How one UF team is learning and growing together with professional development training
Pictured above: College of Journalism and Communications Dean Diane McFarlin converses with UF Media Properties staff during a recent luncheon.
When Randy Wright joined UF to lead the Division of Media Properties in 2010, his first order of business was figuring out how to be the best leader he could be. Prior to his arrival, the division’s public TV and radio stations and commercial stations all operated separately but were in the process of becoming one entity in the College of Journalism and Communications (CJC). Wright was hired as the unit’s first executive director and charged with building a single, cohesive culture in an environment that had previously been siloed.
Wright wanted to help foster an open, collaborative environment from the get-go, and he turned to UF Training & Organizational Development (T&OD) for help.
“Advanced Leadership for Academics and Professionals (ALAP) was my first exposure to organizational training opportunities through UF,” said Wright. “The yearlong program was extremely helpful to me in learning more about UF’s culture and how the university functions as well as the different mindsets that exist in our environment, which fed back into how I needed to approach effective leadership.”
Part of the CJC, UF’s Division of Media Properties is responsible for operating the university’s media enterprise, which includes two TV stations—WUFT-TV and WRUF-TV—and seven radio stations, including WUFT-FM, WJUF-FM, WRUF-AM, WRUF-FM and GHQ. The division also founded and hosts the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN) and the South Carolina Emergency Information Network (SCEIN), which communicate emergency information statewide to Florida and South Carolina, respectively.
WUFT-FM and FPREN have garnered recent national attention, having been awarded the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Community Lifeline Award earlier this year for providing extensive coverage and non-stop emergency information during hurricanes Michael, Irma and Matthew. Last year, WUFT-FM was also named a finalist for the National Association of Broadcasters’s Marconi Award for the best non-commercial radio station in America.
“Our staff are making extraordinary things happen here, and it’s really a fun place to be every day,” said Wright.
Due to his positive experience with ALAP, Wright wanted to offer a similar professional development opportunity to his leadership team. Last year, T&OD offered a customized program to the eight-person leadership group, which included 360-degree assessments at the outset and ongoing sessions with facilitators on everything from the behaviors of high-trust leaders and emotional intelligence to creating and communicating vision.
“We did this program together, and our entire team felt like it really helped us grow,” said Wright. “The team building was great, and we all found it to be a very motivating experience.”
Director of Corporate Support Sandy Wagner, who also participated in the leadership program, couldn’t agree more.
“The leadership program provided deeper insight into our differing management styles and personalities, and helped bring clarity to our goals and objectives for the mission of UF Media Properties and for our individual departments,” she said.
On the heels of this program, Wright and the rest of the leadership team thought, why stop there? They envisioned how their entire group of 50-plus staff could also benefit from training resources.
“We were all committed to doing this,” said Wright. “We wanted to invest in our staff, so we put a plan together to do that in an ongoing manner.” The results have been inspiring, he says.
The team is currently completing the Thrive@UF curriculum together as a group. They have taken part in five monthly lunch-and-learn programs so far, and everyone from full-time TEAMS staff to part-time OPS employees are invited and encouraged to attend each month.
“It’s been great to sit with everyone and together talk through the challenges that face all of us each day”—from managing stress and workloads to sharing ideas about productivity, said Wagner. “I now have a number of tools in the toolbox to work on improving communication skills both in person and via email . . . [and] additional skills to better manage my day.” Wagner says this includes less checking of emails and an enhanced ability to focus on projects without interruptions, helpful to just about everyone.
Wright is looking forward the completing the last four sessions of the program with his team.
“This has been a big effort and investment in terms of our culture,” he said. He and the other leaders want their staff to feel invested in, know how important they are to the organization and have access to the university’s plentiful resources for personal and professional growth. “I’m so proud of our people and what we do and hope this investment in them and our culture is something that enhances the way we all feel about our organization and our contributions to the university and the markets we serve.”