My name is Sarah Fricke, and this article will focus on how we can effectively coach people at work from anywhere in the world.
Obviously, this is especially crucial in a post-pandemic world. We live in unprecedented times. We’re all still figuring it out, and that’s ok!
I hope this article will not only give you strategies to effectively action coaching in the remote working world, but will also highlight the importance of empathy and compassion in the workplace!
In this article, I’ll focus on a breadth of key discussion points, including:
- Why do this?
- The great communication gap
- Listen and reducing noise
- Empathy and motivation
But before we dig into the main subject of this article, I’m going to give you a little more background on me.
The first thing everyone will tell you about me is that I love adventures! Why am I qualified to write this article? Well, I absolutely knew I was going to be in sales from a very, very young age.
I love what I do. I love sales. And I’m so excited to be able to share the insight I’ve gained through my experience. I've been in a management role and worked in an enablement function and every aspect of my career has contributed to who I am now.
Why do this?
This all started when my Head of Sales came to me at a sales kickoff two years back, and told me that if I was able to do these two things this year, it would mean that sales enablement was successful. What two things? Well... look below:
I thought to myself: “Why would anyone be unhappy, especially if they’re making money?”.
What he was really alluding to is that there's a huge cost to losing an employee. It’s estimated to be about $2 million, but it's probably significantly higher than that.
How? Well, just think of a BDR role. We hire a lot within our organization. What’s really costly is the recruiting time, the onboarding, the goal attainment, and the quota that you're holding for that individual when they're not performing.
But what's really interesting is the brand that someone might lose in the territory.
Think of a BDR who doesn't quite have the messaging right. They're burning through that territory and burning the brand that you've created.
Think about having a territory that's totally uncovered and your competitors are sweeping through and getting the majority of that market.
You're not getting that market because you either don't have an employee in that seat, or you don’t have the right employee.
In short, there's a lot that goes into losing an employee, and that’s why we want to work so hard to keep them happy. The key is to look at everyone's holistic happiness.
Ultimately, the way that my head of sales was thinking about this was very similar to Dr. Brene Brown.
This really became my mantra throughout COVID.
How do we action this?
When you think about being seen, heard and valued, a lot of it relates to how we used to do it in the conference room. You give somebody a pat on the back for a job well done, or you even hold someone's hand when you're delivering hard news, like losing their job or not getting things right.
A lot of energy that we gave off as leaders and managers within our organization was actually very physical in nature. It’s hard to really know if someone's really being heard in this remote world.
The great communication gap
It’s really hard to translate this physical energy into the remote industry. One of my sales team did a phenomenal job in thinking through our sales methodology and thinking through what was missing in those gaps. When we talk about gaps, we’re not just talking about communication we’re also talking about:
The information gap
There's less information being transmitted, because we're assuming that someone might have the other piece of the puzzle. There's less body language to read. We talk with our hands to engage people, for example.
Imagine you’re watching a talk from someone on a webinar. You're seeing a blank wall behind them. There's less to focus on, it's easy to get distracted by a text message or an email, for example. You have people checking text messages or an email even when you're in a one to one conversation.
The connection gap
In the end, it’s all about finding that connection. We used to be in a conference room with no other technology. We're missing that level of connection. Because of that, what happens is we place more weight on other pieces of information.
Imagine you're a manager in a one on one with an individual and you start checking your texts, they might read into that that you don't care about what they're talking about. You're not truly listening to them. And an employee’s brain is working harder because they’re looking for information that you feel is missing.
Addressing the gap
So, in coaching conversations, it's really important as a manager that we over-communicate. In this remote culture, folks are looking to fill in the missing information as we go.
How do we solve that?
1.Reduce transactional conversations
How can you use your live conversations to really connect and understand what's going on in that individual's world?
This is as opposed to asking questions like: “What does your pipeline for Q3 look like? What's on your to-do list for this week?”
You can use your email conversations to get to that. Better yet, use the systems that you have to get that one on one to connection with them on how you can solve their problems.
2. Build relationships
Ask them what they do that weekend. Ask them about an upcoming vacation they’re planning. But the ultimate question is, how do you ultimately help them better their career, help them build their brand at your organization?
3. Use video
So, we’re all using video chat lately, right? But how do you really think about using that strategically? If you can tell that the person on the line has had a really long day, instead of using video on your one on one, go on a walk with them, right? Use your one-on-one to get them out and get a breath of fresh air.
4. Sell to your employees
If you have the ability, send small gifts, or write something that lets them know that you're thinking of them. These are places that we're helping fill that space in the communication gap, and give them what they're missing from being at the watercooler in the office.
5. Call out FFT
This stands for ‘f****ng first time’. I don’t need to tell you we've been through a lot of f****ng first times over the past few years! These have been years of unprecedented change. It's okay as an employee to express confusion when going through something for the first time.
It's harder to work with everyone, for example, because you haven't met them in person. It's okay, this is a first time for everybody. Let's make this work together.
6. You are human
Sometimes we just have to remember that we're all human. We're trying our best to work through this. It's not something we've done before.
The detail that we had to establish is, what is happiness at RingCentral? To establish this, we came up with a happiness survey, as you can see below. 👇
We used that happiness survey, and reported back to the managers on different responses to different questions. From this, we created a coaching honor roll.
You can see Kevin being sprayed with champagne in the bottom right hand. We tracked the coaching that Kevin was providing his team and his happiness survey to judge how happy his team was.
We then asked him to then give his best practice: What have you seen in the field? What can you share with your managers? Since he had given us that time, we then gave it back to him.
Kevin is an avid chef, so we sent him a cooking appliance, along with a personal note from our Chief Revenue Officer thanking him for what he's putting in. As you can see, the coaching is going both ways.
We’re asking him to coach but then we're coaching him in return along the way.
Create a space to collaborate
Along with the happiness survey, we put the coaching honor roll in place to have a baseline and a feedback loop. And then finally, we created a space for them to collaborate.
In creating a space to collaborate, we used Highspot, which is our content management system.
Next, I’m going to take you through three main topics that we used to address our employee feedback. These three topics came from the happiness survey. Before we dig into the first of the three areas,
I want you to ask yourself whether you feel like you give your team members enough appreciation.
At the end of the day, you could be giving all the words of affirmation in the world, but you still might not be hitting the mark. It's really hard to show appreciation very efficiently and very well.
As you think through appreciation, there's a couple of different types of languages you can use.
And in the bottom of this slide, there's a personality assessment. I’ve had some of my team members do this so that I can understand how to support them best.
For example, if somebody has a physical touch personality, well, that's really hard to do right now, so we constantly have to think of new and innovative ways to meet their needs.
Maybe you could give them a high five emoji. It's not the same thing, but it’s just a way of saying that you wish you could be there. It’s just a way of showing that you’re thinking about them. What’s really crucial is that you can interpret their language and make sure that you're accommodating towards that language.
Listening and reducing noise
Under listening and reducing noise, we reminded the managers of what’s good versus better.
A lot of our listeners were trained to listen and not interrupt a person. That's an effort not to talk over them, typically. But is that really a way to have a productive conversation?
It’s actually a one way conversation. The team members are not getting anything out of it. You're not there as a leader to them, helping them solve a challenge or issue.
What do good listeners actually do?
Good listeners ask a lot of questions.Sometimes they dointerrupt to be part of an active conversation, and there are instances when interruption is essential to bring insight to the conversation.
Maybe a team member isn’t headed down the right path, and you’re not doing them any favors by staying silent. But ultimately, they're cooperative and help you move forward the topic versus being competitive to you.
Really, what we want is to be cooperative rather than competitive.
1:1 prep sheet
We taught our managers to use a one on one prep sheet, which you can see below.
Going into a one-on-one conversation, this is the best way to ensure that you have a cooperative conversation.
Let's make sure that we don't ask very transactional conversations like, for example,“What's your pipeline like?”.
I'd suggest you look at the assessment that your employee filled out to prepare for your one on one, and ask things that are relevant to that document.
Going back to this driving, cooperative, positive view of moving forward, the questions you want to be asking are:
- What did you understand about the current situation?
- What do you want to get out of the one on one?
- What is your agenda?
What this leads to
Once you've done this a couple times as an employee, it's actually something they can own and send you in advance for your one-on-one to make the best use of the time.
The whole benefit of a one on one is that everybody comes prepared to the meeting. And you're using the time not to just let them spew out what's on their to-do list, but rather, to work on something that you're looking to move forward together.
Empathy and motivation
If you're empathetic, and you understand where the other employee is coming from, that's really where we get to the next level.
For this, I think we should refer back to the happiness survey. These are the results from our Q2 assessment.
Here, we looked at the company versus the role. What this allowed us to do is look at spots where we could target our specific investments in the future quarters: Are there people that are ready to be promoted? Are there people that are looking at the broader RingCentral landscape that we could give new opportunities to?
We’re all different
This helped us highlight that people within the company are motivated by different things. Some folks were looking for more power, as they call it within the organization, some folks are looking for achievement.
On the graphic below, the ones in orange are the more positive types of motivation. They’re looking for growth as a company, looking for achievement. Fear of consequence, power and social factors, are marked in blue.
They can lead to a negative culture within the broader organization.
I would always err on the reward of growth and achievement when looking for spots to motivate your team.
And then, of course, the most important factor of all is empathy. Ask yourself the following:
- How do we find something crucial about the individual we’re working with?
- How do you increase your communication touchpoints?
- Did you learn something new about an employee today?
- What do you like about this person?
- How is working from home affecting this person?
These are the kind of considerations that lead to warmer remote work conditions. And the important thing is that we have to make an extra effort to make sure that we’re doing it in current times. Then, we can…