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Spotlight on Association Leadership: An interview with CTAM CEO and President Char Beales

Char Beales is the president and CEO of CTAM — the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing. She recently took time to answer questions about her leadership philosophy and challenges facing the industry.

Char Beales

Q: Who were your mentors early in your career? What did you learn from them?

I was fortunate to have two mentors early in my career who were giants in the broadcasting and cable businesses. They taught me the importance of setting goals, perseverance and dreaming big. Ralph Baruch was the head of Viacom and demonstrated tenacity mixed with old world manners. Robert Wussler was a top executive at Turner Broadcasting after a legendary career at CBS who made risk-taking look easy and right.

Q: Tell me about the first time you were someone’s boss. What did the experience teach you?

As director of research at WBBM-TV, the Chicago CBS O&O station, I had my first management experience with three direct reports. I learned the importance of understanding what motivates each individual and working with them in a way that they prefer. It is a lesson that has served me well. While it requires flexibility on my part, everyone is more productive when they have a say in the process.

Q: What’s the toughest part of your job? How do you get a handle on that aspect of your work?

Heading an association where our members who work at cable companies and program networks are rapidly changing their go-to-market approaches makes it critical for our organization to evolve with them.

Q: When you’re looking to hire someone for a leadership role, what qualities are you looking for? What kind of questions do you ask prospective hires to see if they have those qualities?

I look for leaders who are experienced in behind-the-scenes management. To be successful, an association leader has to listen to a lot of inputs and then develop the best course of action. The trick is to make everyone feel they are part of the solution. Trust me; it is harder than it sounds.

Q: If a recent college graduate came to you and said he or she wants your job one day, what advice would you give the person?

Don’t worry about landing the perfect job – expect to test out several paths. Get your foot in the door with internships and/or an entry-level job. Learn all you can as fast as you can, especially in areas where you are less knowledgeable. Show initiative in taking on new assignments, making suggestions and being a team player. Take suggestions for improvement to heart. Pay attention to the small stuff — it does matter. Find a job or company you love and want to be there every day and the time will fly.

One great way to get in the door with any industry when you’re just starting out is to explore the myriad industry conferences offered by professional associations. And there’s an association for nearly every industry and profession. For example, CTAM hosts the CTAM Summit as an annual event for professionals in the cable industry. This year, the summit is in Orlando, Fla., from Oct. 14 to 16.