Five Ways to Avoid Over-Coaching

“WHAT!?” said the SVP at a large broadcasting conglomerate. We were explaining that the on-air talent that she hired us to coach wanted to take a break from coaching.

This heritage morning team had been in ratings decline. After collaborating with them for a couple months, the show was improving well when they said, “Back off, let us focus on executing the coaching so far and pick it up again after ratings.”

No one ever made that request before, but with the SVP’s agreement we said OK. Coaching resumed later, ratings returned and the show has dominated in the five years since.

Coaching is not one size fits all. As a news director, program director or operations manager, consider how to give just the right amount of feedback for each performer, show and situation.

  1. Ask questions. The best managers work in service of their team and the first step in good service is understanding the player. Use questions — like what are your goals, what are you going for in this piece, do you like feedback spicy or mild — to guide you on guiding them.
  2. Change it up. Sameness becomes monotonous. Coach on execution in one meeting, in the next review clips of the show, cover interview techniques in the next and so on. Get out of the office and change location. Meet over lunch, in the courtyard or at someone’s home.
  3. Let them choose the method. Some hosts tell us they get a lot out of reviewing clips of their on-air work, yet we have a couple of sensitive multi-million dollar presenters who will leave the room if anyone plays a clip of them. Customize to the individual.
  4. End with action points. A wide-ranging conversation about content, execution and character works best if you wrap up with 1-3 action points, no more. Start by ask them which improvements are important enough to begin working on immediately and guide them if they are off-target. Be specific on who does what and give deadlines.
  5. No critiques during the show. Guiding with advice on an upcoming segment can be helpful, but avoid in-studio corrections on something that has already aired. Have that discussion in a thoughtful way after the show