Shut-Up And Let Me Teach You
July 1, 2014
One afternoon last week, I called an OM who seemed uncharacteristically down and when I asked if everything was okay at the station, he said, "Sorry if I don't sound my usual chipper self, but I can't seem to get through to one of my jocks. Sam, have you been in situation where one or two jocks seem to have a hard time following simple directions? Motivating this one guy is hard and all he ever wants to do is complain about everything."
Our conversation was ironic because the previous day, I had a jock in another top-25 marketplace moan and groan over the fact that she did not think her PD taught or motivated the staff. Teaching and motivating are tied together.
You Can't Teach If They Don't Want To Learn
Motivation takes a lot of forms, but a person has to want to learn before any meaningful adjustments can be made to his or her Radio IQ. In my air personality days, I remember a staff meeting which was more of a "Let's get the PD fired" witch hunt. The morning guy and I listened as the GM allowed each jock to air grievances in front of the PD. In defense of my PD, I added my two cents on a couple of things and you would have thought I was speaking a foreign language. The majority of the people in the room were never open to listening, learning, or being motivated to change.
Most of us are familiar with positive feedback as opposed to only drilling someone with how things could be better. The latter is a negative approach and can be counterproductive even those with thick skin.
Say It Right Away
Try informal and frequent feedback to increase the possibility of having a productive discussion with your staff. I always found this to work much better than letting a long list of things add up. If you wait for a formal face-to-face meeting, the staffer becomes tense and less apt to remember even a laundry list of positive things you have to say. It is next to impossible to teach or motivate if the person is tense and nervous.
Mental Anguish Not Recommended
I had the pleasure of working for Publisher John H. Johnson in Chicago at WJPC. Although I was never invited to it, apparently he had a room up on his floor of the Johnson building that was used to get to the heart of the matter with employees. I had been told he would make you wait in the room until he was ready to proceed. Psychologically, this might have worked for Mr. Johnson, but I do not recommend using this unless your intentions are to cause your employee mental anguish and possible loss of bodily functions.
This is healthy and focuses on what your staffer needs to do to improve his or her performance. It also helps to limit the number of things you want your employee to work on. If it is new rules, expect an instant fix, but if it is an approach or requires a shift in the creative thought process, allow time for your suggestion to take hold. When you are dealing with air personalities it is a matter of them feeling comfortable and practicing until something becomes a part of their on-air persona.
Giving people information to judge their own performance is much better than telling them what to do. Informative feedback can lead to self-discovery on the part of the jock or staffer and lead to a healthier bond of trust with the person. This is the best way I know of teaching and motivating; it's one or two things at a time.
What You Don't Want
It's a lot of responsibility to be someone's everything and creates a bunch of followers who constantly are merely looking for approval and not necessarily towards improving anything. Controlling feedback usually does not lend itself to teaching; it just creates a lot of codependency. One of my favorite things is still to have a former employees call and tell me they did not realize all the things they were learning when they worked for me.
Teach, Don't Instruct
There is a big difference in telling someone what to do and giving someone the tools to grow. Give your employees a roadmap to guide them. This approach will motivate them to come to you for more things to work on. One of the residual effects of working with employees this way is how much you will learn, too.
The whole object of commercial radio is to win based on whatever end result is determined as success. A star athlete performs to win within the framework of whatever the coach has set forth. The only way to get your folks into a winning attitude is to teach; some might not have the right make up for motivation, but those who do will help your station or stations to sound and operate at a much higher level. The negative folk will be out-numbered and will eventually eliminate themselves from your company.