no other direction to go, even though he’s presented some other options that makes a hundred percent sense.
[00:21:58] Jeffery Wang: Brilliant. And that’s, you know, that that’s almost, uh, basically goes for a sales pitch as well when you’re, when you’re putting something forward.
So that’s great. That’s a great segue actually. no, it’s not.
[00:22:09] Jim Carroll: It’s a terrible segue this one.
[00:22:11] Lesson 5: Show me how good you are. Don’t tell me.
[00:22:11] Jeffery Wang: Terrible segue to the next one, but I’ve love, love, love this lesson. “Show me how good you are. Don’t tell me”.
[00:22:20] Jim Carroll: Yeah.
[00:22:20] Jeffery Wang: Well, I know exactly who you’re referring to here, but that that’s a… yeah go on…
[00:22:25] Jim Carroll: Well, you know, Jeff, I might sound a bit like a grumpy old boss that, you know, things were so much better, better in the old days.
But look, I will be honest. I was kind of staggered in a latter of stages of my career with the kind of growing expectations of small numbers of staff, not majority. I think, most people are great and feel that they will be rewarded at an appropriate time. But there is this small nub of staff who you kind of feel entitled to promotions and opportunities they hadn’t earned at that stage, through their performance or the contributions that they’re making.
I think these are the people that tend to suck out a lot of the oxygen from the room. They occupy a huge amount of managerial time, of human resource time. Probably more than the rest of the team combined. The business becomes about serving them and their aspirations rather than the audience and the customer, the business exists for the audience, you know, media, it exists for the audience. You want your staff well satisfied in the role that they’re doing and given opportunities.
But they need to earn that. Occasionally people will slip through, and we’ll talk about that in the next point, but, you know, maybe it’s a reflection of a different generation and, you know, a generation that’s more confident about, about getting their way and getting their way quickly.
You know, they see people achieving at an early age, I guess, you know, I was put in responsible roles in early age, but it wasn’t by me berating my boss saying, why aren’t I in this job? or you know can I go overseas to Paris to cover the Olympics? Being more confident is, is actually a positive thing, you know, and you, and you want people to have that ideal combination of actually showing how good they are and being confident to say, look, I’ve done this great work.
Um, hopefully you as a manager have noticed that great work and, and have got them on that path anyway. But they need to deserve it, you know, they need to earn it to prove that promotion or that opportunity should be, that it should happen. And I guess that brings me to the next point.
If you want me to do a natural flow into the next one?
[00:24:27] Jeffery Wang: No, I don’t because I’m going to pull you up on this one.
So, this particular one, now you’re not going to get any disagreement from me. I absolutely believe in the old values of just heads down, bottom up and do the work and get recognition, but I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here, and that is the fact that you don’t seem to get very far in your career, at least in the Western context, unless you know how to promote yourself within the workplace. So, so you realize that they, this concept of a personal brand, which is really going out and telling everyone what a great job you’ve done.
So, so clearly this lesson resonates with me because it kind of is in line with my philosophy being brought up in the Asian world, where you don’t go out and tell everyone how good you are. You, you show them by putting in the hard yards. Right? So, so fundamentally, I believe in that, however, that hasn’t transpired much in the Western world, where I spent most of my working career, because it doesn’t seem to get you the recognition that you need. I mean, it is a very noisy place out there and clearly there’s a whole lot of “peacocks” out there, which I’m sure you know what I mean when I say “peacocks”. And these are the people that goes around, and they will tell you everything about how wonderful they are, and yet they don’t necessarily have the substance to back up the sales pitch.
So, here’s the, here’s the question to you? When the workplace rewards this sort of behaviour, how do you tell people to do the hard yards.
[00:25:54] Jim Carroll: Yeah, self-promotion in itself is not a bad All I’m saying is with that self-promotion, there’s got to be substance there. And I people who self-promote, but don’t have the substance, don’t have the record, don’t have the capability. They get found out.
Certainly, my experiences that they will ultimately get found out.
I we all talk about how “he’s a fraud”. And ” she’s, she’s hopeless”, but boy they’re good at managing up, you know, love that expression, was “Kiss up, kick down. Certainly, through my long career, I’ve seen plenty of show ponies, but very few of them, you know, may, prance around looking good a little while, but you know, ultimately in the end they end up at the knacker’s yard. can understand pain you may have experienced, that, that hasn’t necessarily happened in cases. And sure, there are people who I seen rise and I’m amazed. But I think in most cases, good people get the rewards, if there are people who are confident talking about their achievements and those achievements are substantive then that’s the perfect outcome. And that’s why I don’t think having a generation more confident talking about their achievements and their expectations is a bad thing.
That is a bad thing, is if not true and they don’t deserve it. And it’s really tough, it’s really tough for managers deal with that. Because as I said that they really, you know, that small cohort can be so self-absorbed and so time-consuming. It means that you’re not managing the rest of the cohort as effectively as you possibly could. And you are missing out on quiet who’s doing great job. but you just don’t hear that about. So, it’s a double whammy, isn’t it? But there’s no easy solutions. I think managerial skills have improved and I guess that’s one thing I have, noticed that I guess being one of those old type people, I was always pretty sceptical about, you know, management training techniques and their kind of the philosophies of business practice.
But I think that really evolved. And I, and I think consequence, people are far more managers. They are more skilled as managers than I was when I first started out. I mean, I didn’t do a business management course. I don’t think I ever did a course on how to manage people. For decades you kind of stumbled your way through and again, I don’t like having difficult conversations with people about their careers or under-performance, you know, it’s really horrible. It’s a horrible thing to have to do, but someone’s got to do And if you have given that responsibility, as I said before, you’ve got to take that responsibility and do it in the best way possible. it in a way that, that you know, you can turn people around that, that you can build their confidence, that you can build their effectiveness.
Has someone got the solution? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe if you go to Harvard or somewhere else, you can do it. But you know, I’ve seen no great evidence that there is a course that is going to you that every technique you need to make every single one of your staff members happy.
[00:28:57] Lesson 6: Identify Talent, Promote Quickly and be Alert to Quiet Achievers
[00:28:57] Jeffery Wang: No, No, there isn’t. It’s it is more of an art form. It sounds like that links on pretty well to lesson number six, “identify talent, promote quickly, and be alert to quiet achievers” again, something that I absolutely believe in, but I just don’t think it’s pervasive enough, especially in the, uh, the Australian workplace.
[00:29:14] Jim Carroll: does flow You need to be across the capabilities and performance of your team from the lowest level employee, the most junior employee to your direct reports. You know, and I know that’s hard in large businesses. My biggest staff cohort was, I had 300 people. Most recently, it was in 180 people. Look, I felt comfortable that I knew every person pretty well, across those 180 and what they did. And if I didn’t know them well, I knew people who worked with them closely and I knew them well. So, you had a real sense that, if someone deserved a promotion or someone wasn’t performing, you’d be aware of that. I think that’s really important. It is time consuming, but as you get into more senior leadership roles, that’s absolutely crucial. like If someone’s good enough, give them the job, give them the promotion.
, no matter their age, their background. Their experience shouldn’t be a hindrance. I would have considered myself a pretty quiet guy. You know, I worked hard in my career. Fortunately, I had bosses who Well, I think we’re observant enough to notice that I was actually okay at what I did.
Um, there were plenty but louder, more brazen people selling themselves. But in the end, I seem to get most of the pretty good gigs. So, it’s fortunate there. And I’ll just give a quick example in my recent news director’s role does an incredibly quiet young producer.
You just notice it because she was working in a specific area of news. She was incredibly diligent. Every time her particular segment came up, it was fantastic, really detail. And she’d worked externally at other media companies. Obviously other people knew her as well, and she was offered a much higher paying job with another media organization.
And I sat her down and I said, look, you might not think that you’re getting noticed here, but let me tell you, I notice you. And, you know, she was like a mid to junior level producer. And I said, look, you are doing great work here. And it’s people like you that be the leaders of this business in years to come.
And I was able to talk this person around from $30,000 (pay increase) which was a lot of money for someone who, you know, wasn’t necessarily on that higher high salary. Anyway, we gave her a little pay increase because she was given more responsibility, but you need to know those people within your business.
[00:31:21] Lesson 7: Your best career path may not be what you think
[00:31:21] Jeffery Wang: that’s the kind of leader I wish I had more of, especially in my career. So, lesson number seven, your best career path may not be what you think.
[00:31:30] Jim Carroll: Yeah, or initially aspire to, because I was able to make pretty impartial assessments of my own shortcomings and hopefully strengths, and then make a cogent career choice.
There was probably a little bit removed from where I thought I’d be. I thought maybe I’ll be a star journalist or, you know, I didn’t think that for very long, but again, I realized that there were people. Not only better than me, but much more determined to achieve that than me. Whereas going back to my original point, I was actually pretty good at other things that they weren’t good at.
And I guess it was, I was pretty good at having that self-assessment I think it made me a pretty reasonable judge of other people’s talents and capabilities. I saw a core responsibility as a leader and people manager was to kind of help staff focus on what they’re best at and where their best career opportunities lie.
Even if it wasn’t their favourite path, but, you know, they might’ve wanted to be someone in front of the camera reporting, but you had those conversations. So, look, you’re pretty good at that, but you are fantastic at this. And you realize on that other path, there are tens of thousands of people who want to do that.
And of those tens of thousands. Only one of them was only going to end up reading the news. Whereas there was always a demand for high calibre people who can manage this business. That’s where the longevity is. That’s exciting. You’re making decisions about things. You’re making decisions about talent, about resources. And if that’s of any interest to you, you have to think about that. It wasn’t like, look, you’re not that good as a reporter, go and do this. It was, just, this is where I think you could have a hugely successful career. Would you like to think about that as the option?
Very happy to have you doing your current role, but I reckon you can move much more quickly up this path by following this guidance, by following this map and I’m pretty proud of my record in that space that I’ve been able to do that. And usually, those people have been immensely satisfied with the new direction in which they’ve taken themselves.
[00:33:32] Lesson 8: Listen Widely
[00:33:32] Jeffery Wang: definitely. That is great and incredibly valuable a mentor. Lesson number eight, listen, widely. And again, this is a I’d imagine the news business. Listen why the means that you don’t miss the stories that people aren’t covering. Now we’ve had a journalist before in this podcast Matt Bai who gave us one of the, one of his lessons is “look away from the book. In a ball game, everyone’s focused on what the ball is doing. but sometimes the real story is actually completely away ball. I’m guessing this is probably one of those lessons.
[00:34:04] Jim Carroll: Yeah. Look it is. It surprises me. I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of job interviews. You know, people aspiring to come into the media business, who, who just aren’t aware of what’s going on around them in terms of news space.
In the last couple of years. These are some of the best young minds coming out of communications courses, want to be journalists. And you know, these are people that we’ve shortlisted down 400 applicants the top 25. And one of them seriously said when we asked them Queensland premier was, she said, oh, it isn’t Pauline Hanson, is it? And you’re going, really? yet their intent is to be a source of credible information to audiences. So it is that kind of lack of preparedness that that I’ve found, staggering. And yet there was a young person, a few years back. He’d actually left journalism for a while. I think he’d had some challenges, but he decided to reapply, and he actually didn’t make cut the first time round, but we interviewed him again and what really impressed us was, he actually read the newspapers every day. On his way to work, as a young person, actually buying a newspaper. Jeff, no one does that anymore. And, and he, he, he knew more, his general knowledge was better than any of the other cadets that came through. Most of them were actually already working in news. He had moved himself away from the news scene and is working in a completely different role and yet knew more about day-to-day events and the news that we would be focusing on than any of the others.
We ended up giving him a job, we were quite cautious about that, and he had. really progressed well. In the end, it was a right decision. One we were nervous about, but he has turned out to be a fantastic, dedicated employee and continues to continue to rise through the ranks.
Also, that listening is to ensure you’re aware of people’s capabilities. I guess it comes back to people management as well. You can’t always rely on hearsay. You need to listen carefully and be observant to the individual and those that work with and around that individual.
So, I guess it comes back to that point before. That you’re only going to really know the capabilities of an individual. If you either know that directly or that you have faith in those that I give you advice about that individual. So, I think that’s really critical. And also, if you are listening intently and widely, you will hear great ideas.
And, you know, there is a reluctance, I think certainly those quiet achievers to sometimes push their ideas. If you’re listening intently, if you’re across everything that’s around you, you will hear those ideas. Even if I haven’t come to you directly, you know, someone say, oh, you know, so-and-so had this good idea, but is it he, or she’s a bit nervous about, about bringing it to you.
I think that’s, yeah, that’s really, really important. Again, it’s probably blindingly obvious, but it needs to be reinforced because everyone’s incredibly busy at the moment. 95% of people like this on a screen. You’re not engaging. You’re not listening around the office. You’re not chatting to someone while you’re getting a cup of coffee. And I think it’s even more critical that you are conscious that this is a really important part of it. process.
[00:37:08] Lesson 9 Beware of the noisy, self-absorbed few
[00:37:08] Jeffery Wang: So, it feels like the entire podcast has been building up to this particular lesson, lesson number nine, beware of the noisy, self-absorbed few. What do you mean by the noise?
[00:37:20] Jim Carroll: Maybe I was being too harsh Jeff, when I wrote this one down, you know, it was my stream of consciousness, but look, it does come back to my point about showing how good you are not just telling me. But look, small scale dissent or dissatisfaction may just be a personal drive or the result of personality clashes.
There will always be personality clashes in the office space, you know? but look, it I’ll be honest. It can be evidence of a broader cultural and managerial problem.
So, you know, you have to act quickly on that, but, but I think I have seen examples of businesses that have overreacted and as a consequence, there has been bad policy. My warning would be not to overact by being too hasty to solve what may be a one-off situation. Such action may be to the potential detriment of the organization and the broader staff cohort. But you need to investigate you need to work patiently through grievances, to speak with all relevant parties.
And I think sometimes that doesn’t happen. Consider all the evidence then act, I think I’ve seen, you know, a little bit of evidence of late and it is a different environment that we work in that, too often, these days the action seems to come before the full investigation before you’ve had a chance to fully assess all the issues.
There was an example at one of my workplaces where there was an historic claim of bullying, going back more than a decade. And my concern was that it was taken immediately as fact, there was no investigation. There were no interviews without other employees who were there at the time and certainly no discussion with the, you know, the alleged perpetrator. the reality was there were different views about that situation, even though it was many years ago. I wasn’t there at the time.
But the action was taken within 48 hours, basically a new policy was devised within 48 hours, with the view to it being implemented immediately. And my view was that process was rushed because there was a bit of media attention around at the time. Look, a more considered approach and may well have delivered the same outcome in terms of the policy that the employer decided to implement.
But the pace of that process left a lot of staff apprehensive and disenfranchised and, and disillusioned and you have to consider that. I would never say to ignore issues no matter if they appear trivial. You can’t underestimate the cultural and reputational impact a lack of necessary action have, but you to ensure that the processes correct and fair.
[00:40:05] Jeffery Wang: So, it sounds like this is a bit of a juicy story, but if I could just replay that back to you and just see if I’ve got it. So, what you’re basically saying is that we need to think before we act and basically retain. the due process that is required in reacting to serious situations. Right? So, I’m, I’m just thinking in the context of, let’s say a social media lynch, mob reacting to something, you know, the latest, Harvey Weinstein scandal per se, but instead of just jumping straight into action. take time, time to stop, reflect, check the facts. Investigate. Before you launch into a full-scale reaction. Is, is that what you advocate?
[00:40:50] Jim Carroll: Yeah. Yeah. And yet that’s not to say that prompt action, hasn’t brought great results in terms of some terrible perpetrators, but, but I don’t think you can group every incident in that basket.
And I think some of those more serious actions by people reduced in terms of their impact by action against less serious, issues or non-existent issues.
My argument will always be if you’re a lawyer, you’ve got to look at all the evidence available. If you’re a journalist, you don’t just write one side of the story or you shouldn’t, hopefully shouldn’t just write one side of the story. Well that some journalists may be accused of. You take all the information on board and then you write about it.
As a lawyer, you take all the information on board. As a judge, you hear all the evidence before you make a ruling. As a jury, you hear all the evidence before making a ruling that means that you will the right result, hopefully in every circumstance
We don’t want the right result in some circumstances and not the correct result and others, and nor do we want issues to be under played and we don’t want people to be fearful about bringing concerns forward. But you just need to make sure that there is sufficient substance there. I think before you take significant action.
[00:42:01] Jeffery Wang: Yep. And certainly, I can see a parallel between, I suppose, the news world as well as the corporate in this particular, uh, lesson in that, in the news world, know, people seem to jump at the bright, shiny new story without necessarily going through the rigor of, of checking that. So certainly, I can see the value of this lesson, not just in the context of workplace issues, but also in search of the truth.
[00:42:27] Jim Carroll: Absolutely. Yeah. I think you’ve seen that with some of the coverage of the lockdowns and the pandemic, generally the vaccine roll out. Not that I want to accuse my journalistic brethren of unbalanced stories, but I think some of the stories haven’t contained as much balanced information as they perhaps should, but everyone’s under pressure.
And when people are under pressure, sometimes there’s not as much fact checking as would be the case.
[00:42:50] Jeffery Wang: But I guess in, in that instance, having the character to withstand that pressure and do the right thing regardless, I believe it is probably the key learning there.
[00:42:58] Jim Carroll: Yeah. But ultimately you want the right thing to happen.
If at the end of the day, if there is evidence there that bad things are happening, then be taken. The last thing you want to do bury it because culturally that is that’s corporate suicide, but you want to make sure that it’s fact-based, every decision you make and particularly when it relates to people, than it is factually based.
[00:43:24] Lesson 10: Be a Decent Person
[00:43:24] Jeffery Wang: Wise words, indeed. That takes us up to lesson number 10. Now, I, again, it’s hard to disagree with this. Be a decent person.
[00:43:35] Jim Carroll: Oh, I know. You know, everyone thinks they’re a decent, I think most people think they do some people. I guess in media and in politics, Two sectors with huge egos and high-profile individuals, you know, people that are always in the public eye.
And I guess what’s obvious to me particularly in the media, is that those that treat others well, invariably seem to be the ones that survive, no matter how high their profile might be at a particular time, if they, if they treat people decently. And that could be as simple as a hello to the receptionist on the way in, how was your weekend?
That kind of stuff. I know, I know it sounds really simple, but so many people don’t do it. And we’re all self-absorbed to a degree, but it doesn’t take much to be considerate. You know, you’re talking about a few seconds of your diet, and I think those things stick with you, I was going to give you a few examples.
One of Australia’s best known and longest serving newsreaders. She’s pretty tough in the work environment, but it’s not about ego with this person. it’s about getting the best product to air. You could make this person 10 years later, 15 years later, she always remembers your partner’s name. Always remembers your children’s names, what they were doing. Always shows that, that level of interest. I think that’s a, that’s an inherent reflection of her decency.
A couple of really minor things, but they kind of stick in your mind. There was a very well-known Melbourne identity who I work with for a year or so back in that, back in the early nineties. He’s had his challenges, but still, certainly very well known. I hadn’t seen him maybe for 20 years. We were both at a functioning together and he came up to me, but again, I wouldn’t have thought he would even have recognized me after all those years and was the most engaging in his chat with me. Also knew who I was, introduced to son to me. I go, wow. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s one of the biggest, you know, one of the biggest stars in media and in football administration.
Similar incident, I was at a sporting event and there was, again, a very high-profile well-known breakfast program host. And again, I’d only work with him really briefly back in the late eighties.
And this was literally 25 years later, and he came over and said g’day and knew my name and I’m like, that’s pretty impressive. You know, that, that’s why 30, 40 years on this person is still at the top of their game. And I thought that was really, quite significant.
But one I always remember was when I just left school and I’d started working at a newspaper in Sydney called the daily mirror.
And I’d just turned 18. And I was working in the radio room, the police radio room. And that’s why you listen to all the emergency calls. That was the shit job that all the young staff and given when they first started, and I was on duty on the 18th of January 1977 and over the police radio I heard an ambulance call to say that there’d been a rail accident near Granville. And that was the only message that came through for quite some time. And you’re pretty nervous when you’ve only been in the job for about two months.
Anyway, I decided to ring the photographer. That’s what you did in those days. You ring the news photographers, and they’d go out and suss it out. So, they did that and obviously that turned out to be the Granville train disaster, which was Australia’s worst ever rail accident. I think 84 people died as a consequence.
This had happened about eight, just after 8 o’clock. At nine o’clock, I got this call through to the radio and the guy at the end of the line was Steve Liebmann. And Steve Liebmann at that stage was the number one radio announcer in Sydney on 2SM which was the number one radio station at that time. His audience was about twice Alan Jones ever got and what Ray Hadley gets. It wasn’t his researcher that rang. It wasn’t his producer that rang, What Steve had done is he’d rung during the news bulletin. so, you know, four or five minutes where he can chat to get the lightest on situation. He’d obviously heard that our guys were the first on the ground there and he rang me to get as much information good. could.
Um, and he continued to ring every half hour during the new segments. So, he was fully informed as he went to air after the news. On each occasion, he was incredibly polite, right? So, he’s talking to an 18-year-old kid and he’s the number one radio star in Sydney doing all his own work.
And I’d kind of put it aside. because I was about to finish my shift and then he rang again at the end of the program and just wanted to thank me for the help that I’d given him. And I was absolutely blown away by that. And I always have remembered that throughout my career. Some 30 years plus later, I actually employed Steve as Steve obviously went on to be the first host of the today show, was news presenter on Network 10, uh, one of the most admired media figures in Australia.
And ultimately ended up towards the latter stages of his career, giving him a job at reading the weekend news. And then I mentioned that story to him. And he was, he was quite moved by that, but he just said, “Isn’t that the right thing to do?”, and you kind of go, that’s why this man is respected and had longevity that, you know, it was the right thing to do.
So, I just think that kind of epitomizes to me that for all the criticism of people. definitely high-profile people. there are inherently decent people and they’re considered inherently decent because of the way that they treat others, no matter what level of the organization they’re at.
So, I’ve always also been a believer that if someone stuffs up. Be calm about You know, no one feels worse than the person who stuffed up, and no one learns more from stuffing up than the person who’s made the mistake. So again, you know, I’ve never been a shouter and, I think that’s the best way to play to make sure you’ve got a nice cohesive atmosphere.
[00:49:23] Jeffery Wang: So, Steve Lieberman decent person, 30 years later you remember. Absolutely agree with that. I certainly hope that there’ll be plenty of decent people as a result of listening to this podcast and, uh, make the world just a little bit better. Now, my favourite question, as we all do, we throw our guests a great curve ball.
What is the one lesson that you have unlearned? And what I mean by that is something that you held to be ironclad truth when you started out the career that you just thought it would be absolutely undeniable truth that you realized later on that it just wasn’t the case.
[00:49:58] Jim Carroll: Uh, Jeff, I don’t know if I had any kind of undeniable truths, but when you’re naive and you come into your, you know, your first job and yet you’re pretty passionate about it and enthusiastic is I guess the expectation that everyone is the same in their approach, that they all had the kind of the same drive and ambitions, that it’s the kind of most important thing in, in, in your life. And, and in reality, that’s not the case. For some people, that’s not the important thing. You know, not everyone wants to be the star. Not everyone wants to be the manager. Not everyone wants to be the people leader. There are plenty of people who are kind of happy their roles and doing what they’re doing. And for them to feel guilty that they’re not more ambitious about their work or for managers to feel guilty because you know, they’re not defining a path with them, I don’t think it’s necessarily the right way to play it. I guess that’s what I’ve unlearned is not to assume, not to assume that everyone’s going to be the same, everyone’s going to have the same level of motivation to the things that you’re motivated by. So, you’ve got to approach people and issues on the basis that everyone is different in personality and their priorities in life.
And that’s a good thing. That’s a really good thing.
[00:51:10] Jeffery Wang: Indeed. None of us fits neatly into any boxes and that’s the way it should be. Thank you so much for your time, Jim. And I certainly feel like you’ve got a whole entire war chest of stories to, to tell. And I really appreciate you for sharing that so generously with us.
[00:51:29] Jim Carroll: Lovely to chat with you, Jeff. And yeah, maybe I’ll write that book one day and I’ll give away some real secrets.
[00:51:34] Jeffery Wang: I’ll be the first to purchase that book.
[00:51:36] Jim Carroll: I’ll give you a signed copy.
[00:51:38] Jeffery Wang: Appreciate it. And we’ll finish on that note. You’ve been listening to the podcast 10 lessons it took me 50 years to learn where we dispense wisdom for career, business, and life. Our guest today has been Jim Carroll sharing the 10 lessons that took him 50 years to learn. This episode is produced by Robert Hossary, sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which also is insights, community discussions, podcast, parties, anything you want, anything you need, and the best part? It’s all free.
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