Put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play

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I am writing at a Hampton Inn hotel desk in St. Petersburg, Fla. It’s warm here. I ate lunch today at an outdoor deli. Sorry. Don’t hate me.

This is a working trip. (Please stifle those “yeah, rights.”) I’m at a conference on coaching writers.

Sitting around the Poynter Institute table are participants from daily newspapers that stretch from Albany, N.Y., to Orlando, Fla. Two of Ohio’s largest metro dailies are represented.

I’m discovering take-home messages that could benefit just about any supervisor, employer or farm owner. Writing is just the end product.

Got any duct tape? Participants’ biggest beef is that, as editors, they receive nine stories from reporters a half hour before the paper needs to go to print. Every one of the articles “needs fixing” that will take at least 30 minutes.

Do the math: 30 x 9 = 270 minutes or 4 1/2 hours an editor doesn’t have at the end of the day.

(And you wonder why all those errors get in the local paper or why the story is so poorly written.)

The goal of the conference? Editors could prevent a lot of their headaches and save valuable time on deadline by having simple, two-minute conversations with their reporters during the day.

Two minutes early and two minutes midway through the day save hours after deadline.

Talk to me. Coaching is nothing radical, just a common sense way of staying engaged with workers, empowering them through communication and asking the right questions to make sure they see what needs to be done.

The concept could work in any farm or nonfarm workplace, too.

“So, what are you working on today?”

If the employee’s response is a little fuzzy, chances are his focus and work is unclear, too.

If the employee’s response is clear, chances are he’ll be able to stay on task.

The exchange also lets the manager/farmer ask, “Do you have everything you need? Is there anything I should know?” You ask good questions, then shut up and listen.

It can as easy as asking an employee, “How’s it going with the calf feeding?” or “Need any help?”

Not rocket science. It’s basically a common sense, communication issue, which probably explains why this type of supervision is valuable. Too many bosses’ idea of communication is a nod of the head first thing in the morning. Period.

One survey looked at businesses that incorporated coaching as a management style and discovered measurable improvements in productivity, quality of work, organization, cost reductions, employee retention and bottom line profitability.

A series of two-minute conversations during a day saves money, reduces aggravation and minimizes mistakes.

Sounds like a plan to me.

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