Airchecks Exposed! Talent Share The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Truths Of Airchecking! - Part 2
February 17, 2015
A colleague reached out to me frustrated and exhausted. This PD was finding the interactions with their new team incredibly challenging. In particular, when working with the morning show, the talent sat there unengaged, unresponsive and generally dismissive of ideas. As I listened to this PD explain the challenges, I realized that for many managers we just don't know what we should and shouldn't be doing in an aircheck session. We're never really trained on how to do it. We're just left to figure it out as we go!
The aim of Airchecks Exposed is to offer some insight into effective airchecks; to shine a light on what talent really want from their coaches and how we can build an action plan to make the time spent with talent more meaningful.
Last week we started our journey exploring the good, the bad and the ugly of airchecking. We spoke to talent across multiple countries -- the US, Canada, UK and Middle East -- to understand from their perspective 'the dreaded aircheck.'
This week we started by asking our panel… What makes for a great aircheck?
"A good aircheck is like a great break: tight and focused with plenty of humor."
"The atmosphere is important. A relaxed atmosphere where your coach is working WITH you, not seeking to kick you, to gain some twisted superiority."
No one wants to sit through an unprepared, long meeting that exists mainly so everyone can just say "we did an aircheck." For airchecks to be effective consider the following:
- Be only as long as needed (but be prepared for them to be as long as the talent wants).
- Know what you want to communicate ahead of time. Airchecking takes preparation.
- Facilitate lots of dialogue (remember it's the coach's job to ask questions and listen).
- There should be no hierarchy.
- Plan to mix up the approach and venue to stop sessions getting in a rut.
The number one aim is to make airchecks a place where supportive relationships grow and flourish. A place where everyone is focused on improving team and personal performance.
"Anyone can listen, but what are we listening FOR? What have we decided are our aims from this?"
Before you start you must know what you are trying to achieve. Talent should be heavily involved in the process of setting the coaching goals. Ask questions like "Where do you want to go?" "What skills and abilities do you think you need to work on?" People will work passionately on tasks they choose for themselves.
When working with new teams or individuals, we always try and establish a team charter before commencing the coaching relationship. It becomes a living document, contributed to by all the team members, specifying the mission of the team and the expectations they hold of one another. It's a powerful process that creates transparency right from the very start.
"When a PD helps you work on something important. I hate the meetings where I just get told all the things I'm bad at and what went wrong"
The mind is easily confused. Our short term memory is wired to only handle around 7 bits of new information. Downloading a list of things that the talent needs to improve may make you feel good - after all you've spotted all the issues - but it's completely ineffective. These 'dumps' are nothing but demotivating, and work to undermine your relationship with the coachee. You need to focus your feedback. Focus means just that, to narrow your vision so you can only see one thing to the exclusion of other things (for now!)
But, what should you focus on? Isolate the one that if the talent improves is going to have the biggest impact. Ask "What is the one thing that will get us closer to our overall goal?" Focus intently on just this area until progress is made. Success comes from practice. Allow the talent time to practice so they can build and develop their knowledge. It takes time. Remember to celebrate progress along the way!
"Ends with your coach giving you a new thing to work on, or maybe we continue to work on the current aim, but we all know where we are going and what we'll be listening out for next time."
"You walk away learning something...whether it is why something went very well or very wrong...and understanding both!"
"PD's explaining why they thought something was good or bad. If they think something could be improved, give a good, well-reasoned example"
Your mission going into an aircheck should be to answer this question; "How am I going to help them learn something of value today?" Coaching is about self-reflection and discovery, not about being told what to do. Talent can easily and quickly begin to resent their coach for being too directive, after all there aren't many PD's who can perform better on the air than the talent. Where the coach can demonstrate their strength is in helping the talent make discoveries of their own that aid improving their performance.
Most people find that they learn best from experience. However, if they don't reflect on their experience, and if they don't consciously think about how they could do better next time, it's hard for them to learn at all. Reflective practice is a recommended technique to use in your airchecks. It follows these steps:
- Description -- what happened?
- Feelings -- what did you think/feel about it?
- Evaluation -- what were the positives and negatives?
- Conclusion -- what else could you have done?
- Action -- what will you do differently next time?
This approach should be a cycle. After trying the agreed actions, you take this approach in reviewing the actions you took and so on.
Aim to end your aircheck session having all agreed on one or two achievable goals (actions to take). Make sure everyone understands these goals because if the expectation is not clear, the delivery will not be on target.
Next time… What mistakes have PD's made in airchecks and how can you avoid them?