Austin Kellerman is News Director for KARK and originally appeared on his blog and is reposted here with permission.
Sitting in his new office as general manager of WTXL-TV in Tallahassee, Florida, it’s a little easier for Matt Brown to reflect on what happened six years ago. Today, at the pinnacle of his career, he can celebrate celebrate success. In 2013, he was picking up the pieces and trying to figure out how to start over.
Whether it was on the anchor desk or in news management, Brown always considered himself a high performer. He never felt he had to worry about job security. But after his station in Tulsa was sold to Cox, he received a visit from his new corporate bosses that would change the path of his career. For the first time since he graduated college, he was without a job.
Naturally, the firing from his News Director position left him second guessing himself. His confidence took a hit.
“I felt like I just started to get my resume where it should be, and then this happens,” said Brown. “I started to question: why am I doing this? Is this what I should be doing?”
Over the next few weeks, he was understandably down and out. That’s when mentors stepped in to help pick him up.
Brown met Bill Seiztler, a VP with SmithGeiger, and Joan Barrett, the GM of KDVR and KWGN, pretty early in his career. He had always leaned on them for advice. At this time, they came through to help him rebuild his confidence, get focused, and search for a job that was the right fit.
“Many of my former colleagues had nothing but great things to say about him as a person,” Seitzler said about meeting Brown and initially providing him with guidance. “He’s strong enough to hold team members accountable for doing the work without falling into the drama trap or arrogance that can creep into leadership.”
“He told me to surround myself with the right leaders and mentors,” Matt recalls of Seitzler’s advice. “Finding the right company and culture was important – keeping in mind family needs.”
At Seitzler’s urging, Brown ended up taking a position that offered less money because he felt it was the right long-term call. He accepted a job as the assistant news director at KSHB-TV in Kansas City.
It was there that he stopped prioritizing what other people thought and had the opportunity to reflect and focus on himself.
“It took me awhile to get back on the horse,” said Brown. “I didn’t realize until two years later that it really affected my approach to work, my psyche. It made me rethink how I managed a team.”
One of the first fixes he made came from some he learned earlier in his career from Barrett: don’t try to fix everything by yourself.
“I’ve become a better listener,” said Brown. “I used to think I always had to have the right answers. If I didn’t provide the right answer, I was failing people. I learned it was all about surrounding yourself with smart people and getting them to work as a group.”
Clearly, his jump to Scripps and guidance from mentors worked. Over the next six years, he’d grow into a news director at WFTS-TV in Tampa before traveling north and landing in the general manager’s chair at WTXL-TV. He says working with the right managers and mentors at those stations helped him grow into a more effective manager.
Brown can’t stress enough the importance of finding people to provide guidance as you look to climb the ladder.
“(Joan) opened up a little window in my mind. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It’s just been so crucial (to have) her and everyone else in my life.”
It was another mentor, his boss in Tampa, that steered him in the direction of becoming a general manager. Though he had thought about the idea earlier in his career, this wasn’t something on his radar at that time. But over the years, he’s learned to always keep an open mind.
“Don’t get too busy making plans. Twelve years ago, I never expected I would live in seven cities in just 12 years. That wasn’t part of my plan, but I rolled with it,” Brown recalled. “I think you have to be ready for an opportunity that comes your way.”
And this time, he was.
Mentors have always been there to help Brown see opportunities that weren’t always clear. When he was stuck, they pushed him in the right direction. When he didn’t believe in himself, they always did.
His skill, experience, knowledge, and attitude are the primary keys to his success. But Matt Brown wouldn’t be as high on the ladder without mentors holding the bottom to ensure a steady climb.