How TMA is Developing an Agency of Leaders

September 21, 2022

By Sarah Behringer                                                                                        [Header image credit: Canva]



What does it take to be a leader?

Here’s a hypothetical scenario: It’s your first day as a team manager. There’s a meeting in the morning. Suddenly, with no past supervisory experience, you find yourself the center of attention – with the full expectation that you will guide the team, not only through this meeting but to overall success moving forward.

That is intimidating. But how does one go from team member to team leader?

Training and development have always been at the core of TMA’s commitment to our people. But with our many educational offerings, we realized there was a gap as well as an opportunity to better equip our emerging leaders. Enter, Unstuck Minds.

In early 2020, TMA reached out to the pros at Unstuck Minds to develop a custom training program for our newly promoted managers and supervisors agency-wide. We discovered that new leaders, while knowledgeable in their field, were consistently struggling to “take charge” and truly “lead” their teams. The Unstuck Minds training would provide these managers the tools to be confident, kind, and open-minded, so they could access the best path to using both human connection and different thought processes to reach their maximum leadership potential.

Of course – not long after that, the pandemic hit and everything changed. So it was back to the drawing board with a new problem: How could TMA work with Unstuck Minds to guide leaders to success during such a tumultuous time?

This new question could have been seen as a hurdle, but we pivoted, and instead saw a new opportunity. As a result, an all-virtual “Player-Coach” program came to fruition. The updated direction of the training allowed us to expand and include more supervisors across the agency as well as create a more diverse and unique experience for all involved.


What is Player-Coach?

The idea for “Player-Coach” came from equating work teams to sports teams: a manager and their employees – to a coach and their players. Participants are taught to understand that not only are they the “coach,” they will also always be a “player” on their team. There will always be ways to improve and grow with every new challenge, allowing them to get the work done – as a player – while simultaneously coaching their team.

With many employees working remotely, workability [work + flexibility] is a key aspect of the program. Each session (or “practice field”) is broken down into four quarters and participants can choose one of six sessions which occur at different times each quarter. They’re given assignments and videos to study, discuss, and implement in the weeks before and after the official session. This includes a self-assessment participants fill out with their direct-line manager both before and after the session to help track changes or improvements on each specific topic. Sessions cover a variety of topics such as delegating, coaching, listening, managing a meeting, and beyond. Program participants are also given an “accountability partner,” to stay on track. The pairs work together to attend the same quarterly sessions, keep up with each other’s progress, and relate about obstacles they come across while directing their teams. With all of this, we’ve tried to equip our managers with the resources needed to grow into their full potential as dedicated and compassionate leaders.


So, is it working?

This year, the official “Player-Coach” program was launched and offered to members of management throughout TMA. Here’s what a few participants had to say about the program so far:

  • “I just completed Module 2 and am really enjoying the Player-Coach program. The sessions do a great job thoroughly explaining the concepts, and then giving us the opportunity to apply the learnings in a real-world context. I’ve already been able to implement a few tangible practices when it comes to delegating tasks in order to get results through other people, and I would recommend the class to other TMAer’s looking for a framework on how to handle your responsibilities as both a “player” and a “coach.”  – Heath Heidtke, Supervisor, Production


  • “I’ve really enjoyed the Player-Coach sessions! They started right in tandem with my first direct report andfirst mentor experience with TMA, so the content has been super relevant and helpful. I’ve gotten to run through scenarios with a different lens, and with different perspectives throughout the agency and departments. My accountability partner sessions have been really transparent and relieving. I feel much more confident in my ability to navigate the tricky parts of managing and coaching!”  – Melissa Matos, Associate Director, Creative


  • “I’ve had a great experience during the first two quarters of the Unstuck Minds, Player-Coach training. I love that the training is broken up into four separate quarters and new people are in your sessions every time. It’s comforting to know that other TMA’ers have the same challenges and that we can all learn from one another. If asked if other managers should take this course, I would say absolutely.”  – Jesse Nolan, Director, Recruiting


We look forward to continuing this training and developing more Player-Coaches throughout the agency. If you’re a TMAer feeling a little overwhelmed as a manager, reach out to your supervisor to see what Unstuck Minds can do to help you thrive. Who knows? Taking a chance just might give you those hidden leadership guts.



Sarah Behringer is a recruiting coordinator on the people team, based in our Dallas hub office.

Unstuck Minds: Recognizing a need to help companies uplift their leaders, Jay Cone and Lisa Weaver created Unstuck Minds with the goal to generate personalized training programs for each company and their specific needs. They help people think better and connect better so the world becomes more creative and compassionate.