by Gail Kasper, Author, Television Host, Certified Fitness Trainer, and Motivational Speaker
Hello Everyone! As we move forward with G Magazine, this is a great time to look at our lives and our goals, and potentially reinvent ourselves. This is an opportunity to make 2010 a great year! With this in mind, I wanted to share a BONUS interview with my mentor, who has imparted immeasurable advice for my life and career.
Enjoy! And please let us know what you think!
Gail's Interview with Larry Kane: "A Leader, a Mentor, and a Media ICON!"
Gail: Larry, thank you so much for being here with me. Welcome to the Top 1 Percent Club, G Magazine, Expert Interview. It's my pleasure to sit down with a media icon who has thrived through the business for over 40 years. His career includes some of the most powerful people in America ranging from Ronald Reagan, to Jimmy Carter and current President Elect, Barrack Obama. Larry is best known as the only American reporter with whom The Beatles let travel with them on their 1964 North American tour. Often called the dean of Philadelphia television news anchors, he is one of the market's most respected broadcast journalists. Larry is the current host of 'Voice of Reason' on the Comcast Network. He is also the author of 'Lennon Revealed', 'Ticket to Ride' and 'Larry Kane's Philadelphia'. He's one of the strongest leaders I know, connecting with people at all levels. He's been a mentor to me. He coaches and guides in a way that saves people years of experience and has a talent to get to the truth in an interview. Larry Kane is someone who brings out the best in people that he works with.
Larry: After that I don't know what to say.
Gail: You are it to me, so it is a privilege and honor to have you as part of my first edition. I know so many people today are trying to figure out where they belong in life. How did you get started in your career? What made you choose the line of work that you're in now?
Larry: Well, I got started by doing a lot of risk taking in an unusual time. Young people were not as admired as they are today. I got started, believe it or not, when I was 14-years-old. I did some high school football reports for a radio station in Miami. And then at 15, I was working part-time at the station. So, while I was in high school from 10th - 12th grade, I was working full time. By the 11th grade, I made it on the air. I was doing the station breaks in between Sunday morning church services. They played rock-n-roll during the week and then had Christianity and other denominations on the weekend. That's how I got my start.
I think what you have to do sometimes is "go all out" for something. Most people, when they get out of college or trade school, tend to seek employment. In an economy like this one, if they don't find what they want, they wind up being in a business that they're not happy with. To me, even beyond money and finance, the most important thing to do in life is something that you enjoy. When you're graduating or starting a new career, you have to take some risks and look at things that may not be obvious to you. For example, most people right out of college, or with masters degrees or doctorates, look in their field, but they very rarely do what I call "tree". This means picturing your job experience like a tree. The tree comes out of the ground and there are many branches.
For example, someone asked me the other day, "I want to be in Public Relations, what do I do?" I told them to take a look at all the branches of Public Relations and Communications. You have to look at Public Relations for companies, organization, and non-profits. Look at communication training, Gail, which you do so well all across the country. You work with individuals to increase their personal ability to communicate. There were 50 different job descriptions that appealed to this one person I was working with all with different angles of PR, the "one" major that they've taken in college. They had so many different branches to look at from the "tree" of career.
Gail: Was there a great influence that you had?
Larry: Well my most important influence, to be very honest with you, was my mother. My mother had Multiple Sclerosis. It's a very difficult disease. She had suffered and been through so much. She was a guiding light for me. When I was very young, I realized I that I didn't know how much longer she was going to be around. I decided to work really hard to make sure that I was successful because, to me, I had to. I helped her around the house, with my brothers and my father, and then I worked hard to be a success. She lived until I was 21. She was 40. She did hear me on the air. Even though she wasn't a professional, she had instincts. I often came home late at night and got these notes on my pillow. The notes told me if I was "good, bad, or indifferent" on the air. I had my own critic at the age of 16.
Gail: To have someone in your life that had such a huge difference, makes the difference in the risks we take. It sounds as though everything she said to you, you really took to heart?
Larry: I did. At that age you do. The thing about life in terms of career is that it's always important to find a mentor. As my career progressed from radio, which then went into television, I found people that I could look up to.
Gail: How did you determine who you would follow?
Larry: Well, it's very important that when you look up to someone, you make sure that person doesn't have an agenda. That person who is helping you along should be doing this for a genuine reason, not for purposes of power, influence or cult of personality. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. You find cult-of personalities in the workplace that want to become their own Pied Piper. Sometimes these people can adversely affect you.
The people that you want as mentors are people that have three things: 1) They must have professional ability in their given field, 2) Magnificent personalities and most of all, 3) An unselfish attitude toward helping people. They're just there "to help" and for no other reason. It's not for power, or to have their own little army of little junior captains running around that is very important.
Gail: At what age did you realize that some people had an agenda versus those who were selflessly helping you?
Larry: I was one of those people with rose-colored vision living in a rose colored world. So, for me, when I was in my early twenties, I just would accept anybody. Sometimes I was lead astray regarding the way you're supposed to act in a newsroom. I had some good people helping me and I also had people who, at times, screwed me up. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I started developing my own quality of leadership. By the time I was in my thirties, I was helping people in their early twenties.
One of the greatest thing about life, in general, is making sure that people, younger than you, learn from you. To me, that means helping them become better broadcasters and better journalists. For those who manage a company, whether it be a consulting company, shoe store, or manufacturing company, there is no question in my mind that there needs to be direct, powerful and charismatic leadership. There is absolutely no substitute for that. Negative leadership, doesn't work. It may work for the short term, but in the long term it will fail. It's always a failure. When you manage people whether you're the people listening to this, you're managing a fast food complex, a shoe store, a manufacturing company, leadership happens from the top down. Whether you're the boss of three people or thirty thousand, the way you act, the way you conduct yourself, is going to be spread down through the matrix. When I see an unsuccessful company, or a company that has made big mistakes, I will guarantee that it starts with the top.
Gail: One thing I've noticed and respected with you and I hold in the highest esteem, is that you treat everybody with respect. It doesn't matter if they're at the top, or if they're cleaning the floors. It doesn't matter what they do, you treat each person as though they are the most important person in the room. It can take people a lifetime to get it and some people never get it. What has kept you grounded?
Larry: Well, failure has a lot to do with that. There isn't anybody who has been successful every day of their life. If they were successful every day of their lives, they would be living in a world without reality. I think when you misstep, you tend to realize that you're very vulnerable. You want to make sure that other people are constantly fortified with reassurances. I'm not one that plays the game of "he said, she said," I don't play the game of motivate people by fear, I know it doesn't work. I think more and more people in our society are saying that. I've gone in to companies and I can tell you in a half hour what difficulties they have just by the looks on the faces, and the manner in which people speak. The best people in a work environment are with the people that are treated as people. They are encouraged to provide input, and also understand that there is a final decision.
Somebody I was recently working with was judging on-air talent. This person was bright enough, smart enough and talented enough to say to me, "Let's look at tapes together. I want to see what you think about the people I like." While we were looking at tapes, another factor entered our discussions. There were a lot of very good people on the air, from all walks of American life. But, I wanted to know something else - I wanted to know what they were like as people.
The fact is - it doesn't matter how much experience they have. People who watch television recognize a fake the minute they arrive. Genuineness is apparent and shows the kind of person you are. Occasionally, someone will fool you. But, when you look at all the major personalities, what is the primary talent they have? Is it looks? Not necessarily. Is it fashion? Maybe sometimes, but doubtful. Is it the beautiful people who make it or is it the beautiful people on the inside that make it? If you looked at the career of Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams, they're nice looking people. They're not adonises, or beautiful movie stars, but they have something inside. There is something there that you can feel.
Gail: You have interviewed some incredible leaders across the country. Tell us a little bit about some of those experiences. What made them rewarding? What did you see in them as leaders?
Larry: I think when you interview Presidents, it's always interesting, because you wonder "how does anyone sleep at night doing that job?" When I've done interviews with national personalities, I'm always surprised at how difficult it is for them to do the interviews. For example, the one President that I interviewed who had no problem with the interview, whatsoever, was Ronald Reagan. He was just an incredible communicator and he knew exactly how to talk. Jimmy Carter was a different story. He was a man who had been thrust into the presidency in the after-math of a national scandal, Watergate, and he wasn't quite ready for prime time. George W. Bush, by the way, despite his low approval ratings upon leaving office, was actually a far better communicator in person when the cameras were not rolling. Actually, if people saw him in the charismatic way that he was, he probably would have done much better as a speaker. But, he didn't want people to see him. He didn't want people to see the inside of him. Now, Barrack Obama is a master communicator. He's got his challenges, but he knows how to get his message across.
There's something very interesting about our society. You go to school, 12 grades. Then you may go to college or trade school. At school you're taught reading, writing, math, history and social studies. How many schools from the time we're kids to the time we're young adults teach us how to verbally communicate with other people? None.
Gail: Are good communicators hard to find?
Larry: Some people may have a gift to communicate or were brought up in an environment where they learned to communicate, but very few people have the kind of clarity that leadership requires.
If you want to go to the top, you need to have great public and personal communication skills. People do not understand that they need to focus on the other party and practice good listening. Many people do not know how to listen. It takes a lot of training and it takes a lot of understanding of other people.
Gail: You're right. It is something everyone, including myself, needs to work on, constantly. Would you say that being a great communicator is one of the primary qualities of a successful person?
Larry: Absolutely. I think that whatever you do, whatever your chosen profession in life, whatever your calling, the greatest successes are the greatest communicators. What people don't realize is that effective communication is easier than they think. A major element involves being open and honest.
With respect to leadership, I am amazed by the leading executives in the country who are afraid to show their vulnerabilities. One of the classic companies that does so well with their management, a company I'm associated with, is Comcast. From the top down there is no craziness in the work place. There is a sense of understanding and respect for people. Some companies tolerate lawlessness in the work place, people out of control. If you have a boss who berates you and verbally abuses you, and his boss doesn't manage that situation immediately, it will be very difficult for you to continue to work there. I really admire Comcast for what they do. I also admire some other companies. I feel that labor productivity is a direct link to the way people are treated.
Gail: What's next for you Larry? You've brought so much to Comcast and you have more than made your mark in television.
Larry: My second Grandchild. Actually, it's interesting. People ask me why I continue working. I continue working because I like it and I enjoy teaching. Gail, I know this is really going to surprise you. I get as much excitement, joy and gratification out of helping young on-air people, and young broadcasters. It's taken a lifetime of lessons learned, and trying to exercise knowledge, and show people the right way. I don't have all the answers, just like Chief of Staff, the President of the United States. I don't think they have all the answers but I care about these people. I have worked for companies both large and small, and I have this same hope, for these younger people that these companies understand the necessity to really take care of these people.
I have been in newsrooms that have been headquarters of fear and loathing. What they do is they try to ?óÔé¼?ôdivide and conquer.?óÔé¼?Ø And that never works, particularly in the work place.
There are a lot of people who say the only way to really succeed is to be a "hard behind" It probably works in the Air Force, which I belonged to at one time. It may work in a military setting, but, even in that setting, the people who work for he Lieutenants and Captains are deeply respected. That's one of the great lessons we can take from the military. If we work together, especially when lives are on the line, we do okay.
Gail: Do you have any regrets?
Larry: Yes. I would get more autographs from The Beatles when I traveled with them. Also, I would probably, at least in the first part of my career, try to get more involved in covering politics than I did. Politics became a big career for me. I love everything it means to the country. I never really wanted to be on the national stage. I don't regret that. Working in the Philadelphia area is as good as it gets.
Gail: You mentioned The Beatles. You have two books out there, Lennon Revealed and Ticket to Ride. Why do you think you were the one media guy in that loop?
Larry: I was the only radio guy that traveled with them to every stop. There were a few others, here and there.
I think that I got the assignment in a very unusual way and when I took it, I was not impressed with them. I didn't want to be with them. I didn't treat them like kings and I think they liked that. I also think they liked that I asked them questions that challenged their intelligence, and that meant a lot to them. Most people were asking them questions like "What do you like in a woman?" or "Is the hair real?" Silly questions like "What did you eat for breakfast?"
Gail: What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?
Larry: Personally or professionally?
Larry: There was a personal decision that I had to make early in my career which was very complex, and something I am not going to discuss. But, it was really painful.
The professional decision that was the hardest of all, was leaving New York. I was king of the hill and I came back to Philadelphia where I really wanted to live. People would often say to me, "Should you have stayed there?" I probably would have wound up being a national personality, but I think I have lived and continue to live a better life being back here in Philadelphia. I think the decision to go to New York was a peer-pressure thing. I should have stayed at Channel 6 and I would have probably been there today, about ready to retire. That was a mistake. You make mistakes sometimes based on what other people think for you, and what other people want for you, rather than what you want for yourself. There are a lot of people, young people, who are more concerned about what other people think than their own personal happiness. I think that becomes a real factor, and a recipe possibly for failure.
Gail: And it's not just young people, some people need to learn how to be Assertive and look out for themselves vs. others.
Larry: And I did made the mistake of leaving, but I made a good choice in coming back. Although, I knew it would be much harder as a broadcaster coming back. But that's one great thing about Philadelphia; they do not ever forget anyone. It's been 32 years since I returned to Philadelphia, and people still say, ?"Gee, sorry you left for New York." That was three decades ago.
Gail: You don't know how many people I've talked to about this interview, and they're just so excited, because everybody knows you. If you looked at our country in general, when it comes to politics and what is going on in the news, you're "the man." Where do you see our country 50 years from now?
Larry: That's hard to say, but I can tell you that I' not happy with the political climate. People are stereotyping people. Some view that if you're for the Obama health plan you must be a liberal and if you're against it, you must be hard conservative. That's not accurate anymore. Different people have different points of view. I don't like when people label people. I don't like it when someone who is pro-life is assumed to be a right wing fanatic or when someone who is pro-choice is assumed to be a liberal fanatic. Everybody has different opinions about different issues. If you get the same ten people in a room, they might have 50 different opinions about 50 different issues. Yet people are labeled, targeted, or stereotyped.
For example, I am very pro-gun, because I'm "pro" the second amendment, as I'm "pro" the first amendment. The first amendment gives us the right to free speech. The second amendment gives responsible people the right to own weapons. I am not a big fan of weapons. On the other hand, the constitution says that's okay. You can't be hypocritical. You have to go by the truth. The constitution says there is freedom of speech and freedom for responsible people to bare arms. That doesn't mean I want arms in every house in America and that also doesn't mean that I'm not liberal on some issues and conservative on others. Unfortunately, people are classified in certain categories and hence we hear, "soccer mom," "right-winger," or "extremist." Everybody has a name for everybody. As a nation, in the last election we showed a tremendous amount of individual choice, whether it was on the Republican side or the Democrat side. Unfortunately, though, so many stereotype people. This extends to appearances, and not who they are as people. This is very disturbing to me.
Gail: The point you just made transfers right in to the work place. One of the biggest challenges people have is stereotyping someone when it comes to a specific job, based on how they look or how they respond. They don't even know who they are.
Larry: That is really true. There are people of different colors in this country. White, black, Hispanic and native. They are stereotyped because of they way they look, dress, act, and their accent. It's very difficult for a lot of Americans to judge people as individuals.
Gail: Now that we've heard the business and leadership Larry Kane, what's life like for you outside of work? Who is Larry?
Larry: Well, I play golf quite often - alone. I do play with others but I like playing for 8 or 9 holes by myself. I read. My wife and I are both marathon swimmers. I work out with weights three times a week. I enjoy my family most of all. Of course, I love our new grandchild. I told my son he better watch out, because we might take him home. I enjoy being a dad and generally like people. I find myself, as I get older, getting into more conversation with strangers, and finding out about people. I also like people-watching. I like to observe people in crowds. Since I've been a newsman for so long, I can read a person in about 30 seconds, which is not a good thing, because I make judgments. I have a pretty good understanding of life in general.
Gail: Thank you for sharing the personal side with us. We certainly appreciate the generous amount of time that you've given us. In closing, what does it take to make it today in this economy? What does it take to get there?
Larry: You have to be ?assertive and reinvent yourself. Assertive doesn't mean crazy, or outlandish, assertive is about looking out for yourself and looking out for others. If you're a cardiologist, you're dealing with people's lives, and sensitivity is critical. Chances are you have as much knowledge as the next guy, but the difference is you're the manner with which you treat your patients. If you're a teacher, and you hear your students and you have genuine excitement emanating from your lips during a class, you'll be hugely successful. If you're an actor, you have to get the right part, and make the right decisions. If you are a carpenter, the difference is in the way you deal with a customer, whether in showing up or cleaning up. If you own a car wash, you want to make sure that every car is cleaned properly.
The second aspect of success is to constantly reinvent yourself. I don't care if you're a cardiologist, a sports writer, or a trash collector, you have to continue to give yourself new challenges in your work, and that means revitalizing yourself, taking care of yourself, and making life more interesting in the work place. I don't care if you're the most successful person in America and you are considering retiring, you must continue to reinvent yourself and your work environment.
Finally, if you happen to be in public life, like a politician, or someone who needs people's votes to win, you have to deal with individual people. I respect politicians for the job they have but I'm also very happy that they have to prove themselves every few years. Otherwise it could become a free ride and free rides are what we call dictatorships.
Gail: Well said. Thank you, Larry. How can our readers follow you?
Larry: I have a website where I'm very opinionated, www.larrykane.com. I do analysis for KYW News radio. I have a show called, "Voice of Reason" which airs on Sunday nights at 9:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. on the Comcast Network. It's easy to find me through the web. I have been working on a new book that's almost finished, a novel based on the confluence of law, politics, law enforcement and the underworld. It's mostly centered in newsrooms.
Gail: Will you let us know when it's available?
Larry: Of course, you'll know about it.
Gail: Good, because I'd love to get a link up on the Top 1 Percent Club to make it accessible to others, as well.
Larry: It's been great talking to you Gail, and good luck with everything.
Gail: Thank you so much Larry. Thank you for being a part of this. It wouldn't have been the same without you.
About Gail Kasper: Mid-1998, Gail Kasper started her business from a small one-bedroom apartment, in the middle of bankruptcy, with no money in the bank. Today, Gail is one of the nation's leading speakers, author, Top 1% Club Mentor, a television host, advice columnist, Certified Fitness Trainer, Ms. Continental America 2008, and the creator of SAD-T™ (Systematic Attitude Development-Technique™). A former Contributing Editor to Success Magazine with the "Ask Gail" column and host of the "Ask Gail" segment on the Comcast morning show, Gail is the author of her self-help autobiography Another Day Without A Cage: My Breakthrough From Self-Imprisonment To Total Empowerment and the self-help parable Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals. With national media appearances that include Inside Edition, The Today Show, FOX Business News, and Oprah and Friends, Gail has earned the ranking of an in-demand national media personality who has been the topic of discussion on Regis and Kelly. The current host of the Philadelphia Visitors Channel, she has also made numerous appearances on network affiliates that include ABC, FOX, CW11, Comcast, and CBS, where she co-hosted the Emmy award-winning America's TVJobNetwork. www.gailkasper.com
This article is courtesy of the Top 1% Club and the Top 1% Club Mentor Gail Kasper. For additional information on Gail Kasper, her television appearances and speaking engagements, please visit gailkasper.com.