Virtues And Vice Of Executives From “Other” Fields

Joe Goetz published an intriguing piece at Scanning The Dial on 3/29/2017 that examines a bit of a dust-up over the recent WQXR General Manager appointment, an administrator who was most recently a MTV content executive.

Adaptistration People 102You can probably see the disconnect; for some, an executive from the commercial entertainment field running a public radio station is sacrilege while for others it’s deliverance.

The real irony here is preconceived notions at either extreme tend to fly about with indiscriminate concern for actual results.

I’ve seen search committees court executive candidates from outside the field for no other reason than they assume anyone from the for-profit sector must be “better” than any candidate with nonprofit roots. On the other side of that coin is bias in negative image.

The only likelihood you can rely on in those situations is preconceived notions rarely work out the way they were intended.

Spoiler alert: good executives are good executives regardless which field they emerged.

An organization’s board is ultimately responsible for executive performance and stakeholders at all levels can add welcome layers of additional oversight in that process by keeping an eye on the organization, asking questions, and offering feedback. If nothing else, it helps confirmation bias and that’s always a good thing.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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