deejay chalk

Want Better Outcomes? Hire This Kind of Rule-Breaker

That’s when Ralph got a DJ job in the desert. He moved from New Jersey to Southern California in the early 1970s for the radio station job, his wife joining him shortly thereafter. Getting the DJ job was a boon for the two young lovers, and Ralph had a nearly Kerouac-like road trip story along the way, one of synchronicity and living life in moment, after moment, after moment.

Unfortunately, the radio station was a conservative one run by an owner with Christian fundamentals, spinning only the most mellow contemporary records at the time – Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Bobby Vinton, Nat King Cole, The Carpenters and more. Certainly none of that crazy, hell-bent, rock and roll from the Who, the Stones, CCR, Led Zeppelin and others.

Until Ralph’s first week of work.

He couldn’t stand their standard play lists, and although he was told never, ever to play rock and roll, he knew that was the only way to expand the station’s stagnant audience and grow advertising revenue. Sure, the station has a safe haven of listeners and advertisers, but man, he had to break the rule – this was the groovy early 70s, baby. It was rock and boogie time with the Jersey boy call-of-the-Troggs “Wild Thing.”

Immediately phone calls flooded the station. Some loyal listeners complained of course, but mostly the calls exclaimed how happy they were with the new format – and this included progressive advertisers.

But the station owner hated it, perpetuating his narrow status quo and his unwillingness to admit he might be wrong, and so he threatened Ralph with his job. This battle ensued for a few weeks until, and even after listenership increased and new advertisers knocked on the door, the station owner could take it no more.

Ralph was fired, but his true career path had only just begun. From there they journeyed to the Monterey Bay area and eventually settled in Santa Cruz to start a family.

At least, that’s how I remember Ralph telling me the story. And what a storyteller he was. Sadly, my dear friend Ralph passed away this week, after a short-lived battle with leukemia.

Ralph Peduto was an actor, writer, playwright, teacher and most recently a stand-up comic. He was best known for his roles in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “The Rock” and “Patch Adams,” as well as TV shows and commercials including roles in “Cheers” and “Hill Street Blues,” and he was the Midas man in the early 1990s who urged people to depend on him. His novel, published only a few years ago, is titled America Maze: Only One Way Out and is a great read whose dialogue rivals that of American novelist and screenwriter, Elmore Leonard.

But more specifically to me, he was an inspirational mentor, friend, and a loving husband and father. My wife worked with his wife in physical therapy, and that’s how we first met years ago. Ever since he encouraged me to make my own way, to never forget the true loves of family and personal passion (which for me is writing).

He told me, “Regardless of the jobs you have, always do what drives you.”

And that’s why Ralph was willing to break the rules. For the better not only of himself, but also for his family and the arts in which he worked. I can dig that. That’s why companies that are:

  • Focused on their people while empowering diversity, inclusion, inevitable fallibility and of course rule-breaking that ultimately drive true change and innovation, are the ones who can and will possibly gain a competitive edge and drive business outcomes like retention, revenue and more. This according to another friend of mine, Elaine Orler, President and Founder of Talent Function. Elaine knows what it’s like to make her own way her way, becoming a sought-after talent acquisition thought leader, and frequent #TChat Radio guest. She’s also passionate about the candidate experience and its impact on both workforces and employers, being the chairman co-founder of the Talent Board, founding organization of the Candidate Experience Awards.
  • Willing to admit when they just don’t friggin’ know, are much better off, like award-winning economist Steven D. Levitt reported on in a recent Freaknomics podcast. He talked about a multinational retailer he worked with whose inability to admit they didn’t know whether or not their millions spent on advertising actually increased sales was completely confounding. It’s a fascinating conundrum many of us grow up with, this incessant need to always have an answer, however fabricated, especially after we’ve joined the wild “world of work.” That’s why many people are afraid to tell their employer they didn’t know the answer to a work-related question. They’d rather bleed compliant lies than admit they don’t know and learn from it, something their company most likely doesn’t encourage otherwise, but could benefit from.

Rule-breaking people for better outcomes? Much better.

God bless you, Ralph. I’ll forever spin the rock and roll vinyl for you. And my family.

And me.

feature photo credit: Daquella manera via photopin cc

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