Tuesday, 25 September 2007

More inside Sifton

A Quebecor newsletter called Phoenix profiles Michael Sifton, the new Sun Media CEO, in an issue posted Monday. In it, Sifton says “life is too short to not have fun. There is lots of tough stuff to do, but we have to remember to have fun.”

Fun at the Sun? The Toronto Sun was a fun fest in all departments until Doug Creighton's ouster in 1992 and not so much fun in the years since Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999.

Michael, more give than take on Quebecor's behalf would help rekindle the fun part.

Back to the Phoenix newsletter:

Mike Sifton is from the school of managing by walking around, communication using simple words, and setting goals that drive the process.

“I want a lot of input,” he says. “We won’t necessarily come to a perfect consensus, but all our people should feel they have had a chance to share their opinions. It’s communication, communication, communication. It’s about how we see ourselves and how others see us.”

That approach panned out at Osprey Media where he created a new enterprise culture. After spending five years in the Hollinger organization, he had the chance to build Osprey Media into a group of 20 dailies and 38 community publications in Ontario from the diverse styles of Thomson, Southam and other previous owners.

“Rather than spending a lot of time working on vision statements, we focused instead on understanding the purpose of the business. It’s about building better communities. That’s what a newspaper or any media organization should be doing. That’s what publishing is all about.”

Osprey was guided by a short list of core values.

“Regional publishers and local publishers were asked to define the core values. We found that there were a number of words that were common from all the regions.”

Using this common language, Sifton and the Osprey team established the list of values, based on simple language, with each point leading into or connected to the next. This became the core philosophy of the company and part of how Sifton defines his own style.

“It starts with honesty. It’s so simple. If you lie you won’t be part of this organization for long. We need people who can provide honest feedback to everyone inside and outside the organization.”

Integrity is developed when you do what you say. Knowing that people will always act in the best interests of the company, our readers and advertisers is a key link in the chain.

Respect is built on honesty and integrity.

“This is exhibited by how I interact with senior managers and how I expect them to deal with their reports. Humility is important. I don’t like people who are full of themselves.”

Trust is established when we demonstrate honesty, integrity and respect. We strive to be trusted within the organization and with readers and advertisers.

The next consensus value that emerged is empowerment.

“That’s the process by which we manage,” says Sifton. “If a manager is always looking to head office for direction, it means his or her backside is facing the community and that’s not the right focus. We don’t want people who ‘manage up.’ I want people to take risks. I want our folks to have courage to try new things, like being a bit irreverent with the front pages. You shouldn’t fear you’ll be punished for taking a risk, even if it doesn’t work out.”

Finally, fun: “Life is too short to not have fun. There is lots of tough stuff to do, but we have to remember to have fun.”

Did You Know?
• Mike Sifton was introduced to the business through summer jobs as a pressman at the Brockville Recorder and Times, then as a reporter at the St. Catharines Standard and at the Canadian Press. He became publisher in 1992 of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and the Regina Leader Post.

• In 2001 he began assembling newspapers that would become the Osprey Group.

• Born in Toronto, he is married with three children aged 20, 18 and 13

On the Big Issues
• Convergence: “It’s not the future anymore. It is with us now. We need to get better at it. The one thing I know about convergence is we need everyone’s input because I am not smart enough to figure it out by myself.”

• Content: “We’re a news and information company and clearly going forward I am placing the focus on content. Content is where it all begins.”

• Changing business: “Understand what you want to achieve, design the business, then apply tools, systems and processes. We need to look at the tasks at hand and then assign who’s best equipped to achieve success.”

• Fun at work: “The most enjoyable part of the job is travelling and meeting our team.”

1 comment:

  1. Could this be a new dawn of professionalism and journalistic standards and proper resources in Sun Media, or will he come under the iron rule of PKP?