There are things that I have learned over the years through trial and error. I have made many mistakes that led me to success after failure was experienced. Among those mistakes was how I attempted to coach talent in the early days of my career. To begin with many of us in programming positions referred to the sessions with talent as “Critique sessions.” Is there anything more negative than that?
To critique is to be critical. To offer criticism. The words definition is not negative in its Greek root but say it to an on-air personality or performer and you can see the muscles in their body tighten and the expression on their face change. “Coaching” is about helping someone to improve their performance. It is taking advantage of their strengths and building on those. It’s helping the individual being coached to realize their full potential.
This week I am paying homage to advertising legends, marketers and authors Jack Trout & Al Ries who wrote “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” in 1994. The book was updated in 2002 to the 22 Immutable Laws of Branding authored by Al & Laura Ries. Acknowledging the lessons, I have learned from these books and my many mentors, in using the title The 10 Immutable Laws of Coaching Talent. Please share these with anyone who works with creative individuals who are ever perfecting a craft.
Make the talent a priority whenever you meet with them. Turn off your phone. Hold your calls. Do not stare at your computer or iPad unless you are using it to take notes. In that case, tell them that is what you’re doing. The individual you are meeting with should feel as if they are the center of your attention. They should be.
Understand the talents’ value as a personality. What do they mean to your station. To the show where they perform. What do they mean to your sales department and the promotion department. These are questions to ask yourself and your leadership.
Be specific on the objective of any coaching session that you are having with your on-air performers. Why are you meeting and what do you want to accomplish. If you are having the meeting because you “feel” like you need to meet once a week, every day, or whatever the routine, then do not meet. However, do not ignore your talent. Everyone needs coaching. You should have regular coaching sessions, but they should be purposeful.
Be honest and open. When I first meet with talent, I tell them “You can ask me any question that you want, and I will answer those that I cannot answer because it may be confidential, or I do not know/have an answer to your question. I will tell you if that is the case.” I also always add “If I say something is confidential, you don’t get a second question on that topic.”
Explain “WHY” you want a talent to execute a plan, make a change, alter a part of their program. Every air-talent that I have ever worked with, regardless of the level of their talent, has deserved to know why changes, adjustments, or plans were being altered. “Because I said so” did not work when we were kids and asked our parents that question. Does not work here, either.
Listen and pay attention. Let your talent talk. There is much to be learned by listening.
The “Good News” then “Bad News” tactic doesn’t work. That is that I’ve consulted stations in the past where a PD might say to me “I like to give a personality a bit of good news before I tell them something they might not want to hear.” The problem with that is that every time you tell them something positive, they will be waiting for the other shoe to drop, even if you do not have a negative to give this time.
When a reprimand is necessary, employ the steps from The One Minute Manager. It’s a book by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. It employs three steps … the one-minute reprimand, the one-minute goal setting, and the one-minute praising.
Be sure that you understand each other. Leave no question unasked or unanswered. As a part of the wrap-up, I always ask the talent if they have questions for me, and if they feel as if we addressed everything that we planned to address in the meeting.
Remember the Golden Rule. I have never believed an air-talent awoke each day with the goal to make my life as a PD miserable. If you manage talent the way you would like to be managed, you should have the foundation for creating a good relationship with the radio star.