Tammy Phillips is vice president for talent acquisition at Nexstar Media Group and was previously a corporate recruiter for Raycom Media. Phillips took those positions after 16 years in local TV news leadership positions, so she’s learned a thing or two about what newsroom leadership looks like. Phillips sat down with NewsLab to share strategies for anyone looking to take on a role at the top of a local news organization.
Remarks lightly edited for clarity.
What skills and attributes do you look for in a general manager?
Phillips: I really look for people who are well-rounded. They can’t just know how to budget or how to make money. If they don’t know how to recruit, market and really be open and honest with people then things would not be good. Imagine a bad GM during the pandemic, who would have wanted that? You know, if you had no one to go to when you were upset or scared or nervous or unsure, or that person wasn’t communicating, the message would have been pretty scary, right?
How important is fostering diversity in your leadership teams on Nexstar?
Phillips: As a woman, I think it’s important to have more women in leadership as well as people of color. We need more people of color in leadership, and we really looked long and hard to find that. Are we where we want to be? No. Are we working hard to get there? Yes. A lot of the problem is if you weren’t given a chance 10 years ago, you’re not ready today. So for me and our company, what we’re trying to do is gardening, instead of hunting and fishing when it comes to recruiting. We’re trying to grow our own leaders.
What advice do you give first-time leaders at Nexstar?
Phillips: The simple answer is to develop a relationship with your team. I believe in servant leadership. Get to know the people that you work with and build a mutual trust so that you both can rely on one another without problems.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced leaders make?
Phillips: The number one thing is they don’t ask for help. They feel like that’s a sign of weakness, or it’s a test that if they don’t do it on their own, they’ll be judged and it’s not true. When I was at my first news director job, I got a call from the senior vice president and he said to me, “You don’t have to do this alone.” It meant a lot to me because there are a lot of ethical, strategic, and financial questions that come up to first-time managers. So I think it’s really important that you know that it’s okay to ask for help and to admit you don’t know everything.
What are some ways that leaders can avoid such management mistakes, like micromanaging?
Phillips: Mentorship is the most important thing. I know I’ve said this a couple times but only because it is so important. As I came up, a lot of people gave me advice. So I was able to forge relationships with people who would give me advice and now, in turn, I want to help.