‘Uncoachable’ is one of the worst possible labels you can get as an on-air personality. Once someone gets that stain on them, despite former ratings success or how amazing their aircheck sounds, it’s very hard to shake. That’s because during the hiring process when we’re calling to check references, and asking around to mutual radio acquaintances, we’re inevitably going to ask whether or not that potential on-air hire takes direction well. If the consensus is ‘no they do not’ then that person drops off the list immediately. But, is the ‘uncoachable’ label fair?
In my experience, no on-air talent is totally uncoachable. Some, however, are considerably harder than others to coach because of their personality type, past bad management experiences or trauma, or simply because they’ve been doing this so long they think, consciously or subconsciously, that they know everything there is to know about creating great radio.
Let’s address those individually. First, getting through to a varying range of personality types requires either a basic understanding of psychology or at the very least a willingness to try multiple different approaches to determine what will motivate each particular personality type to make necessary changes. That’s why one-size fits all management styles aren’t ever effective. Secondly, reversing the damage of past trauma from terrible managers and on-air coaches requires exercising an enormous amount of patience until they finally realize that we’re on their side and making suggestions with our shared interests of success in mind. Finally, coaching veteran air talent who haven’t been coached in a long time, or ever, is in my opinion, the harder of the three and why many Ops Managers and Program Directors choose not to aircheck experienced air talent at all. Which is a huge mistake, all on-air talent need to be coached and regularly airchecked regardless of their years in the game. If we’re not constantly fine-tuning this incredibly challenging, yet rewarding craft then we’re slowly getting worse at it each day. That's because our value is based on how we stack up against competition that is unlikely to be so stagnant in their progression. So, what’s the key to getting through to veteran talent? In my experience it’s a balance of consistently praising the things they do very well, gently guiding them on the things they need a little work on and being respectful, but blunt about areas where they need vast improvement. It’s also important that we pick our battles and focus on the most important aspects rather than getting nit-picky, especially in the beginning.
Sometimes we get the tri-fecta and are assigned the job of coaching someone who has all three things working against them. In that case an all-of-the-above approach will likely be necessary. Overall though, like everything, we’re constantly evaluating if the time and energy required to improve an employee’s performance is worth the reward of where they will ultimately get to. If it’s determined that the talent’s ceiling is relatively low and a massive amount of work will be required to reach that ceiling, most savvy managers will choose to move on.
What do you think? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.
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