Seeing yourself as a coach for your ad staff

“How am I doing?”

Remember those moments earlier in your life when you may have asked that question or a similar one of a teacher, friend, or confidant? In many instances, those questions were being asked to open a dialogue, and gather some outside information to confirm that your assessment of your current situation was accurate.

In these tough economic times, are you being asked these same questions today by your staff? Do you model and encourage your staff to ASK (Always Seeking Knowledge)? How are they doing, coach?

Coaching conversations with your staff help develop teamwork. Fostering an “asking” rather than “telling” environment will give support and encouragement to your team.

Coaching is not talking to your staff.  It’s a two-way dialogue looking at performance, identifying performance obstacles or problems, and developing solutions and action steps.

Coaching helps to clarify goals and priorities.  It minimizes misunderstandings and builds teamwork through involvement in planning, problem solving, and increased responsibilities. And it develops creativity and innovation while enhancing productivity.

Everyone – veterans and rookies alike –benefits from coaching as you open a dialogue that involves three action components: listening, asking and feedback.

Preliminaries are typically icebreaker in nature and help to put individuals at ease. They also open the conversation to a give-and-take by identifying the reason or goal for the meeting.

Probing asking works to narrow the focus, review the situation, identify the problem and its potential impacts. It elicits input and ideas and encourages staff to develop, innovate and review various solutions.

Feedback helps clarify new learning, develop and gain consensus on needed action steps and reinforce support of the plan.

Coaching calls for personal contact.  The newspaper business is time demanding, and our personal contact with the staff can suffer – but it’s vital to good management.

Personal contact conveys a sense of importance and a sense of identity (“Congratulations on your sale to……..”) It gives us the chance for positive reinforcement and individual motivation.

Coaching affords you the opportunity to listen, and foster an atmosphere of open communication. Your people are not the only ones to benefit from coaching — you also get the benefit of free information that helps build your team.

Coaching gives your people a regular barometer on their progress, and in some cases, may break their job into various components for reflection, review, revision, and growth. Most importantly, it gives emotional support and reinforces the importance of the individual to both you your team.

As the coach, you are the leader. Your staff watches how you work with each team member and the team as a whole. When you see yourself as a coach, you are teaching your add staff to coach their clients – to get to know them, to understand their problems, and to design ad campaign that meet their needs and build their businesses.  Consultative selling is built on a coaching philosophy – and we can hardly ask our staff to adopt that methodology if we aren’t using it with them.

By Chuck Nau

Chuck Nau, of Murray & Nau, Inc., is a publishing consultant with more than 25 years of experience, having served the Seattle Times, Knight-Ridder Newspapers and the Chicago Tribune in a number of management, marketing, media and sales capacities.

Nau’s work as a publishing consultant includes clients who are newspapers, publishing associations and niche publications. His practice enables him to put his wide range of publishing experience to work for publishers, sales management teams and senior managers on both a day to day and special project basis. He has assisted clients as a management consultant, sales trainer, facilitator and coach/mentor in advertising, circulation and marketing areas.

In addition to his consulting practice, Nau has spoken to and conducted workshops for a number of national publishing groups, state press associations, and newspaper organizations throughout North America. He has written a series of columns covering topics in advertising, management, marketing, and sales which have appeared in various newspaper industry and press association publications.