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editorial




Good became good enough, and excellent became an aspiration, rather than an expectation.
everal weeks ago, I welcomed two new full-time staff writers to my editorial team. Prior to their start date, my most recent hire was in 2007, four years, an economic recession, and 51 issues of EXHIBITOR ago. Needless to say, a lot had changed. I found myself in the vaguely familiar - and jarringly uncomfortable - role of a trainer, bringing these new writers up to speed on the industry, the company, and all the little oddities that make EXHIBITOR unique.

But the most remarkable part of their ramp-up process was realizing that so much of my rationale for doing things a certain way was simply: because that's the way it's always been done. A combination of four years with the same co-workers and the make-it-work mentality adopted in response to the Great Recession had left us functioning like a well-oiled but arguably stagnant machine.

We had stopped questioning ourselves, our way of doing things, and the things we were doing in the first place because, quite frankly, there was no time for such discussions. Good became good enough, and excellent became an aspiration, rather than an expectation. But the fresh perspective of these new writers - who each brought their own experiences and outlooks to our organization - proved a treasure trove of unexpected evolutionary ideas.

The challenge became segueing out of that make-it-work mindset and into a more open discussion that focused less on how things have always been done and more on how things could and should be done moving forward. A three-day off-site meeting married the minds of my seasoned staffers with the innovative (even if occasionally off-target) ideas of my new hires. The result is, I hope, a new EXHIBITOR that will emerge, over time, via incremental changes. But you don't have to wait for those changes to start reaping the rewards of our editorial expansion. All you need to do is follow my initially clumsy lead and be truly open to new ideas and fresh perspectives.

As the economy continues to improve, corporate purse strings relax, and hiring freezes thaw, more marketers will be searching for new talent to accommodate the growing workload. My advice: Hire the best candidates for the job, but don't confine them to the tasks at hand. Give them the efficacy to effect change within your organization by asking questions, making suggestions, and telling you when your way of doing things is outdated. Don't buy in to the old-school management mentality that seniority is somehow a prerequisite for raising your hand. And don't squelch the enthusiasm new hires can bring to the table by overlooking or ignoring their opinions. Foster an open environment where all are free to share feedback, both positive and negative.

One of my bosses at a previous employer criticized my candid, constructive comments early on in my career, saying, "Negative feedback does not produce positive results." What he wanted was a "yes man" to back his bad ideas and blame someone else when they didn't turn out exactly as he expected. Those who have worked with me know I was not the right person for that position. His error, and that of too many managers, was that he took my "negative feedback" too personally, and in doing so, failed to use me, my ideas, and my unique perspective to his advantage. He was too comfortable with his approach, and a new approach - or even thoughtful discussion of the pros and cons of that particular approach - was not welcome.

If the status quo is all you know, you're doomed to fail. And resting on your laurels, or indefinitely and illogically doing things the same-old way, is a recipe for disaster. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But even if it's not broken, that doesn't mean there's not room for a few improvements.e
Travis Stanton, editor;
tstanton@exhibitormagazine.com
@StantonTravis
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