Q. I have an opportunity to take a job where the company is going against the grain of what my industry does. It's a risk, but this company is doing the right thing for our customers. I'm excited but scared to fail. How do I choose?
A. You decide whether your definition of success is to risk failing at something you believe in or succeed in something that doesn't serve your customers.
The best advice for this common workplace dilemma comes from people who are walking this talk by going against the grain of their industry.
In an era of combative talk radio, Harpo Radio is following a different path. I interviewed two executives, general manager John Gehron and program director Laurie Cantillo. Both are involved in shaping the tone and content of the "Oprah and Friends" channel on XM satellite radio, Channel 156. Gehron started out the interview by acknowledging that, for many in the talk-radio industry, the standard is "fear mongering, anger and fluff."
Instead, Gehron and Cantillo are focusing on expanding Oprah's vision through radio programming that "is positive, has tangible take-away, and offers strategies for living your best life. Our programming is gourmet information, not fast food."
Since this is the opposite of what the media industry thinks sells, I asked them why they were willing to take the professional and financial risk. Gehron commented: "Obviously this is a business and we want to make money. We think people are ready for a thinking media channel with substance. Taking risks and trying something new has everything to do with timing."
Cantillo observed: "Technologically, we're more connected than ever. But society is becoming increasingly impersonal — that's why blogging is so popular. We don't hang out on porches with neighbors. Our channel is set up to be an intimate conversation between best friends."
I also wanted to know why these two people personally would be willing to tackle the risk of changing the tone of American radio.
Gehron and Cantillo agreed that they were tired of traditional radio. They saw an opportunity to do more than just a job — and a way to leave their mark on the world.
There have been personal benefits as well. "I've improved since working here," Gehron said. "There's a feeling working in this company that we have a mission. I'm more intuitive and wiser."
"Life isn't about simply stating the problem and hearing arguments from both sides," Cantillo said. "It's not always black and white. We listen, challenge traditional thinking, and empower listeners by giving concrete options for change."
By going against the industry grain you can be the leader of a new pack and innovate. Harpo Radio integrates radio, the Internet and television. You can listen at work, download shows, get e-newsletters with highlights, or join discussion groups.
In this column, I've often observed that you have to put an "us" in me if you want to succeed. For Gehron and Cantillo, a home run is when a listener repeats something from Harpo Radio to a friend, sees something differently or changes behavior. When we're at a career crossroads, consider this: If you take a risk that serves your customers, we all might hit more home runs.
The last word(s)
Q. I've got a co-worker who spreads any personal information I give her around. How do I get her to stop?
A. Quit telling her your secrets and find a less talkative confidant.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at email@example.com; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube