Monday, May 14, 2007

The ART of Coaching

Finally we are into Summer and for my son it means BASEBALL. Last year I helped out as an assistant coach and quickly found out how hard it is to get 11 ten year olds to listen and focus on learning to first back up for a fly ball. This year I'm watching some experienced Little League coaches work their magic and watching them work reminded me of the challenges we all face in programming in coaching the talent on our teams.

In baseball (and in most team sports) winning comes not because of 1 person or a great manager. It comes because the whole team comes together with a spirit and a focus that makes winning almost a forgone conclusion instead of a surprise. But, how do you as the manager create this magical moment? Here are some thoughts that I try to keep in front when helping PDs become better talent coaches:

LISTEN - You can't coach your afternoon guy if you never get a chance to hear the show. You also can't coach unless you spend the time to have real interactive conversations with the talent. Just telling them to tighten it up and do better billboards isn't coaching. You have to ask some questions about them and listen carefully to what they say. Learn their fears, frustrations, turn ons, and habits.

THE 3 Cs - The key steps to building talent always follows the 3 Cs:

  1. Comfortable - You can't be entertaining, compelling or funny if you are uncomfortable. We've all seen the stand up comic that's scared to death on stage. Even though the material may be very funny it's tough to laugh when the talent is obviously scared or distracted.
  2. Consistent - It takes a long time to really build an audience. Most of it is done one listener at a time and you have to be consistent in the personality you project for everyone to 'get it.' That also means being prepared. Just like a great batter who steps into the box with his feet in the same spot, his hands at the same height, and his legs bent just right every time your talent has to be set for every break.
  3. Compelling - You have to have something interesting to say - if you don't it might be better to just shut up.

AUDIENCE: This is 'stolen' from Tommy Kramer who is a great talent coach. Ask most of your talent if they would like to be the SUN (provider of all heat, light, and great sun tans) or the Moon (a rock that orbits the earth and reflects the light of the sun). Most would say - THE SUN. They view their role as beaming all their personality, music and thoughts down to the residents of earth (your market) and getting paid a ton to do it. Really the better answer would be to be the Moon. Listening to and learning as much about your audience as you can and reflecting back to them is the real key to welcomed into their cars, homes and offices on a regular basis. Make friends not followers.

BE PREPARED: You can't 'just wing it.' The goal may be to be comfortable enough and consistent enough to be able to 'sound' like you are being spontaneous and just letting the words fall out, but to really achieve that you have to know where your are going before you crack the mic. Often times a lot of the best on-air talent are very creative people and getting organized and being prepared are areas that happen in the other side of the brain from creativity. Creative people have to work harder at being prepared and if they don't work at it in live radio it's easy to have a bad break or show.

Another thing I'm learning from the Little League coaches this year is you have to practice a lot if you want to see the kids become real good players. You can't just do a little infield before the game and see the team really improve. You have to work with your talent every week and in many cases (like the morning show) probably 3-4 sessions a week. Ideally a PD with 4 live dayparts and 2 weekend people should be spending 12 or more hours a week coaching the team. Yes a quarter of your work week if you are off air. It's a lot of work and often some of the hardest work most PDs do. It's not easy to sit with a morning show and inspire them - but great PDs do it.

In today's world we often don't have the time for real coaching. How often do you see the PD who has 2 -3 stations to cover and still does a mid-day shift. Often we wonder why a station isn't making big progress, we have the music right, the imaging is great, and there's enough marketing, but it's still not gaining. I bet if you start building the talent into real players you'll see the progress. But, it will take time and lots of effort.

No comments: