As I watched the much awaited Modi Interview on Times Now this famous quote of Albert Einstein kept coming back to me. Arnab was clearly not in his element. His war cry of “Nation wants to know” was so subdued that some would even venture to say he was a washout. It got me thinking. Regardless of all our personal preferences the fact is Arnab has over the last few years ensured that Times Now is the No. 1 option in the English News space. His anchoring skills (some would say antics) have ensured eyeballs over and over again.
And yet off late, a lot of viewers including myself have been feeling a sense of déjà vu from an Arnab show. It appears that the same traits that became an aid to his growth and success are now beginning to trap him in a web of his own creation. As a coach and HR professional,itlead me to ponder – what happens to our personal brand when we overuse just one of our skills?
Let’s start by looking at look at this from Arnab’s perspective. He is India’s No.1 TV news anchor and that’s a fact. He is also one of the most hardworking anchors in the country today. Some sympathisers would even say he is overworked. He dispenses justice every day for two hours starting 9 pm. The nation takes time out to watch it.In our greed to see more and more of him, we are leading him to a zone of burnout.
We expect all interviews of his to be like News Hour. His team does outstanding research, which he flashes at the participants and the sole agenda is to demonstrate how he is on top of the game and showcase how the political parties show duplicity. Somewhere along the line, Arnab has transformed the News Hour debate into a reality show, which runs for 52 weeks in a year without any gaps. Can you imagine how stressful that must be? He is being used by Times Now in a manner which in HR speak is called “Overused Skill”. What happens when a particular skills is overused is that the other skills get into an atrophy mode.
What was expected was Arnab helps us understand the person behind the NaMo persona. What actually happened was that he was so much focused in the TRP game and asking the questions that his research team had prepared that he didn’t do the freewheeling interview that would have given us, a peek into the NaMo persona. The nation wanted to know, who is the enigma called Modi, what drives him, what are his emotions; what are his fears, etc.
What we got instead was a set of charges framed as questions and posed to Modi. The slouch of Arnab was not of a person who had not prepared for the interview, which I think Arnabwould have definitely done. That slouch was of an overworked anchor. It reminded me of a person who is on a treadmill set to a speed that is hazardous rather than beneficiary. The key message for Arnab from me would be to slow down since Arnab is in a hurry to impact the nation. Paradoxically, a slower pace will make Arnab more impactful.
This was clearly evident during the NarendraModi interview as well as Raj Thackeray interview. He seemed more like a via media between his research team who had framed the questions and NarendraModi. If as an anchor, you don’t do your value addition, then your game is over. The same rules apply to Arnab as they do to the common man in the street.
It would be nice if Arnab evolves his personal brand from a reality show host of the News Hour into something that prepares him for the next stage of evolution.That will have the short term impact of doing less of News Hour shows and slotting some time aside for self-reflection and becoming more mindful. How this would help him? Well, he will have less pressure to be on top of the interview and instead will be looking at ways on how he can be in the interviews. He should realise that he is the anchor of the TV interviews and not a gladiator in the ring. His TV channel (Times Now) might not be interested in his long term development as that would mean he does less of Times Now News Hour debates and hence lower TRP’s and lower high priced ad inventory to sell.
As an HR consultant, I would advise Arnab to make his own learning and development plan. The plan should include the current reality and where does he want to go 1-3 years from now. He has two choices (1) Do more of News Hour shows and be a one trick pony (2) How does he plan to build on the platform that he has built.
Some of the areas that he could focus should be :
(a) Self-reflection – Get himself a life coach who asks him powerful questions and helps him discover his future path for himself.
(b) Become more fertile – Law of nature works everywhere; leaving the fields fallow for some time lets them become even more fertile. He should reduce his presence on News Hour.
(c) Second Line of Anchors – Build second line of anchors, who can take over News Hour, while he focuses on path breaking interviews and documentaries, which will have wide reaching impact.
(d) Showcase Interviews: He can focus on doing one-on-one interviews like David Frost, which will help people to understand the persona behind the guests rather than the interview getting reduced to an interrogation.
To be fair to Arnab, it will be very difficult for him to change as his success has come from holding gladiatorial debates every night via the News Hour show. Will Arnab make the leap? Will he be as ruthless on himself for his personal growth as he is on political party spokespersons? Even if we accept that Arnab is a national talent, we also have to acknowledge that overworked talent and repetitive formulas will eventually burn out. You don’t expect a singer to sing for two hours all days of the year than why does Arnab have to be flogged as a news anchor every day. Times Now give him time off; allow time for him to reinvent himself; to do self-reflection. The channel needs to think long term and not kill the golden goose that lays the golden eggs. In this journey, Times Now and Arnab have to work together.
While seemingly this piece is centred on the Arnab it is also the story of most of us in Corporate India. So what are you going to do to reinvent yourself?
Sandeep Kaul is Director, WhiteLight Consulting Pvt Ltd. A consulting firm focused on Leadership Capability Building in Organisations. He is a business leader turned HR consultant.