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? In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, host Marc Bautis is joined by Katie Stricker, President and Co-Founder of Sayge. Together, they discuss 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.
- Which industries benefits the most from coaching.
- Book recommendations to transform your mindset.
- And more!
This is the third part of a multi-part series exploring careers and employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the other parts:
- Part 1: How to Execute A Job Search During the COVID Pandemic With Geoffrey Goldman
- Part 2: Tips for Hiring During The COVID-19 Pandemic With Jen Selverian
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
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth Podcast. This is your host, Marc Bautis. Today’s episode is the third part of an ongoing series on jobs and careers. In the first installment, I spoke with Geoffrey Goldman, a career coach, about how to look for a job during the COVID-19 pandemic. And in the second installment, I spoke with Jen Selverian about how employers can best execute a job search. On today’s show, we’re going to talk about how to treat your career as an asset, and how to get the most out of it through coaching.
To talk about this topic, I brought on a special guest, Katie Stricker. Katie is the Co-Founder and President of Sayge, a professional development coaching firm that makes coaching scalable.
So Katie, can you start by providing a background on how you got into coaching, and what led to you co-founding Sayge.
I love telling this story. I started working with my own coach over 12 years ago. Back then, people looked at me like I had three heads when I talked about having a coach. But I had so many reasons to pursue working with a coach. First of all, I grew up with this midwest, work-hard mindset, which got me a lot of visibility because I was really hardworking. But a pattern that continued to happen was I kept feeling like I was being dropped into the deep end without anyone to save me. It was good for my career, because I was put in front of senior leaders quit often. Yet, I didn’t feel like I had any professional development support.
I was doing a lot of reading and researching on my own, but I knew that working with a coach would elevate my professional capabilities. And it did. Within the first year of having a coach, the investment paid itself back to me… and now triple, or quadruple that. It was a life-changing experience, both personally and professionally.
After seven years of working with my first coach, she left her practice to work for a very prominent figure, which made sense — but it made me wonder what I was going to do. At the time, I was consulting for a small firm, working with senior leaders at larger organizations and startups. I often found that what these professionals needed most was coaching versus consulting. So pursuing my coaching certification was really to help compliment my consulting capabilities — I had no intention to start my own practice. Once I had my own training, I fell more deeply in love with the practice and knew how impactful it could be for other people.
Eventually, I started my own coaching practice on the side, while I was working full-time. I coached former clients, bosses, colleagues, friends of friends, etc. And I built up my practice enough so that I could do it full-time.
Shortly after I really started coaching full-time, I got an invitation 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 heard I became a coach and he became interested in coaching. We met for coffee.
It was over coffee that Jamie told me his story, which was very different. He started off loving his job, but as he worked his way up the corporate ladder and got a very senior position, he suddenly found himself hating his job… and he didn’t know what to do. His fiancé (now wife) said: “Why don’t you work with a coach?”
So he did, and he then had a similar experience to mine. It was life-changing for him. So, he asked himself two questions:
- How had I gone through my entire career without hearing about coaching until now?
- Why don’t more people work with a coach?
It was then that we discussed what came to be known as Sayge. Within a couple weeks, we sat down again, but this time drew up a business plan. We decided we wanted to democratize access to coaching, because typically coaching is either:
- Paid for out-of-pocket, or
- Only the most senior people receive it.
The latter is a big downfall, because coaching is found to be so much more beneficial earlier in a person’s career. So 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 and provide coaching at scale for companies.
We’re a B2B business, and right now, we work with over 30 companies. Last year, we delivered over 6,000 coaching sessions. We’ve coached everyone from Assistants to Chief Operating Officers.
That’s a very interesting story, thank you for sharing. What really stood out to me is that when you spoke to people about coaching, they’d look at you like you had three heads. I’ve had a similar experience. I’m a big proponent of coaching myself, but I don’t think adults give it enough credit.
The War for Talent
It is strange, especially because we grow up playing sports and participating in activities like Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, all of which involve coaches or a figure that takes on a coaching role. Like you said, many people don’t realize the benefit that a coach can play in adult life.
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. It’s interesting how the author, James Clear, breaks down how to improve habits. There are really specific steps we have to take to do it. Reading the book has led me to creating positive habits of my own.
Now, going back to the engagement and how coaching can really help someone, 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.
To speak to your audience, who are most likely business leaders, thinking about coaching for yourself is one thing, but thinking about coaching for your team is something very different.
In the past, coaching was seen as remedial: A person has a problem that needs to be fixed, so get them a coach. A engagement with a coach was to tackle a specific problem or challenge.
Sayge takes a different proposition. We focus on a concept called proactive professional development. The approach looks 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.
Alright, we’re just about out of time. Thank you Katie, I really appreciate you coming on. How best can someone reach out to you to learn more about Sayge?
First of all, I want to say thank you so much for having me, this was great. I’m really happy you’re digging into these topics, especially in a time like now. You can visit the Sayge website at www.hellosayge.com. You can also email me directly at [email protected].
Please reach out if you have questions, or if you have a team that you would like to support. Again, we have a really digestible entry-point pilot for less than $10,000.
Great, we’ll include that in the show notes. Thank you again for coming on The Agent of Wealth Podcast. And thank you to everyone who tuned into today’s episode.