Rob King was in his 20s the first time someone told him he had talents beyond being an editorial cartoonist. He was management material.
King, now ESPN’s senior vice president of SportsCenter and news, clearly got the message eventually. But not at first.
King is part of this week’s 40 Better Hours project, devoted to explaining how journalists can work better and happier. He spoke with Poynter’s Ren LaForme and Katie Hawkins-Gaar about how to lead through change, which King has seen a lot of in his career.
He also shared some thoughts, which we pulled from the cutting room floor, on the big and little things that matter in leadership.
1. Let go
Several years into his career, an editor pulled King aside and told him he had potential. “You’re a good designer, and I really like your artwork, but I believe you can lead people,” the editor told King, now a member of Poynter’s Board of Trustees. “After a while, you have to start listening to folks.”
You can have a greater impact as a leader by freeing up talented people to do good work and spending time on broader issues that impact everyone, he said.
2. Show up
King also talked about his parents, who supported him as a cartoonist and later as a leader, encouraging him to think about the impact he’d have on the people he was leading, from how they’d take that memo to how his choices would make them feel about their work.
“The first thing I would hear is ‘you’re going to show up tomorrow, right?'” he said.
3. Deal with your email
“We owe ourselves a sense of realism about what email really is and how necessary it is,” King said.
His advice: Ask yourself, should this be an email or a phone conversation? Have rules for yourself about how you’ll use email. Stop spam. Keep people out of threads that don’t concern them. Delete, delete, delete.
Do little things like that to reduce your stress, King said, and accept that day-to-day things such as email are part of your job.