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Coaching is an important part of community media. However, engage carefully.

What is coaching? At its most basic, coaching is about teaching community media volunteers how to do what they do better, based on your knowledge and experience. If you are younger than many of your volunteers or a person of color, however, I have found there to be skepticism from the outset. Thus, coaching is then something different.

In an ideal coaching situation, I would include the following steps: set expectations, determine challenges, address outstanding issues, and set a timetable. If XYZ media organization’s expectation is volunteers arrive on time, but the challenge is traffic, perhaps volunteers must wake up earlier or the arrival time needs to be adjusted. Once terms are reached, expectation on correct arrival time must begin by a set date. Heads-up though, it is important for an organization to set a standard. Do not let coaching become a negotiation. If media managers, organizers and leaders have a reasonable expectation, stick to it and most volunteers will respect that.

Most teachers say coaching incorporates the four components below. In community media, these are somewhat true still:

  • Criticize constructively
  • Give options, not ultimatums
  • Turn failures into teaching lessons
  • Motivate by example

In community media, I have found a coach to be a person focused on accountability. Community media rarely has best practices or standards in the way other organizations do. Once you set forward best practices, it is key to hold people to them. In my community media experience, three key skills needed for me to effectively coach include:

  • Patience, because everyone has a story and circumstances.
  • Clearly setting expectations, because volunteers need to understand what you want out of them.
  • Clearly stating consequences, because volunteers must understand what happens if they do not comply.

Politics aside, I do not subscribe to anyone doing anything they want. Media is about the audience, and one has to respect that audience. Use coaching to educate volunteers about the audience and media consumption.

The biggest fear many media organizers have is resistance. You cannot force someone to do something, but you can secure a commitment. You create a winning climate with such commitments. A good coach supports and encourages individuals to find solutions to problems they encounter. Practice effective listening.

Finally, good coaching requires media organizers, leaders and managers understand the difference between inference and behavior. Behavior is an action, inference is what some action implies. Focus on actions and good coaching will happen.

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