Earlier this year, we developed a mentoring program within our team. We based it on our core values to strengthen our onboarding process for new contractors. Because we received such positive feedback from both the mentors and their proteges, we decided to take the program to another level. Now, we have a more structured, formalized program that helps us measure the impact and value of the coaching efforts.
Due to our program's successful outcomes, I feel compelled to share more about it with other business owners who may be looking for ways to enhance individuals’ — and their company’s — performance overall.
The #Strella team consists wholly of independent contractors who work remotely. Our team members live in various places within the U.S., and some are outside of the country. Whether your team is remote or on-site, made up of employees or independent contractors (or both), our experience with intra-team coaching may help you develop a program that’s ideal for you.
How Our New and Improved Mentoring (now “Coaching”) Program Works and Its Benefits
As we began implementing a structured program that we could replicate, I enlisted the help of our team member, Jenn Barnes. Jenn is the ultimate “people person.” She has raised six kids — an experience that developed her powers of understanding, empathy, and setting healthy boundaries. She is the perfect fit to partner with me in this mission!
We met to discuss my vision and decided to change the program’s name from “mentoring” to “coaching” to level the playing field between the paired individuals.
Next, we determined the structure, which included creating specific guidance on how the program would work.
- It would be an immersive four-week program in which the pairs would meet virtually, once a week, for 30-45 minutes.
- There would be a measurement system to determine who would benefit from coaching and what success would look like at the end of the program.
- There would be a system of evaluation (a survey), collecting feedback from both the coaches and coachees about how well the program worked.
- Each coach would have a guidebook that outlines the overarching plan and provides helpful resources. That guide would include a section specific to their coachee, identifying the core value(s) and Fundamentals that require strengthening.
- Jenn Barnes and I would fulfill a “coaches to the coaches” role during the experience.
At the heart of our efforts has been strengthening our core values. We evaluated each team member’s alignment with our core values using the Entrepreneurs Operating System tool called “The People Analyzer.” Essentially, you determine if each person aligns (a plus) or doesn’t align (a minus) with each value. If a person aligns with a value some of the time but not always, that earns a plus/minus alignment. Fortunately, most of our team scored a plus across the board. There were a few in the plus/minus category, which is how we determined who could benefit from coaching. We decided to pair team members who fully aligned with those who partially aligned with our values.
After we laid out the structure of the program, it was time to get buy-in. There were seven folks with a plus/minus alignment, so I needed seven coaches. Fortunately, everyone we identified as ideal coaches agreed. I told them whom I had in mind as their partners, and then I sought buy-in from the coachees. I was thrilled that all seven prospective coachees also agreed to participate.
We kicked off the four-week program on August 29th, with all pairs meeting weekly. The coaches checked in with Jenn and me at certain intervals. When they had questions or needed specific guidance, we offered support and direction.
I often received proactive emails from the coaches with feedback. Some had “ah-ha!” moments and asked for ideas on assignments to give coachees to work on between sessions. The best emails were those sent just because the coaches were excited about what they were experiencing with their coachees.
In the final week of the program, we asked the coaches to assess the progress of their coachees by determining the change in alignment with the core value(s) that needed improvement. As I write this post, we are two for two with coachees upgrading their status to a “plus” alignment with the core value(s) that needed attention. That is an optimal outcome!
I’ve asked the coaches to schedule one more check-in meeting with their coachees over the next month to confirm they are still on track.
I sent a survey to the coaches and coachees to solicit feedback on how we might improve the program going forward. I also asked for insight that I could share in this article. Below, see what our coaches and coachees had to say!
Thoughts from the Coaches
- This coaching relationship has been a two-way street from which I have received many benefits. There has been homework on both sides, which I think is important. A coach, as well as the coachee, needs to be making an investment.
- I feel that coaching, unlike anything else, offers a way to make our team stronger. Not just because we are trying to instill and strengthen our core values, but more so because we are strengthening our relationships with each other. Talking with my coachee each week has given me the chance to get to know her and learn more about her as a person. It has given me more understanding of her because she was able to communicate some of the issues she is having when she might have never done if it were not for the coaching program.
- We all seem to be gaining more from this experience than just resolving the original issue that was at hand! My coachee and I talked about the value that this brings to the table as far as connections and relationships are concerned. We both agreed that being able to get to know one another has been an amazing opportunity. If we all worked in the same office, these relationships would organically happen by seeing each other daily. Utilizing this great coaching program fills that void, and gaining a new friend makes it all the better!
Thoughts from the Coachees
- I think it was just nice to know that I had the support of someone else on the team. I feel like I have someone to go to with questions, frustrations, or just for support.
- My coach and I bonded immediately because we have something really big in common — we're both moms of teenagers. Creating an analogy between parenting teens and working as a contractor for a remote business owner helped me see things differently about my behavior. This was especially true in regards to how I have been sporadically communicating my work status and availability versus how I could be doing so consistently. My coach and I developed a great rapport that helped the thoughts and lessons flow. It's been a great experience!
- I greatly enjoyed talking with my coach and learned so much from her example and life lessons. As a coachee, I personally gained the most value from our discussions when there was reciprocal investment in an agenda. I sought advice on approaching difficult choices and difficult conversations, and my coach’s input was very helpful.
A Surprise Bonus
You may have noticed a theme woven throughout the above remarks — relationships. That’s telling in and of itself, but it also validates why “Relationships” stands as one of the #Strella core values.
One-on-one interaction is vital to not only the success in our role as social media professionals but also to our well-being. Its importance is magnified for us as a remote team, but I believe strong relationships are indispensable for any team regardless of its size, individuals’ locations, or worker status (employee vs. independent contractor).
At #Strella, we will utilize the People Analyzer quarterly to determine if we might benefit from another round of coaching. We will employ the feedback we receive from participants in this program to continue to improve our performance going forward. Moreover, we will explore how what we learn can enhance our relationships within our team.
Have you ever considered an intra-company coaching program to improve the performance and satisfaction — individually and collectively — of your team? Whether you already have something in place or are contemplating how to go about it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!