Behind the Scenes of Oprah – Lessons on Teamwork

This afternoon, I decided to relax for a few hours after lunch. Time away from work in the afternoon is a rare treat for me these days … ha,ha,ha. I was going to watch TV … nothing serious, just fun.  Fortunately, the Oprah Show promised something very interesting: for the first time ever, they were going to take us behind the scenes of the Oprah Winfrey Show and give viewers a peak into what it takes to create this popular show that has broken all kinds of media records and made its mark in history as the greatest talk-show ever. I was very interested in 'meeting' the people who make this well oiled machine run and most importantly, I wasn't looking to get 'wowed!', I was looking to learn.

I wasn't disappointed and I sure picked up some very subtle, but priceless lessons on team work and leadership … particularly important for those who strive to work well in team settings. Here are a few points I took away from today's show:

1. A solid goal.

As she introduced the world to her team, Oprah clearly stated that their goal as a unit has always been to create the 'number 1' television show in the world. This they have achieved and then some! Because of this, her team (most of whom have worked with her for 15 years and more) have always given 110% to the job, a mixture of genuise, creativity, focus and commitment.  This speaks to the importance of a mission that drives team members focused on a common mission.

2. There will be sacrifices.

It was very clear even at the beginning of this show that most of her top leaders were parents with families. In fact, the first two producers she introduced her audience to were mothers of 3 children, who talked about sacrifices of family time they have had to make, but also of a deep love for their work, driven by a vision to touch lives through this one of a kind show, which by the way also helps put food on the table. They were obviously proud of being part of something this big, albeit all the sacrifices.

The bottomline is, those who are not willing to make sacrifices for a cause or a porject in any life arena, should not get involved – save yourself and team members 'duress'. Don't be one of those who wants results, but is unwilling to make sacrifices. Longetivity is the name of the game.

3. Not everyone says 'yes'.

Oprah so wanted to clearly get this across: "… not everyone says 'yes' to us," she said. Just because they are the 'Oprah Winfrey Show', does not exclude them from the basic business building principle: 'Some will, some won't. So what? Who's next?'  It was OK to get turned down several times by guests they would have wanted on the show, they kept moving. Her team also clearly understood that only guests who 'wanted' to and were comfortable being on the show were to be featured. Oprah talked about her 'booking department' as the team that 'consistently' stays on the phone filling up the seats in the audience and bringing in some of the most interesting guests she has ever interviewed.

What does this teach us? 'Nos' are normal in business. Who would think anyone would turn down the Oprah Show?  Oprah talked about shows that took years to plan, and those that are still in the making 10 years later. How patient are you? I guess this underscores how unrealistic it is to expect 'microwaveable, overnight success'.

4. Small beginnings.

I was particularly struck when she looked back at the times she only had 4 individuals on her team, those days when she had to get bookings herself; she admitted to not being that good at inviting guests to her show, but did it anyway. Today 25 years later, that team had grown to 464 staff members.

While it was heartwarming to watch Oprah interact with 'my tribe' as she lovingly referred to her team, I was once again struck by how far we can go when the right team comes together.

As Oprah transitions into her own network – OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), her promise to viewers is to provide 'meaningful, mindful television that will not tear anyone down'. We wish her all the best. I will certainly be watching … afterall, she has and continues to be an inspiration.

As the new year approaches, let's all take time to re-evaluate what we bring to the table as far as team work and take it up a notch. It is so very satisfying.


Happy New Year!!!!

This holiday season, hang out with us at Dunia Magazine

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