Sunday, March 25, 2007

I'm in love with Jon Stewart

Every time I watch the Daily Show, every time I watch Jon interact with the people around him, I fall a little more in love with him. (btw, I do NOT mean this literally) Aside from his amazing wit and enviable ability to think on his feet, it's clear (at least to me) that he genuinely cares about the people with whom he works.

Let me ask you a question. Did you ever have a manager who did everything possible to prevent talented people from succeeding in the greater organization? You probably know what I mean - the boss who guards his or her staff like a bulldog, not in a positive protective way, but with the goal of ensuring that good people never get a chance to get promoted or moved into a more challenging position. I've worked at companies where that misplaced sense of ownership was so rampant (and ultimately so damned destructive - because good people eventually leave companies where they feel trapped or unappreciated) that we were forced to include the number of promotions out of a department as a positive factor in the executive and senior management bonus plans. Imagine this: the only way we could pry good people away from these pathetic, insecure bosses was to PAY them extra money if they encouraged their employees' growth and success. "What the hell?!" you might ask. And all I can do is nod my head in agreement, and assure you that I saw this happen more times than I can count during my tenure at several large, successful organizations. I'd leave work after a session with one of those managers, and wonder if I'd somehow died and was now living the Myth of Sisyphus in some weird version of Hell, constantly rolling the same damned boulder up the hill, only to have it roll back down the second I'd gotten it up there. Why was it so obvious to me, with my B.A. degree in American History and no business school experience at all, that ENCOURAGING THE GROWTH AND SUCCESS OF PEOPLE IN AN ORGANIZATION KEEPS IT HEALTHY? Beats the hell out of me...

So look at Jon Stewart as a manager (which, I assume, he is). Stephen Colbert, once a reporter on the Daily Show, now has his own highly successful show (and Jon Stewart is an executive producer for the Colbert Report). Steve Carell, once a reporter on the Daily Show, has an amazing career in movies as well as starring in one of the funniest comedies on broadcast TV these days - The Office. Rob Corddry and his brother Nate are also Daily Show graduates, both having moved on to rolls in other TV shows. I'm sure there are more examples, but you get the point.

I'm not presuming to imply that Jon is directly responsible for the success these other guys have achieved. But I feel pretty certain that he has encouraged them, that he continues to encourage everyone who contributes to the success of the Daily Show, to hone their skills and increase their competence. And I'd bet that he has never tried to hold anyone back from pursuing new opportunities, even if it means a loss of talent in his organization. My guess is that Jon understands that a healthy organization needs not only to nurture and reward talent, but also to let people move on when it's time for them to do so.

So beyond his awesome sense of humor and timing, his not-to-be missed imitations of our president and vice-president, his courage in facing many guests whose hostility and anger is palpable to most viewers, and his very occasional fits of giggles when it's clear he's just loving someone else's performance, I love Jon Stewart because I think he's exactly the kind of manager I dreamed about working with when I was still able to work.

Yep. I'm in love with Jon Stewart (even though I'm old enough to be his mom).


mdmhvonpa said...

Fear is the mind-killer ... it does a pretty good job on organizations too.

Libbi said...

You are so right on!

I remember having a heated discussion with one of the execs at a company where I worked about using fear as a motivator. My argument was that fear caused people to shut down, stop communication and, worst of all, stop innovating (the real death knell to any organization, imho). He thought I was a fool, of course.

Who knows? He went on to run the company, and I'm sure he's a gazillion-aire.