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Home | COACHING TIPS ON COACHING

 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

 

 
COACHING TIPS ON COACHING
 

Everyone that has participated in one of our training programs or workshops appreciates our focus on, and the benefits of, coaching. This article will provide a review of coaching and offer additional tips on taking your coaching to the next level.

 
What is Coaching?
 

Coach, n., (koch) – a vehicle for transporting people to a place
that they could not easily reach by themselves

 

Our job as coaches is to direct our team in making our marketing more productive. It’s about making marketing matter more. Coaching is a “best practice” for adding-value to the work of others, regardless of whether those others are direct reports, agency personnel, colleagues, internal support personnel, etc., so that it is more productive. It is not “evaluating,” which focuses on what’s wrong, what you don’t like, and laying blame on others, but, instead, what direction is needed in order to make the work more productive. It is ultimately about getting results that make a difference in the health of the brand, achieve specific behaviors, and drive sales.

 

There are two major actions involved in coaching: assessment and direction. It is critically important that the coach can separate sub-par or mediocre performance from good or great performance. In other words, the coach needs to be able to judge performance. This takes knowledge gleaned from proven principles, best practices, experience and reflection. It is not easy to achieve this knowledge since so many managers hustle through their careers without taking time for personal development. Nor, do they learn from conscious experience by setting expectations for their initiatives and then analyzing the results versus expectations. So, while a manager may have an opinion about something, s/he doesn’t really know what works and what doesn’t, and, importantly, why. This is all about substance. If the manager doesn’t have substance, it doesn’t matter how pretty s/he talks, there’s little likelihood that there will be added-value direction.

 

This brings us to the second action, direction. Too often managers will attempt to provide direction before they know what they think about the work. This is a failure at the level of the first action, not having a disciple from which to assess the work or taking the time to draw a thoughtful conclusion that is built on substance. Where there is discipline and, therefore, substance, it is then communicated through the coach’s direction. Just as it is important to know how to assess the work, it is also important to know how to give direction so that it is understood, appreciated and, in turn, motivates the actions you seek regardless of whether it is making a Creative Brief single-minded, a Brand Positioning Strategy Statement more competitive, or a Campaign Idea more compelling.

 
Providing Direction

There are four parts to providing direction: identify; clarify; specify; and notify. As shown in the following table they correspond with specific core elements of organizing and delivering your comments, and their respective roles:

 
Parts
Core Elements
Role
Identify
Overview
Provide Conclusion
Clarify
Illuminate
Explain what you mean
Specify
Specific Direction
Direction for what
needs to be done
Notify
Next Steps
Specific Action Steps
 
  • Identify – This is about your overview. The overview gets at where you stand with regard to the work. It is your conclusion based upon your assessment of where you are and where you need to go with the work. Are you ready to approve, or run with it? Do you feel that while progress has been made there is still additional work to be done? How much work? Does the team need to go back to the drawing board and start anew?
 

This is not a nicety. It’s not about saying something nice to break the ice like “Thank you agency for coming out to our offices today” or “I can see you put a lot of hard work into this and I really appreciate it.” Or, “I really think this is great” (when you don’t mean it, and it will become obvious when you then proceed with “but” or “however” or a million directed corrections).

 

In order to provide a meaningful overview the manager must know what s/he thinks about the work. One must reach a conclusion and share it with honesty, integrity and humility. It is not talking down to another but revealing your thinking about the status of the work, pure and simple. But even something so pure and simple can become perverted and difficult when an open relationship does not exist, agendas get in the way, or we don’t know what we are talking about.

 

Additionally, the coach needs to address the fundamental (perhaps, unstated) purpose of the assessment in the overview. If someone is sharing a Creative Brief the fundamental question is do we have your approval to proceed to creative direction or in the case of creative work do we have any ideas that you believe are worthy of further exploration. It is important that the coach share what s/he thinks about the work in the context of the fundamental purpose of the review. For example, an overview regarding a Creative Brief might go something like this, “While I feel we are continuing to make persistent progress I need to see more work in one critical area before I’m ready to authorize creative development to begin.”  This overview identifies where the coach stands regarding the work, within the context of the purpose of the meeting.

  • Clarify – This is to provide illumination by explaining what you mean by your overview. It’s going deeper to illuminate the major areas of work. It bridges the overview and the specific direction you will provide. It is direction at the macro level. For example, if you were responding to a Creative Brief the clarification might be that “We need to be single-minded. Specifically, we need cohesion in linking the various elements in the Creative Brief, in particular the Strategic Triangle (Target-Customer Needs, Customer Insight and Key Thought), in order for the Creative Brief to be single-minded.” This area, clarify, is typically overlooked in providing direction. Where an overview is shared (and we are not talking about a meaningless nicety) circumventing this step and moving directly to specific direction is like plunging into a cold shower. It’s not bracing. It’s shocking to those on the receiving end!
 

We can use this part not just to identify what areas of work are needed but also to point-out that which we do favor and explain the reasons why.

  • Specify – We are going deeper still with our direction. However, instead of indicating what is wrong (that’s evaluating) we will be sharing what we need to see/have in order to make the work more productive (coaching). It will help take the work, and those undertaking it, to a place they could not have easily reached on their own. It is seeing the glass “half-full” as opposed to “half-empty” and providing the direction that will fill the glass. Continuing with the previous Creative Brief example to make it single-minded, to “specify” would go something like this, “What I see in the Need is ‘fast relief’ yet the Customer Insight leads to a Point-Of-Difference Key Thought of ‘more tolerable to improve compliance and outcomes’ and the Key Thought is about ‘complete’ relief. I believe the Customer Insight which we validated as legitimate through marketing research and is productive based upon our clinical studies is the way to go and should be reflected in all three parts of the Strategic Triangle.”
  • NotifyThe final element is to provide direction regarding “next steps.” This is not a rehash of what you have already told someone(s) but what actions you expect to be taken. For example, the next steps might be to provide those that you are managing to follow the direction you’ve provided and to meet in two-days to review the work again. It might be to pursue an idea bucket, which the agency had not considered, with the development of additional ideas and to share those within the next 2-weeks. Or it might be to proceed to the Campaign Idea stage of development. You, the coach, need to know what you need done by, and where you want to go with, your team. This is a process step so it is essential to have and follow a quality process in the development of all marketing activities. For example, “As a next step, I’d like you to reconcile the Strategic Triangle to the Point-of-Difference Key Thought revealed in the Customer Insight, make a final check for cohesion, and let’s get back together tomorrow afternoon to review these changes so that we might proceed to getting this Creative Brief approved and move on to creative development.”

 
Pulling It Together
 
 
Parts
Core Element
 
Coaching Example
Identify
Overview

“While I feel we are continuing to make persistent progress I need to see more work in one critical area before I’m ready to proceed to creative development.”  

Clarify
Illuminate

“I very much like that we are now addressing all elements of the Essential Creative Brief. The Communication Behavior Objective is articulated in a way that is SMART, and our Target-Customer definition is complete. As per additional work, we need to be single-minded. Specifically, we need cohesion in linking the various elements in the Creative Brief, in particular the Strategic Triangle (Target-Customer Needs, Customer Insight and Key Thought), in order for the Creative Brief to be single-minded.”

Specify
Specific Direction

“What I see in the Need is ‘fast relief’ yet the Customer Insight leads to a Point-Of-Difference Key Thought of ‘more tolerable to improve compliance and outcomes’ and the Key Thought is about ‘complete’ relief. I believe the Customer Insight which we validated as legitimate through marketing research and is productive based upon our clinical studies is the way to go and should be reflected in all three parts of the Strategic Triangle.”

Notify
Next Steps

“As a next step, I’d like you to reconcile the Strategic Triangle to the Point-of-Difference Key Thought revealed in the Customer Insight, make a final check for cohesion, and let’s get back together tomorrow afternoon to review these changes so that we might proceed to getting this Creative Brief approved and move on to creative development.”

 
Additional Coaching Tips

Here are additional coaching tips on coaching:

  • Start with the basics – Begin your review session with the objectives for the session. This will establish the context for the overview and keep everyone focused on the purpose of the meeting.
  • Be humble – Don’t assume you know everything, and you have the only correct answer. Remember that many of the people that you may be managing have more expertise in the area you are directing.
  • See the glass half-full versus half-empty – Coaching is not about finding what’s wrong but identifying what is working well and what can be made to work even better. If we look for faults that’s all we will find and in the process miss the opportunity for discovering BIG Ideas.
  • Dialogue, don’t dictate – Create a dialogue so that you might understand another’s point of view. Don’t just try to make your point. Listen. However, keep in mind that technical issues (such as being single-minded and having legitimate reasons-why) are non-negotiable. As per strategic issues, check them out with marketing research.
  • Start with the big stuff – First tackle those big one, two and no more than three areas that will have the most significant impact on making the work more productive. If we try to do it all in one review we are likely to overwhelm those whom we are coaching and thwart real progress. Treat your coaching as part of an iterative process toward achieving success.
  • Be clear in your direction – Avoid “fat” words that lack precision and, therefore, can be interpreted in many different ways.
  • Be directive but not prescriptive – Don’t prescribe that the agency make the Key Copy Words say … but instead direct them to capture the strategic benefit in provocative customer language. Give them the opportunity to apply their creativity in achieving the goal inherent in your direction. They’ll find a better way.
  • Add-Value – It’s not about how you’d do it. It is really about what makes the work more productive. We need to undergo personal professional development in order to learn proven principles, best practices and quality processes. We need to have the requisite discipline to be able to add-value. Also, one of the most important areas is for us to know our Target-Customer so we may better determine what will work, and what will not, and why.
  • Be generous – Please take the time to recognize the work that you believe is productive. People like to be understood and appreciated. When we provide genuine acknowledgement for good work, those that did the work will feel appreciated and likely to be more responsive to your coaching.
  • Talk peer-to-peer – Please don’t talk down to others. Being a coach is not shouting, telling others what is wrong or talking down to them as if they were ignorant school children. Be respectful! Treat them as valued team members who are helping YOU get to a place you could not easily reach yourself.
 
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:

Coaching will transform your team members, the work and you in being more productive. Here are some suggested actions:

1.     Adopt and apply coaching – Take every opportunity to coach, coach, coach, Coach your spouse, your friends, your boss, yourself! Practice, practice, practice. Don’t get sloppy with those that are closest to you. Instead, develop and ingrain a positive habit. As mentioned above, it will transform you to the kind of manager whom others respect, and who makes great things happen. It will help you to become a thought leader.

2.     Participate in one of our training programs – All of our programs employ coaching. We coach the participants, and they coach each other. They can even coach us. Moreover, our programs reveal proven principles, best practices and quality processes in an interactive environment so that everyone has an opportunity to learn experientially. We don’t tell people “what” to think but, instead, stress “how” to think so that they might leverage their experiences. We will be conducting an Open Power Positioning program this fall. Look for details in the days to come.

 

Good luck in taking yourself, and your team, to the next level of performance.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads, and Grand Dads (of which we are included)!

 
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney

 


Richard Czerniawski


430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847


reply to Richard:

rdczerniawski@cs.com or

richardcz@bdn-intl.com

 

 

Mike Maloney


1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972


reply to Mike:

mikewmaloney@gmail.com or

mwm@bdn-intl.com

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