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What Does it REALLY Mean to Be a Producer?

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“So, what does a producer really do?”

During my 15 years as the Executive Producer of Seattle’s hit comedy TV show Almost Live!, I was asked that question a lot. Many times by members of my own staff.

“What does a producer really do?”

I used to answer that question from a very specific, TV-centric focus. Made sense, right? I mean, I was a TV producer, after all.

But after working with thousands of leaders in hundreds of industries, I’ve realized that what I did as a TV producer is not that different from what you do as a producer in your industry. (With the possible exception of that time I had to audition bikini models for a comedy sketch.)

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what it really means to be a producer.

1. A producer defines the show. In my TV world, that meant that I decided what the overall feel of the show was, what it looked like, which sketches and jokes would make it onto the show (and which wouldn’t), and in what order.

In your world, it means that you define the project. Whether that project is a product launch, the opening of a new branch, or just the weekly staff meeting—you’re the producer. You set the vision and the direction. You define the show.

A producer sets the vision and the direction. #Leadership Click To Tweet

2. A producer checks the ratings. As the producer, I’d get the TV ratings each week. I’d check to see how our show did against multiple criteria (e.g., various age groups, various incomes, against the competition, etc.). I’d also keep a running tally so I could see how we were trending with each of these criteria. And then, of course, I’d share the information with my team.

In your world, you have to know which criteria need to be measured, and how often. Every project has a goal, and you, as the producer, have to know if your actions—and the actions of your team—are moving you closer to or further away from that goal. And then, of course, you need to share the information with your team.

A producer knows what criteria need to be measured, and how often. #Leadership Click To Tweet

3. A producer apologizes the following day. This used to be my stock line after being asked, “So, what does a producer really do?” It would get a laugh (usually a small one), but it’s actually truer than most people realized. What it means is that a producer takes responsibility. If we aired a sketch that crossed a line (which we did on practically a weekly basis), I was the one who would field the angry phone calls, no matter who had actually written the sketch. The buck stopped with me.

In your world, as a producer, it’s up to you to take responsibility when something goes wrong. It doesn’t matter who was actually at fault; a producer doesn’t throw his or her team members under the bus. You’re the one who takes responsibility. You’re the one who apologizes the following day.

A producer doesn’t throw his or her team under the bus. Take responsibility! #Leadership Click To Tweet

So you see, your world and my world aren’t so different. Ultimately, a producer is a producer. And, as a leader, you’re a producer. And now you know what that really means.


About the Author:

For 15 years, Executive Producer Bill Stainton, CSP led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results--in THEIR world and with THEIR teams.
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