Years ago in college, I worked various weekends for a one of the major broadcasting networks during college football telecasts. It was a great opportunity to get experience in the field of sports broadcasting, which I had decided would be my career path. While working for a major network might sound like a big deal (it was to me), in reality, I was just an “extra hand” of sorts. I basically got paid a small wage for the day, got to eat some great food (for free) and be around people who had a wealth of expertise in the field of television broadcasting. In one particular game, I was assigned to the production truck, which is like “central command” for the broadcast. My task was simple; watch the play clock on every play, and if it got below five seconds, yell “time clock!” so that the director would know to show the time clock on the live broadcast. It was a small, but important task. For those of you who may not have interest in football, if the team on offense fails to snap the ball before the time clock reaches :00, then a penalty ensues. Therefore, those watching at home need to know when the time clock is almost expired. It’s one of those little things you might take for granted while watching a televised game, but nevertheless, it’s an important component of the broadcast.
So here I was, my first time in the production truck, with a bunch of broadcasting professionals, as well as a director who was well-known as one of the best in the business. The scene was pretty intimidating. There were more screens, cords and levers than I had ever seen in my life, and needless to say, I was a little nervous. OK, I was scared. Scared to so much as utter a word, scared to make a mistake, scared people would think I had no idea what I was doing (I didn’t)… just plain scared! The game began with kickoff and when the first offensive play rolled around, the time clock fell below five seconds. In a rather nervous voice, I managed to eek out the words, “time clock.” Nothing happened. The director, very adept at noticing and managing every detail of what happens in the broadcast, had realized that the time clock had fallen below five seconds. In an irritated voice he hollered into space to no one in particular, “I need the time clock!” On the next play, it happened again. The time clock fell below five seconds and this time, a little louder, I said, “time clock.” Once again, the director had not heard my cue. Now he was mad. He turned around, looked at me and said, “You’ve got one [expletive] job to do, and if you can’t do it, then get the [expletive] out of this truck! Talk about embarrassing. I wanted to crawl under the chair and hide. I looked behind me to one of the production associates, who I could tell felt sorry for me. He whispered, “just say it louder.” I was thinking, I can hear this guy whisper… why can’t the director hear me say “time clock!” Shortly thereafter, the time clock fell below five seconds again and still reeling from the director’s chastising, I said louder, “time clock.” This is where I’d love to tell you that the third time’s a charm. Nope. When the director realized that he again had not heard me, he turned again, pointed at the door, and yelled, “get out!!” And just to make sure I heard him, he yelled it again, “Go! Get out!” Needless to say, that officially (and emphatically) ended my production truck assignment.
There are many things I wish I had done differently that day. I wish I had been more confident in what I was doing. I wish I had asked more questions of what was expected of me, so that I might have been more confident. And plainly put, I just wish I had done a better job. Years later, however, I have found that many others experience, or are experiencing, the same type feelings. Sure, it might not be inside a broadcast production truck, but it could be in their job, their marriage or even with parenting. They may feel overwhelmed, in over their heads, or just plain inadequate. For those in leadership positions, it’s no different. Some, because of their skills and abilities at a particular task, find themselves in leadership positions that they don’t feel prepared for. Even worse, some pridefully think that they are prepared and soon find out that they might have bitten off more than they can chew.
When it comes to leadership, or parenting or yelling “play clock” in a TV production truck, experience is a wonderful teacher. The problem is, you can’t necessarily have experience without actually doing things for the first time. However, you can find someone with experience and lessen the learning curve. As simple as this concept is, many will not do it. Some won’t because they are too prideful to accept advice or receive constructive criticism of how they are currently doing things. Some, like I was, are simply too scared to ask.
As humiliating as the production truck incident was, I was still eventually able to fulfill a dream I had of becoming a TV sports reporter. However, if I had it to do over, I would have asked a lot more questions before game time that day. You might be just starting in a new leadership position or you might be a seasoned veteran, but there’s always some time left before kickoff to ask a few questions… just be sure to ask them where the director can hear you!