by Tracy Johnson
Here’s some unexpected advice for programmers and managers: You should treat talent like dogs.
Thats sounds strange coming from a radio talent coach, but hold on. Dogs are our best friends. They’re friendly, loyal and always there for you. We love our dogs, and we should love our radio talent. It’s not bad to treat talent like dogs.
However, if you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know how frustrating it can be. You also learn that it’s fun and when they “get it,” you have a loyal friend for life!
It’s the same when coaching air personalities. These adorable and talented creatures will drive you crazy, wear you out, and test your patience. Success depends on how you understand them, learn to inspire and motivate them and reward them!
But most of all, you have to enjoy the process!
Air personalities want to make you happy. They really do. It’s up to you to teach them what makes you happy, then reinforce it with praise. Psychological studies prove that it takes nine positive reinforcements to offset a single criticism. When they do something positive, tell them, and reward them.
Trainers carry a pocket full of dog treats to get a puppy to do what they want. Be generous with perks, benefits and treat them like a STAR when they behave properly!
It doesn’t happen at the pace we want, or think it should. And it doesn’t match how other talent grows.
The best approach is to focus on teaching (or correcting) one thing at a time, then move on to the next thing. It’s your responsibility as their coach to constantly teach, helping them grow.
Puppies (and talent) love to learn. It inspires them, motivates them and challenges them. When they aren’t, they get bored. When they get bored, they stop paying attention. Then, bad things follow!
Puppies learn through repetition. Repetition takes time. Time takes patience. Talent requires the same commitment and discipline. They don’t just “get it” in a meeting and start performing differently tomorrow.
Puppies don’t understand complex commands or detailed instructions. They respond to simple words like “Sit” or “Down.” You’ll have better, faster results with talent by using simple words and concepts that are easy to apply to their show.
Don’t get bogged down in details or philosophies. Explain why it’s important, and how it will work for them!
And when there are, you have to clean up after them. Ignoring it will cause it to happen again and again. Puppies and talent require constant attention and monitoring.
If you don’t address it, bad behavior will continue, and it will be your fault, not theirs. Make sure they know that the behavior is unacceptable, deal with it quickly, then move on.
Indulge a puppy and you spoil them, which leads to begging and an unhealthy sense of entitlement. A dog “serves at your pleasure.”
Treat them kindly and fairly, but with clearly established expectations and boundaries. You don’t want a morning show host jumping into a guest’s lap at the dinner table!
Some dogs are smarter than others. They’re capable of performing more tricks. They should have higher expectations. It’s the same with talent.
Learn their capabilities and realize that all personalities have limits.
It could be that your talent is just not right “breed” for your needs. Don’t try to turn them into something they’re not.
But it’s more difficult. The radio industry is full of personalities living in the past. They’re executing ideas that worked in the 80s but are outdated, ineffective and just worn out.
They can be retrained, but it is much more time consuming and challenging than working with a puppy.
Trainers keep dogs on a leash until they’re trained to respond to voice command. It’s for the puppy’s safety! In radio, it’s much easier to loosen the leash gradually. If you let them run free, don’t be upset if they run away and don’t come back.
As talent grows, grant more freedom, control and independence.
Have you seen a dog with their head out the window of a car? They love it. Same with air talent, and someday they may give you a ride in their new sports car they buy with their ratings bonus!
When a dog is properly trained, they are loyal for life. It’s the same with air personalities. Treat talent like dogs. As a talent coach and consultant, much of my responsibility is training the trainers to get the most out of their personalities.
If you’d like to discuss how this can benefit your station, show or company, please contact me.
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