People have coaches all throughout their childhoods: sports teams, Boy/Girl Scouts, and several other organizations and clubs. So, why not hire one for your professional life?
On this episode, Marc Bautis talks to President and Co-Founder of Sayge, Katie Stricker, about how coaching can help your business, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The key benefits of coaching.
- How to treat your career as an asset.
- What industry benefits the most from coaching.
- Book recommendations to transform your mindset.
- And more!
Tune in now to find out how professional coaching can help you and your organization!
This is part three of a multi-part series exploring careers and employment during the Coronavirus. In Part 1, we looked at the job market through a candidate’s perspective. In Part 2, we discussed the job market through a hiring professional’s perspective.
Books Mentioned: Getting to Yes: Negotiation Agreement Without Giving In | Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed | Radical Candour | The Growth Mindset: A Guide to Professional and Personal Growth (The Art of Growth) (Volume 1) | Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
On today’s episode, we have the third part of a series on jobs and careers. On Episode 47, I talked with Geoffrey Goldman, a career coach, on how someone can look for a job right now during the pandemic. On Episode 48, I talk with Jen Selverian on how employers can best execute a job search when trying to hire someone. On today’s show, we’re going to take it one step further and talk about how to treat your career as an asset, how to get the most out of it through coaching.
To talk about how to best do that, I brought on guest Katie Stricker. Katie is the co-founder and president of Sayge. Sayge is a professional development coaching firm. They have a model where they make coaching scalable to about 99% of employees who don’t typically receive coaching.
So, let’s start off a little bit of background on how you got into coaching and how you started Sayge.
I love telling this story mostly because it starts 12 years ago. I started working with my own coach over 12 years ago actually. Back then, people kind of looked at me like I had three heads when I talked about having a coach.
The reason I pursued working with a coach (by the way, I personally invested my own money; my company did not pay for it)is because first of all, I’m from the midwest. I grew up with this midwest work-hard mindset, which was great and it got me a lot of visibility because I was really hardworking. But, what continued to happen was that I was just put in these situations where I felt like I was just being dropped into the deep end of the pool without many lifeguards or life support around. It was good for my career because I was being put in front of really senior leaders and yet I just didn’t feel like I had any professional development support.
I was doing a lot of reading on my own and researching, but working with a coach I knew would really elevate my capabilities professionally. It did. Coaching paid itself back to me within the first year and then triple/quadruple that, etc. over time. It was a life changing experience both personally and professionally.
About 7 years working with my first coach, she actually left her practice to go work for a very very prominent figure, which made sense. But it also made me wonder what I was going to do.
At the time, I was consulting for a small consulting firm, working with pretty senior leaders at larger organizations and startups. I often found what seemed they needed most was actually more coaching versus consulting.
It was at that time I had started working with my new coach and I decided to pursue my own coaching certification. That was really to help compliment my consulting capabilities. I had no intention to start my own practice. Once I had my own training, I just fell more deeply in love with the practice and just knew how impactful it could be for other people.
So, while I was working full-time, I started my own coaching practice on the side, I started coaching former clients, bosses, colleagues, some friends of friends, etc. I built up my practice enough that I would eventually do that full-time.
Shortly after I really started coaching full-time (about 2 months), I got an invitation email from a former colleague of mine, Jamie Bryan, who is now my co-founder, to go to lunch. I hadn’t talked to him in many years, but he had heard I became a coach and he became interested in coaching, so we met for coffee.
So, that’s my own personal journey for coaching. For Sayge, really it was over that coffee Jamie had told me his story, which was very different. He actually loved his job, worked his way up the corporate ladder, got a very senior position, and suddenly found himself one day hating his job.
He didn’t know what to do. His fiance at the time (now wife) said: why don’t you work with a coach? He had no idea what coaching was. This was only 4 years ago.
He worked with a coach and he had a similar experience. It was completely life-changing for him. So, he asked himself two questions: how could I have gone through my entire career and never had heard about coaching? Two, why don’t more people work with a coach?
We sat down over coffee and he asked me these questions. He told me: I know you became a coach and we kind of talked about the idea of Sayge. Within a couple weeks, there we were. We sat in the room, drew out on a white board what we believe this company should do: democratize access to coaching because you either are out paying for it for yourself or the most senior people are the only people who are actually benefiting from it.
Actually, coaching is so much more beneficial the sooner in your career that you can tap into it. That’s why we started Sayge. Sayge is a one-to-one professional development coaching platform that coaches non-executives. Our mission is to support people throughout their entire working life, through every stage that they could possibly be in, and really provide coaching at scale for companies.
We’re a B-to-B business, we’re working with 30+ companies. Last year alone, we delivered over 6,000 coaching sessions, which we are really proud of. We have coached everywhere from the assistants to the chief operating officer, which is amazing to be able to support an individual contributor. We coach a lot of new managers. We coach people who might be 15 years in their career, but their companies have never given them access to coaching before.
It’s an interesting story. I know you mentioned 2 things. One, you mentioned that Jamie had never heard of a coach before. Then, when you started working with one, people were looking at you like you had 3 heads. I’ve had a similar experience. I’m a big proponent of coaching, and I’ve used coaches all of the time. But, it’s weird that people don’t know what a coach does, or why would someone fathom using a coach.
The War for Talent
It’s strange, because a lot of people grow up playing things like sports, where there are coaches involved, like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, where there’s a figure that’s a coach. Like you said, so many people don’t realize the benefit that one can play.
I think the shift is what they call the “War For Talent.” Basically, what’s happened over time is simply the last 10 years since the last recession (even before then, it started to happen, but it was less prominent), the idea of people leaders (learning and development as a function) has been around for decades. Yet, it wasn’t necessarily seen as a must-have.
When the “War For Talent” really started to happen, when technology started to take over, when people were looking for the best of the best and smartest people to bring in their organizations, they needed to give them more than just a job and benefits.
People no longer stay at companies for 10/15/20 years. People are constantly looking for that next challenge; especially smart, really talented people. So, as the rise of this people function learning and development started to happen, those people started actually tapping into coaching for themselves. They would actually go on to become certified coaches, they started to see the value of coaching for themselves and wanted to bring it to more people in their company.
On the flip side of that market, because it has been so coveted and frankly (I’m a coach, so I’m saying this with a lot of love), coaching is still a little bit of the wild west. It’s not regulated. Anyone can technically call themselves a coach.
There is the International Coach Federation, the governing body of coaches. In order to get that, you have to have certain milestones in your education and also meet qualifications and go through testing in order to get that qualification. But, it’s still a little bit of the wild west. So, people would go to get their certifications and they would want to coach executives. It’s an incredibly lucrative career, for sure.
But, no one was saying: how could I make more people benefit from this on a wider scale? Until the last few years where people were saying: much like we’ve asked those two questions, if we coach people in the middle (like the new managers) imagine the impact that has below and above versus just coaching five people at the top of the triangle (sometimes it’s a rectangle these days).
The rise of that people function, the rise of the chief HR officer which used to be more about compliance, legal regulatory, and making sure you have everything in place from the benefit perspective. The rise of that chief people officer function, which is more about: what’s the most amazing people experience that we can give that goes above and beyond just a paycheck, benefits, and time off?
That rise has created this demand for new technologies to come in and create those experiences for employees. So, to your note about how to invest in talent or in your career, it is taking a step back and looking at:
- What are the things that we want our people to experience?
- What do we want them to be saying about our company?
- How do we create those pieces for them?
There’s so much data that says that people would rather have things like professional development opportunities, learning and development opportunities versus more money. The people who know that, those progressive people leaders who are strategic thought leaders and business partners, to the CEO and CFO, they understand and want to invest in that; they are out looking for companies like us to give that experience.
If you talk to anyone, they’ll say they want to improve, they want to get better, they want the people working under them to get better. How does a coach come in and do that? What does an engagement look like? I think that even helps with people understanding how coaching works and improves things.
It’s great we’re talking now because as I said as we were warming up here, I just came off of new customer kickoff calls all morning, which is exciting. I’ll give you two examples.
One, is an example of a 2,500 person professional services organization talking about “War for Talent.” They have a very niche product they deliver, so they are constantly fighting and battling turnover and churn.
We’ve been working with this company for almost 2 years. They came to us and said they had to add more value to the people experience; they were thinking about launching this program and Sayge can be at the base of it.
The idea is that it’s a learning experience. There’s some things that they do internally, but Sayge is the core anchor in terms of one-on-one coaching. We started working with them over a year and a half ago.
The way an engagement works with them is what we call the Seats Model. They buy 40 seats from us every month, and then they have an opportunity to rotate people out of those seats every 3 months. Over the course of a year, we’re touching over 120 people. If you imagine, some people drop out, more people come in, etc.
It’s a way to have scale and reach. When you’re able to reach over 120 people at your organization throughout the year when before you were maybe able to reach 10 or 15, that’s huge.
At the end of the year last year, we did a comparable survey study with the organization of the cohort that went through the Sayge program that was called something else internally with them, but we were the core of it. Compared to the non-Sayge group, the intent to stay at the organization was 11% higher with the Sayge group. There are also higher engagement levels. There are all of these higher benchmarks for the Sayge group versus the non-Sayge group. That right there is a really great case study and example of the impact.
Another company that we work with today is much smaller: 250 people. They put a lot into their learning and development. What they want to do is make sure that this one cohort of individuals, these team leads (manager group) has support as they transition to take in more responsibility. In this case, we’re kicking off a 6-month engagement, it’s 50 people, and it’s going to be an incredibly robust program. Everyone will receive 12 sessions. We work on a 2 sessions per month model. The same people are going to be working with us over a 6-month period.
It also can look like that; it depends on the company’s goals and their approach to other programs and how we can seamlessly plug into those. An engagement with Sayge, in general, at minimum, is 10 people for 3 months and those 6 45-minute individual coaching sessions with a personalized matched coach. We have a matching survey that we take in, we compare that with our coach match survey, and then we make a highly personalized match.
In between those twice a month sessions, are they working on specific things? Do you give them assignments and hold them accountable to them? What does it look like in between the 45 minute sessions?
We’re a strong believer in personalization, that no 2 individuals are alike, and the same with coaches. No 2 coaches are the same. We don’t have applied Sayge “coaching way,” because we actually think that diminishes the quality, In that case, you should just pay for a one-to-many training and that’s kind of the same thing.
The personalized approach means that, let’s say you want to work on your presentation skills and you like really direct feedback; we have a coach that does both of those. You might have a colleague who wants to work on getting a promotion and maybe relationship skills, and is a bit more introverted; we have a coach who matches those two things.
The exercises, homework, what you might do in between, might definitely look different because you’re working in different areas and with different coaches. The straight answer is: yes, there’s always going to be things you’re working on depending on you, your coach, your timing and ability to work on those things, but there’s definitely work that’s done. You have to show up, want to do the work, and make commitments in terms of making progress for sure.
I love the customizable approach to it. I think both the employer and the employee get something out of it. You mentioned the survey, the retention.
Also, going back to treating the career as an asset, these people are developing and becoming better. Like you said, whether it’s a relationship skill or some other type of skill that they’re trying to improve on, the coaching is helping them to do that.
How Coaching Can Benefit More Than Just You
I think to build on the idea as an investment as a business leader, think of it this way: when you have or provide coaching to your team, there is a much wider ripple effect that happens. Yes, the individual is getting coached, but that individual is also picking up on their own coaching skills. They’re learning a lot about themselves, which means that they also can understand others better. So, you’re impacting a lot more people than just that one person. We delivered 6,000 coaching sessions last year, but I can guarantee that the impact of that is much much broader.
I know a lot of those engagements are twice a month for 3 months, but do people say: I really like this, I want to keep doing it longer?
Totally. The 10 people and 3-month is our minimum. If you want to work with us, and it works out, that’s where we start because it’s a very easy entry point. It’s less than $10,000 to do that, it’s highly impactful, and it’s a little bit of a pilot or test. I would say more than 85% of the time, people are asking for more, if not more than that. People are like: I had 6 sessions, can I have more?
If a company is coming to us and they want to touch more people and have a bigger program, we actually say the minimum should start at 6 months. That’s not a finger-in-the-wind number. We’ve done a lot of testing, a lot of learning. Around 6 sessions is almost too little, 12 sessions is kind of like: great, this has been perfect for me. We always work in the middle; maybe it’s 8 or 10 sessions. We actually recommend that if you can start with the 6 month 12 sessions, start there; but the minimum is 3 months with 6 sessions and 10 people.
Are there any specific industries that it works for, or can be utilized across different industries and sectors?
So much about that question is around the mindset of the leadership. I would say just looking at our customer base in general, there isn’t one industry over-indexing over others. It is about the mindset of the people.
So, the people believe that investing in people’s experience with your company, investing in their careers when they’re with you is important or individually, then those are the people that are more likely to want to engage with us.
I guess I would take a step back and say that maybe high-tech growth is an area where we see a little bit more of those people, mostly because those companies have to fight harder for the talent, have more people more dedicated to what they’re doing because they’re working a lot harder in some cases.
So, I will say we have a pretty nice group of high-tech growth startup companies. When I say “startup,” they’re post-startup, but they’re in the growth stage. We’re working with everywhere from: traditional BMW, Chubb Insurance (a 30,000-person global organization), with incredibly progressive people leadership. From the outside, you might not think that, but it’s very true.
Then, we’re working with Vimeo, a very creative and digital platform. We’re working with a company called Me and These, which is a newer subscription service.
I go back to mindset. If I’ve been in a room with 15 people leaders (sometimes obviously more depending on the environment), I can tell right away by the questions that people ask whether or not this is something that they want to invest in. When I say if this is something that they want to invest in, I mean: do they want to invest in their people versus just worry about compliance and the baseline things that they have to provide to employees.
I guess now it’s all done virtually, but even before the pandemic, were all the coaching sessions done virtually or was it a mix?
In the beginning, you said Sayge as a firm, we’re really a platform. We’re really an online platform. We were designed to work 100% virtually. So, our entire coaching team is 100% distributed. We have: 2 coaches in Ireland, a coach in Europe, coaches in Canada, coaches al laround the U.S., a coach in the Philippines. We’re growing our coach community in Europe and Asia as well. So, we are 100% set up for this environment. I think that’s what’s made it very easy to continue working throughout this time. The really progessive mindset people who aren’t going through significant significant crises within their organizations are doubling down on learning and development and opportunities to work with companies like us because they know now more than ever, their employees need really strong additional support. That personalization aspect is just something that you can’t beat.
Are there any books or anything you recommend reading outside of the coaching sessions?
You caught me at the right moment. It goes back to personalization. It depends on where you are at your stage in your career, what point you are in your leadership. I have a couple of what I consider “bible books” that I go to for myself, but also constantly recommend to others, but they’re not necessarily for everyone. I think there’s a couple books I would say that really stand out to me:
- Getting to Yes is a great book. It might be considered an old-school negotiation book, but it’s a classic.
- Taking the Stage, a book I recommend for female leaders
- Radical Candour
- Atomic Habits
- The Growth Mindset
I think it depends on what you want. If you’re a business leader and you’re struggling with tapping in from management to leadership. Managing and leadership is different: the mindset you have, the activities you do, and the things that your team are looking towards. Depending on where you are on the journey, there’s different books or readings I would recommend.
“The Growth Mindset” by Carol Dweck is probably the biggest one as far as mindset work that people can really do. I love the questions that you’ve been asking around investing in people’s careers and talent, and that’s a mindset question. If your midnet is: if I invest in my people and they leave, it’s kind of like: well, why should I do that? There’s a huge fixed mindset around that. Verus: if I invest in my people, maybe there will be some innovation there that I haven’t tapped into yet. And, when they do leave my company, they’re going to have all these great things to say about working here because i offered xyz, which is only better for you.
You mentioned “Atomic Habits.” That’s actually one of my favorite books I’ve read lately. It’s interesting how he breaks down high-level something you’re trying to improve on into: these are the really minute steps that you have to take to do it and how to trigger the right behaviors on it.
I have created certain-not a lot because that’s one of his points; don’t try to do it all at once- but I have created very clear, positive habits after reading that book.
As part of the engagement, to help people visualize again, going back to how coaching can really help, can you give an example of a challenge that someone was having and was able to utilize you or one of the coaches to be able to move past it? Or to be able improve on a certain skill? Maybe that will help people understand how coaching can come into play and how it could benefit someone.
I think just to speak to your audience, who are most likely business leaders or in senior leadership, or even the HR people space, I think thinking about coaching for yourself is one thing, but thinking about coaching for your team is the same and is also different.
A lot of times in the past, coaching has been seen as remedial: that person has a problem, we have to fix them, get them a coach so I don’t have to fix it, get them a coach so I don’t have to deal with it. Bringing someone else in to manage or tackle the problem with that person.
Sayge is a different proposition. We’re actually all about proactive professional development. It’s looking at your team and going: no one is perfect and they have stuff to work on, but I love this team and these people, so how do I elevate them? How do I support them?
For yourself, sometimes that can look like you don’t want to deal with conflict. To my first point, if you are thinking:getting coaching for my people would be great right now because I don’t want to deal with them, that is where you likely need the coaching.
I’ve coached a lot of people who have a hard time addressing people with poor performance. So much of that is around people’s inability to have what I call positive conflict, which is tapping into your values, figuring out where you can have what you might consider conflict in a way that makes you feel good. We can’t avoid conflict; the more you avoid it, the more it builds up.
Live In Your Values
For example, if you’re a senior leader, you have people on your team who aren’t performing. You feel like you talked to them, but you’re not getting through or it’s not changing. In that situation, I would come in and we would work on:
- What are your core values as a human?
- Where are you in conflict with those values when you think about having a conversation with this person about their performance?
- How can you use those values to have the conversation?
I talk a lot about one of my core values of generosity. I have to have a lot of hard conversations with people constantly. So, working with my coach, she asked me: going into this conversation, what value could you use? I thought: this is interesting. How could I approach this conversation from a place of generosity? It really changes your mind because then I’m like: I’m giving them something, giving them information that at the end of the day, is going to be helpful for them. By avoiding that, I’m actually not living in my values.
That’s just one way; and having that person practice with you about how to have the conversations that are direct and assertive, with kindness. How do I talk to someone about their performance in a way that is effective? It’s a lot about tapping in to people’s fears.
Another example: I was working with a new manager who was thrust into being part of this triad team of other peers. So, not a direct report or a boss that they have to work with. I was working with this person and this person was really struggling with one of the people on the team and was not able to harness the dialogue to have what is a tough conversation. That impacted this person’s confidence. They felt like they were inferior, they felt like this person didn’t respect them, they felt like the work that the work that they worked so hard to do no longer mattered. We had to dig a lot into those different areas. At the end of the day, we had to sit down and craft a conversation with this person’s peer that expressed their feelings and opened that dialogue in order to a) de-mystify some of these beliefs or stories this person has created, but also create a stronger relationship.
So, I just talked about some negative stuff there, but from a positive perspective, I could also say that there’s people who suddenly find themselves in a big project and they want to go after a big promotion, and they’ve been doing so great. In that case, it could be just helping them create their case for the promotion and practice asking for it. We love promotion stories, it’s so fun and great.
I’m sure a lot of it comes down to improving people’s confidence in all different types of things that they’re doing. That’s a great area where if people improve, it can go a long way in helping them.
It’s so fascinating you said that because when people outline in our matching survey that they want to work on executive presence, presentation skills, communications, so much of it actually underneath the surface is about confidence. You nailed it right on the head.
We’re just about out of time. Thank you, I really appreciate you coming on. How best can someone reach out to you, learn more about Sayge, if they want to get in touch with you?
I think that first of all, I want to say thanks so much for having me, this was great. I want to say again I’m really happy you’re digging into these really fantastic topics, especially in a time like now when it’s all on everyone’s minds.
Just check us out. Reach out if you’d like to chat, if you have people on your team that you would like to support, we’d be thrilled to do that. Again, we have our really really digestible entry-point pilot for less than $10,000 to reach 10 of your people for 3 months, which is a really really easy and simple way to work with us. It delivers results. We report back to the organization from an anonymous and confidential spot so that you see the impact that you’re getting from the work.
Thanks again for coming on, and thanks to everyone for tuning in to today’s episode. Until next time, have a great day.