Be Considerate: Why It’s a Hard-to-Obtain and Undervalued Skill in the Workplace
The most important lesson I learnt from my TV jobs: Respect people’s time and speak their language
One of the most important lessons I have learnt from my TV news days is: Always be considerate, and do the best I can so I don’t make people’s jobs harder. While there could be many different interpretations and ideas as for what it means to be considerate. It often just means adjusting your actions and communications in small ways to accommodate other people’s needs and feelings.
Quite different from a standard corporate setting, the people we work with in the TV world include but are not limited to: co-anchors, reporters, producers, studio directors, operators, video editors, graphic designers, engineers, cameramen, photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, TV guests, public relations professionals and more. Each of these roles has a unique set of skills and communication styles. As a TV anchor and producer who had to work closely with all of them, the only way to navigate, a.k.a. make my life easier, is to speak their (professional) language and respect their time.
Any close friends of mine will know that “respect people’s time” has always been my life motto. But you will be shocked by the amount of people who assume everyone has all the time they have for them instead of the other way around.
I am not sure if time works any differently in other industries. But time is a TV journalist’s best friend and worst enemy. One extra minute can mean we can just polish that script a little more, edit that segment to make sure it’s good to go a little longer, communicate with the studio director on how you want the shot framed a little more precisely, having a little more chit chat time with your interview subject in order to get him/ her warmed up, or just mic yourself up a little more properly so the cables are not popping out. We value time, and we despise anyone who does not respect time.
A lot of panic moments in my TV news days also came from time-related crises such as guests cancelling last minute, not getting the graphics on time, packages not being able to make it when the show begins, just to name a few. (Note: There are scarier occasions my brain probably has taken the liberty to cancel the memories.) Because time is so cherished in the news industry, it has shaped me into the person who respects people’s time and also expects others to do the same.
If there are guests you want to book, you need to book early because you never know when it’s crunch time for their companies. If you want a TV crew to be available for you, you have to inform them about your plan as soon as you have the details so they have time to allocate resources and make plans accordingly. If you want a (non-breaking news) package to be ready by a certain time, you have to communicate with the video editors before they even begin working on it so they can adjust their priorities. If you are a TV guest, avoid arriving two minutes before the scheduled recording to allow time for the crew to do touch-ups for you and frame your shot. If you want the final outcome to be high quality, allow production time. If you want something in a specific style, communicate it clearly with the appropriate professional language. Consider all stakeholders (or users), and actively think about how your action and decision might affect them.
Anyone can be considerate in a professional setting no matter who they are and how busy they are. I personally learnt this from a former boss of mine who was the president of a multinational e-commerce giant, and he never made anyone feel like their time was worth less than his. The reason why being considerate is a hard-to-obtain skill is that it requires a person to be experienced enough to have a thorough understanding about the work process of every single person she works with, and knowledge about how not to cause inconvenience to them. But at the same time, it is an undervalued skill because the professional world is still very much dominated by the idea that whoever is the loudest or gets to make people work around their time has the upper hand.
One thing the corporate world should learn more from TV news crews is achieve great teamwork by making everyone truly equal. In a TV news crew, we all know none of us can get the job done without either the cameramen, directors, engineers, reporters, producers or anchors. Everyone is expected to be equally good at their own job respectively and do whatever it takes to get the job done efficiently (and waste no time). Sometimes, you might even rely on the usually multi-talented cameramen to feed you food or watch out for wardrobe malfunctions. But if you are known for causing inconvenience or being unorganised, you might have to continue filming on an empty stomach :P