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Volume 20 No. 42
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The Sit-Down: Sean McManus, CBS Sports

The longtime head of CBS Sports discusses his mentors, his management style and why reading time management books might not be the best use of your time.


y father, my No. 1 mentor,
once gave me this piece of advice: “The camera spots a phony every time.” That’s true in his profession [McManus’ father was broadcaster Jim McKay] and mine. If you try and fake it, and if you aren’t true to your values, you will be exposed eventually.

I believe that people should really enjoy where they work.

I don’t have any respect for proprietorship. It’s great if somebody comes up with an idea and they get congratulated, but people who worry about where the ideas come from or who gets the credit are not really valuable members of your team.

I like to be involved with every aspect of this division because I love the division. … There isn’t really one aspect of the division that I’m not incredibly involved in.

I have nothing against lawyers, but when I came here there were three lawyers working for CBS Sports. There are no lawyers working for CBS Sports right now.

Leslie Moonves, Barry Frank at IMG and Don Ohlmeyer were three bosses I had and I learned a lot from them. I learned from them never to expect anything more from your team than you give yourself, whether it’s in terms of commitment, hours, results, work ethic.

Those men also demand complete and total loyalty to your division and to your boss, which I think is incredibly important. They also have a great sense of perspective. They all love what they do. They all have great senses of humor.

I don’t think I’ve really changed as a manager, to be honest with you. I have a little more perspective now that I have a family. I got married pretty late in life. When I didn’t have a family, all I did was my job because that’s all I loved doing.

I think I learn more in a job interview from the questions that the applicant asks me than the questions I ask them because they know what questions I’m going to ask them and they’ve probably given the same answers many times. Then I usually say, “Do you have any questions about CBS Sports or our vision or where we’re going, or me personally?” And the questions that I get usually indicate that they really have thought about this job and that they have something to offer.

I do not enjoy long-winded answers to any questions that I give. People need to be succinct, direct, to the point, and they don’t have to be shy. They can tell me what’s on their mind.

Most people have a pretty good B.S. meter. I think I have a really good one. And if I walk into somebody’s office and I ask them a question and they’re not giving it to me straight, which almost never happens, I have no patience for that whatsoever, nor should I or will I tolerate that.

Life’s too short to try to beat around the bush. There’s not enough time. We have too many things we’re doing.

If you’re comfortable in your job all the time, then you’re not stretching yourself.

I was made vice president of programming when I was 27 years old at NBC. I’d always grown up in production. … But they called me up one day and said, “We’re not crazy about the way the programming department is running. We’d like you to run it.” I said, “I appreciate that. Thank you very much.” Then I thought to myself, “Holy shit. I don’t think I’m ready for this job.”

It’s not enough just to love sports [to get into the business]. You have to love sports television. … You should be watching the Yankee game, not as a Yankee fan but as, “Is it a good telecast? Are the announcers doing a good job? Are they showing too many crowd shots? Are they not giving enough statistics?”

Whatever your first opportunity is, you should take it. If it’s getting popcorn at the YES Network for Michael Kay, you should do that. … Once you get your foot in the door, then you can start to make a name for yourself and you can really start to impress the people for whom you work.

If you have to read books about time management and managing people, then you’re probably not instinctively good at it, which means you’re probably not instinctively ever going to be great at it.

I’m sure business how-to books are valuable for a lot of people, but I’ve read some of them and after a while I hit myself in the head and say, “Well that’s pretty obvious.”

I never read “Friday Night Lights,” which makes me feel stupid. Without an iPad, I would have written it down or made a note and gone to the bookstore. Now I said, “OK, ‘Friday Night Lights,’” and three seconds later I had the book on my iPad.

The iPad, for me, is the greatest invention ever. I get on the airplane to go to Los Angeles and I had three papers I read pretty religiously. … And I had season three of “Sons of Anarchy.”

“Homeland,” I think, is the best thing on television. I’m not just saying it because it’s on Showtime. “Homeland” is unbelievable.