Diane Kniowski, WOOD TV, WOTV, and WXSP TV president and general manager, collects snow globes. The whimsical trinkets are mementos that also reflect the news world: Sometimes, the world is still; everything appears normal. When the world is shaken up, the view changes dramatically. Diane? She barely gets rattled. Some family members lovingly refer to her as The Enforcer. She is a general manager. She’s comfortable with change. She always knows where to be.
Diane found television early on, as an intern at an NBC affiliate. Years later, the Erie, Pennsylvania, native found herself in Michigan and, in 1993, at WOOD TV. In 1999, she was promoted to general manager. She learned “all things news.” She learned ideas needed to be tested. She learned, “It’s not what I think.” The first year of the job was a “vertical learning curve.”
She asks thoughtful questions: “Who do you want to be?” “Am I demonstrating the behavior I should be?” Diane sells and shapes the company vision, inspires performance, and removes roadblocks preventing peoples’ best work. She was instrumental in developing and building the WOOD TV8 brand, an interesting, multiyear project.
She makes it her mission to provide support, training, and trust to her team. “I get out of the way, so people can do their jobs.” Diane has an open door policy, and there was a line out the door her first year as GM. The problems were mostly personal: People didn’t feel valued. She changed that. She compliments and thanks people. She allows people to complain and vent. She knows you sometimes have to stop and listen, and has people “call a red flag.” Perhaps directions weren’t clear, or someone was being talked over. When someone raises a hand and says, “red flag,” it’s time to stop and listen, and ask what’s needed.
She admits impatience is a flaw, and puts herself “out there” to learn and grow from staff. She speaks of the value of the collective whole—of seeing your experiences coming together and drawing upon them. She speaks of content driving everything at WOOD. But what drives Diane? “Being part of something so special. It’s an inside perspective of the world. I’m part of a really special time with a really special mission. We’re helping people shape their day, their week, their life. I get up every day and think, ‘I get to be part of this!’ And I really enjoy it.”
Diane’s sense of community and family is strong. She considers everyone at the station an extension of family, and says she sometimes feels “like the big mama” to her employees. She’s protective; she believes in them; she’s proud of them. “They blow me away.” They inspire her. She’s learned a lot with and through her employees, and learned a lot about what not to do from others along her career path. She never stops learning and striving.
“What are you going to learn? How are you going to adapt? How are you going to change, to grow?”
The questions never stop, either.