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Training and Development

Empowering Talent Development With Coaching

Wendy Hanson
Talent Development and Leadership Coaching

Listen to the recording here.


Recently, Andy Storch, of the Talent Development Hot Seat, interviewed BetterManager co-founder and COO, Wendy Hanson. Below is the full transcript.

Listen to the recording here.

Transcript: How to Empower Your Talent Development System with Coaching

Andy Storch: Hey, everybody, welcome back to another episode of the Talent Development Hot Seat. I am your host, Andy Storch, and I am so grateful that you are joining me today, and gratitude is part of today’s interview, which we’ll talk about near the very end in my interview today with Wendy Hanson.

Andy Storch: This interview is different than others, because Wendy is not a talent practitioner, she does not work for a large company. In fact, Wendy is an executive coach. She has more than 20 years experience working with individuals and teams on creating a culture to communicate more effectively, delegate efficiently, and help people use their strengths and talents at work.

Andy Storch: Wendy is the co-founder and COO of BetterManager.us. She knows what it’s like to help managers succeed in rapidly growing environments, and the Better Manager team of coaches work with all levels of managers all around the world. It’s really coaching at scale for all levels, so I think this is something you’ll be interested in.

Andy Storch: Wendy was introduced to me, she came by a past guest, Jessica Amortegui, and so she came highly recommended, and I was eager to have her on. You’ll hear our conversation in just a moment. We’re gonna really dive in on coaching today, and what it means to do an effective job at coaching, what managers need, how Wendy’s firm helps managers of all levels in different firms.

Andy Storch: The research behind it that Google and Gallup did to lead them to investing more in coaching. We talk a little bit about the trend of creating a culture of feedback and gratitude. As well as, Wendy shares some books and advice for those of you that are trying to create more of a coaching culture in your organizations.

Andy Storch: I hope you enjoy my interview today with Wendy Hanson.

Andy Storch: Hey, Wendy. Welcome to the Talent Development Hot Seat.

Wendy Hanson: Thank you, Andy. I’m so happy to be here.

Andy Storch: Yeah. Really exciting to have you on. We were connected by our mutual friend, Jessica Amortegui, who some of our listeners may remember was episode 22 of this podcast a few months back. She is the ultimate ultra-connector, because since that interview she has introduced me to so many fantastic people. And she recently made an introduction to you. I knew, because you came from Jess, you would be a great person to talk to, and we got on Zoom a few minutes ago. We’ve already been chatting and hitting it off. I know that we’re gonna have a great interview today.

Wendy Hanson: Yes, thank you. No, Jess is terrific. Some people are natural connectors, and they just listen really well. Then they say, “Ah, you should speak to someone,” and you always just say, “Yes.”

Andy Storch: That’s right. If you know they are that connector, they have that network, you trust their judgment, then you don’t need to try to be discerning about-

Wendy Hanson: You’re on the right track, right.

Andy Storch: I know it’s gonna be a good connection. With that in mind, I’m excited to be talking to you today, because I know you have a really interesting background and level of experience, especially around coaching, and really helping managers perform their best in organizations. I think that’s a topic that people are always interested in every company and every industry. I definitely want to dive into that.

Andy Storch: Before we do, let’s start with a little bit of your background, and tell us how you got to where you are today.

Wendy Hanson: Okay, well, I’m an executive coach for 20 years. I got my training back in 1998, and began coaching and working with companies, and was very fortunate to end up with somebody’s connection working with Google back in 2001. That’s how these good connections work, and ended up working with Google as a coach with my partner, Will Corley, who is also co-founder of BetterManager, who I still work with now.

Wendy Hanson: We worked with them from 2001 to 2007, so got to learn … They had 500 people at the time. What a startup does, and go off and was working with Tim Armstrong, who ran all of North American sales, and went to every sales office around the country, to go out and do strategic planning, and coach managers, and began to realize such an important role that a manager plays in setting the pace, the culture in a company.

Wendy Hanson: From there I’ve worked with so many different companies over the years doing workshops, doing facilitation, and doing coaching. In my former life, which I think is interesting, because I think everything that we have done prepares us for this moment. I always tell people that when I’m coaching them, it doesn’t matter what it is. It all comes together at some point-

Andy Storch: Yeah, it’s all a journey.

Wendy Hanson: Yeah, I spent many years, almost 20, in education, and I used to set up companies to help people with disabilities get job skills in private sector companies by running catering businesses, and other kinds of products. I think I learned a lot about the private sector then. I had always been an entrepreneur in education, so I think making a transition from education to working in business was somewhat easy. You take those lessons with you as you learn.

Andy Storch: What were some … one of the … one or two of the big lessons that you took from that experience working especially in special education, and helping people set up those businesses that you’ve been able to leverage over the years?

Wendy Hanson: There were so many. Being able to just take a risk. Back in the late ’80s potpourri was big, and you had to think of innovative ways to work with folks. We were working with adolescents and young adults.

Wendy Hanson: I was able to get funeral homes to donate flowers so we could pluck petals and make potpourri. I had also had a gift store years before, so I knew how to get into the gift market, and we found somebody who bought all of our potpourri and had it all over the United States in gift baskets.

Wendy Hanson: It was really a lesson of how, if you think outside the box, and innovatively you can solve a problem on many different levels. That being a very long-ago lesson, it has held me in good [inaudible 00:06:39].

Andy Storch: Also, a good lesson on connections, right? You knew someone that had that connection to make that happen, and I’m sure there are plenty of other examples in your career, as there are in mine. That, like you said, you got lucky, you knew someone that got you into working with Google back in ’98, 2001.

Andy Storch: By the way, what happened to that company, Google, did they ever make it? I don’t really-

Wendy Hanson: Yeah. They were somewhat successful, yeah. A great offshoot of that is so many people that were in Google in the early days have now gone out and started companies, and then I’ve worked with their companies. We’re still in touch now, you know?

Andy Storch: Yeah.

Wendy Hanson: You know, there are many Google people in my life, both personally and professionally.

Andy Storch: Wow, that is so cool. I have to ask, especially because I’ve lived and worked in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and know what it is now, and I know it was very different then.

Andy Storch: Like, what was it like working at Google back in those early days with only 500 people, compared to, say, what you see now, where they probably have … I don’t know, 80,000 employees, or something like that?

Wendy Hanson: Yeah. It was very connected and very relationship-driven. People really leaned into each other, and they worked really hard. They knew that they were doing something important.

Wendy Hanson: There certainly weren’t … All the things you had to go through … when I was told by Tim Armstrong to go out and to do training, it was, like, go out … There was no contracts and things back then, you know?

Wendy Hanson: It was, like, go out and do it, and send us invoices, and do this, and follow me around. It was just such an early time, and people were really trying to make a difference. It was just great to be able to be there during that, and learn how to be agile and spontaneous.

Andy Storch: Yeah. You weren’t dealing with master service agreements, and SOWs, and all this stuff-

Wendy Hanson: No. That came later on, but-

Andy Storch: MBAs. “Just go do the work and send us a bill, and we’ll make it work.” Tell me, Wendy, about this business that you have set up more recently, the Better Manager business. Where did that come from, and what do you do?

Wendy Hanson: Better Manager really came out of the knowing that managers were such a pivot point. Another Google connection, Stephane Panier, who is our CEO at Better Manager. He had worked at Google, and was CFO of Google Europe, had also worked … We met him through work at AOL, when we worked with AOL.


Wendy Hanson: We were together one day, Will and Stephane and I, and said, “You know, what’s the challenge out there right now, in terms of coaching?,” because we had always been involved in coaching and workshops. It was managers. Senior managers get very highly-paid coaches that work with them, but not all managers get access to that at all.

Wendy Hanson: It’s really such a developmental thing to be able to have somebody who you can share your thoughts, and your feelings, and have a thought partner, I think of a really good executive coach as.

Wendy Hanson: We went about to try to solve that problem, and 700 managers later we’re doing really well in the last two years.

Andy Storch: That’s really cool. Are you saying that you focus more on the middle manager profile, or someone below that executive level? Because, you’re right. Like, I’ve noticed that in working with companies for a long time, that the people at the top, the SBPs, and the C-Suite, they get coaches. Which is something everyone can benefit from, but often times below that you don’t see too many people getting access to coaching, whether individually or on a group basis.

Wendy Hanson: Yes. We thought in the beginning that companies were gonna want us for their newer managers and middle managers, and then a lot of the companies we started with said, “Well, let’s try it with our C-Suite first, and if they like it we’ll have it dribble down.”

Wendy Hanson: Really, we can coach managers at any level, because we’ve developed a 360, based on Google Project Oxygen, and the Gallup organization of best practices. I think no matter where you are in an organization you can sharpen the saw, you know?

Wendy Hanson: Senior leaders, when I coach them, it’s, like, “Oh, yeah. I got feedback, but I don’t really have my one-on-one’s consistently, or I’m not really paying attention or listening to people. Oh, yeah, I’ve got to stand back and really look at that again.” It’s things that they know, but they just don’t practice.

Andy Storch: Right, and a lot of the times we know what we need to do, but we don’t make the time, or we don’t know what we do, when we get to that situation. Coaching is a great example. Another one is obvious as going to the gym. Right? We all know we need to workout, but do we actually make the time to go? Then when we get there we’re kind of, like, “Uh, I don’t really remember what to do. Maybe I’ll just leave.”

Wendy Hanson: Yeah.

Andy Storch: I think that kind of happens with managers, as well, in that situation. That, what you find quite often when you work with managers, and you’re able to give them the accountability to push them, and also give them the information they need.

Wendy Hanson: Yes, and also give them the space to think, because oftentimes they’re moving so quickly, that when you have an appointment with your coach, they’ll sit back and say, “Wow! This is the first time I’ve really got to reflect.”

Wendy Hanson: That’s something that’s been a great learning with our work, with all the managers that we’ve worked with, is that we ask a question on our 360 of: “How often do you take time to think?” I would say about 70% of the time the answer is never. Like, “I just jump into my work, I don’t think.”

Wendy Hanson: Part of the coaching, a lot of people have stood back and said, “Wow, if I could own the first half-hour of my day,” or, “If I could get…,” you know, everybody has different … they do better at night, or in the morning. But I really need to think about: what is it that I’m doing? What’s my impact? What does success look like? And not just jump into a spreadsheet and work.

Andy Storch: Yeah. Making that time to think and reflect is so important. When you look at some of the most successful people, especially inventors, engineers, even successful business people, they’ll often say, “I made time to think. My best ideas came to me in the shower,” that kind of thing. The old cliché.

Andy Storch: I try to do that as well. I have a morning routine set up where I have time to sit, and meditate, and think, and read every morning. But I think most people just get up, check their email, jump into their day, and then they’re non-stop and back-to-back meetings all day long.

Andy Storch: Yesterday I had a call with a woman I connected with on LinkedIn, and we were talking about business, and we got on around 2:00 or so. She said, “I’ve been back-to-back all day, I haven’t had lunch yet.” It happens, right? But, a lot of times we don’t stop to really think about what the heck we’re trying to do, and establish that strategy.

Wendy Hanson: Yeah. We just keep doing it, and we don’t look back on the week and say, “What was it that happened this week? What did I do?” I’m really big into relationship-building at work and happiness at work.


Wendy Hanson: We spend so much time at work. We really need to spend time thinking, like, “Who do I need to acknowledge today? Who needs some connection?” Not attention, but just connection, and how do we keep building that, because that keeps people together. That keeps retention in a company. When people know that somebody’s got their back and they personally care about them, it’s so valuable.

Andy Storch: Yeah, so important. I’ve talked about this in the past. I think when we think about networking and building relationships, we often think about it in terms of going outside of our company to meet people. But, it’s just as important, if not more important if you work for a large company, to do that networking, to meet people, to make those connections you have that you can go to. To get the answers to your questions, to build relationships with the senior people that are going to be supporting or sponsoring your projects, and to gain trust. It’s just gonna be so much more easy to get things done.

Wendy Hanson: Yeah. We talk about that a lot and ask people: “How often do you have connections or lunch with your bosses’ colleagues, or something? How do you build that? How do you build mentors in the company?,” so that people know.

Wendy Hanson: I always say, “What do people talk about when they’re in a meeting behind your back? Like, what are they saying about you?” You have an opportunity there to create your legacy in a company, but think about what they say behind your back.

Wendy Hanson: Are they saying, “Wow! They just get the job done. They’re amazing, they’re easy to work with, you can always rely on them.” Or what else are they saying?

Andy Storch: That’s an intriguing and kind of scary question I think for a lot of people to answer. When your colleagues are having lunch without you, and they’re talking about you, what are they saying?

Wendy Hanson: Yeah.

Andy Storch: If they’re not saying good things, then it’s maybe time to make some changes.

Wendy Hanson: Right.

Andy Storch: Interesting question to think about. Wendy, you mentioned earlier, Google Project Oxygen, and also some Gallup research. I am a little bit familiar with that. I remember reading the HBR article about Google Project Oxygen many years ago. Especially because a lot of the work I did at BTS, and still do now with APG, was very similar.

Andy Storch: But for people that are not familiar with that I’d love for you to give kind of an overview of what that looks like, and how you’ve put that into practice.


Wendy Hanson: Yeah. Well, Google Project Oxygen. You know, Google has always focused on engineers, especially in the past, you know? Engineers are the ones that make things happen. They did some research with engineers thinking, “What are the best practices of great managers?”

Wendy Hanson: They actually thought … Well, the things that the engineers would think were most important have technical knowledge. The biggest surprise that came out of that research, which was done many years ago, but was also … Recently people are still agreeing with this.

Wendy Hanson: The first thing that was most important was coaching, and that was a little bit of a shock. That being a good coach as a manager was gonna be most important. What I found is that there are so many people that we talk to all the time that say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been coaching for years. I know how to coach.”

Wendy Hanson: When they really see what coaching is in action, they realize they are … We have a problem with being a teleholic in this society. We act more like consultants than coaches, so trying to teach managers how to do that. For engineers, who are so bright, and so wise, how do you stand back and relax a little bit? That was a big piece that came out of Google Project Oxygen.

Andy Storch: Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a consultant.

Wendy Hanson: Nothing against consultants. I recently did a training with a group of really smart consultants, and we talked about coaching. How we do it in our workshops is that I did a demo with someone in front of the room, and then my co-leader said, “What are you noticing that she’s doing? What kind of questions were asked?” Then we have them get into pairs.

Wendy Hanson: We tell them, “You can only ask what questions,” because what questions are open-ended and powerful, and they don’t like direct. It was so funny, because they got into pairs, they did that, and then we called them back. One of the consultants said, “I just can’t stop myself. It’s amazing.” I ask a what question, and then give them choices. “What should you do? A, B, or C?,” because I’m so used to giving that information.

Andy Storch: Yeah.

Wendy Hanson: Adults learn better experientially. When you can put that out there, it’s, like, wow, I am noticing this now. Our challenge is always, have one-on-one’s with people, and only ask what questions, and see what happens. Just be curious.

Andy Storch: Interesting. I like that. I like that challenge, I like that experience. For me, being a consultant means asking a lot of questions to really get to the impetus of the problem, and find out what people are trying to achieve. But, I think a lot of what consultants are known for, especially in the strategy space, like, Bain, McKinsey, that kind of thing.

Wendy Hanson: Yes.

Andy Storch: Is just coming in with their big PowerPoint deck, and no matter what’s going on, telling you exactly how you should be running your business, and not necessarily listening to … I’m not saying they’re all like that-

Wendy Hanson: No.


Andy Storch: [inaudible 00:18:09], that reputation. That’s why you say it, like, “Hey, don’t be a teleholic. Don’t go around…,” … That’s not coaching to come at your employees and just tell them what they should be doing. That’s what we often do as parents, too, right? But, maybe we should stop and ask questions to understand: what are they trying to achieve? What are they struggling with, and just get to know them before we start giving them advice.

Wendy Hanson: Yeah. What are they thinking? You know, if we don’t know what they’re thinking we’re really not gonna be able to offer the right answer. Yeah.

Andy Storch: Yeah, so, with that Project Oxygen, Google made a big shift, right? Because they were focused on technical capabilities, even for managers, and then realized, “Oh, we need our managers to actually be able to coach their people and have those conversations, and really this helps us understand what makes a great manager at Google, I think was the big a-ha from it, right?

Wendy Hanson: Yes. The research also that the Gallup organization has done is that one-on-one’s are really important to people’s success. We often let those go. And what is a one-on-one about? It’s not about checking how you did your work, it’s checking in with you as a person. Really taking that time to stand back.

Wendy Hanson: We ask a question on our 360: “Do you know the family members or closest friends of the people on your team?” Some people are, “Why would I know that?,” or, “Why would I want to know that?”

Wendy Hanson: If you have children, Andy, and I’m your manager, and I don’t know, and you keep coming in looking pretty bedraggled, it would be good if I knew that you had children, and said, “So, how are the kids? You’re looking a little tired these days?”

Wendy Hanson: But if I don’t connect with you personally, and know a bit of your story as a manager, I’m not gonna be able to support you.

Andy Storch: Yeah, and you’re not gonna be able to relate, you’re not gonna be able to support, or really understand what I’m going through. Then I feel like I’m not being understood, and I get frustrated and start looking for another job.

Wendy Hanson: Right. I was coaching someone recently, an engineer who had people on his team, and he had a woman who he was very concerned about, because she’s not performing the way she used to perform.

Wendy Hanson: I suggested, “What would a personal conversation look like to check in with her?” And he decided to have it, and he came back and said, “Wow, I had no idea what she was going through. She had just had a major breakup in her life, she had this going on, and that going on. If I had never kind of opened up to have this conversation, I was really thinking that she was just losing her motivation, and I was making assumptions, and I didn’t have a reality check on what was going in her life, so I could support her.”

Andy Storch: Yeah, that’s so interesting, because we don’t ever know what’s actually going on until we start asking those questions and getting to know people. Otherwise, like you said, we just make assumptions, which is so dangerous.

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Andy Storch: You start with this 360 that’s been formed by this research, and then you use that in the coaching process? Do you have a formulaic way in which you approach the coaching with the managers, or is it just kind of being there to listen and give advice over a certain period of time? How does it typically work?

Wendy Hanson: Well, I certainly learned after 20 years of doing this, is that if you’re going to be a good executive coach you need street cred. All of our coaches are certified coaches. They’ve been to a coaching school and they’re certified, and they have worked in business, so that we have what we call directed coaching.

Wendy Hanson: Not only can I be open and say, “What would success look like for you in this, but we could brainstorm together. A manager’s doing strategic planning with his team, so, let’s look at what are some options. Here’s an idea, here’s something that had happened.”

Wendy Hanson: I think that’s where you can add great value. You’re bringing the two pieces together. We’re not formulaic, as much as we’re making sure that we’re bringing value, we’re asking for feedback during the coaching. Like, three times during seven sessions. The formulaic piece is probably seven sessions.

Wendy Hanson: Research has shown that six to seven sessions is really what a good coaching experience looks like. It doesn’t have to be much longer than that. We’ve seen that with our managers. Not that people don’t come back. We have people that come back and say, “I’d like a once-a-month tune-up. That would be great to keep me on track.”

Wendy Hanson: But seven sessions you can figure out … The first session based on this feedback, what are their goals? What’s important? What legacy do they want to have? What are their values? What are the things that we’re gonna be able to cover in the next three months that are gonna make a difference?

Andy Storch: Interesting. I hadn’t heard that before. Yeah, seven sessions to really get them on track, and then possibly some check-ins. What I’m wondering is, a lot of our listeners are running talent development, or they’re in talent development positions, possibly putting together programs, thinking about ways to better develop their managers to help them become better managers for their people.

Andy Storch: Oftentimes, you’ve been in this space even longer than me, so you probably know one of the biggest challenges out there is people get promoted … An engineer gets promoted from being a really good engineer, right?


Andy Storch: All of a sudden, now, “Congratulations, you’re a manager, and we want you to spend more of your time managing people than actually doing the technical thing that you were trying to do.” What do you think are a couple of the really key things that people should be thinking about, if they’re putting together development programs, or trying to find ways to give managers the right skills to be great managers?

Wendy Hanson: Yeah. That is such a story that happens all the time. Like, “Congratulations!,” you know? “You are so good at your job, no matter what it is. We want you to manage others,” which is a totally different skill set.

Wendy Hanson: I would always start by really trying to figure out, “Does this engineer really want to be a people manager?” I was talking to one client the other day who said, “We’re putting people into management positions, but we’re doing it as a beta test. We’re saying, ‘Do this for three months, but you can still go back to your old job.'” I thought, “Well, that’s a very unique way to do this, because it’s not a fit for everybody.

Andy Storch: Right, yeah. You’re giving them an out.

Wendy Hanson: You’re giving them an out- [crosstalk 00:24:56]

Andy Storch: It’s possibly giving them an out, but what other things should we try to put in place to really ensure their success?


Wendy Hanson: Well, to really teach them the fundamentals, we’re finding this out at companies that there’s not a good continuum of management training. You just can’t go to a three-day management training and come out a manager, you know?

Wendy Hanson: That’s why I always do the coaching approach to I think everything. To experiential workshops. Like, you should really have people involved in: “How do you do good one-on-one’s? How do you be a good coach? How do you listen? How do you give feedback? How do you have difficult conversations?” Give them some basic things that they really need to do to, to be a good manager, and have them practice it. Then be able to give them access to a coach, somebody that they’re able to think things through, because otherwise we get stuck in where we are.

Wendy Hanson: I think those fundamental skills are really simple, but they’re not easy. Often times … We did some work … We have a lot of great clients, like, Yelp, and SurveyMonkey. We were collecting some data, like, all of our coaching is confidential, but the data was telling us that, no matter how high you were in an organization, people still had difficulty giving feedback. They still had difficulty really being good coaches, and really listening, and being empathetic.

Wendy Hanson: I worked with a wonderful engineer who realized he had been getting feedback from years that he had no empathy at all. Somehow we were able to turn the corner on that. He has two young girls, and he was able to say, “Gosh, I could see it in my daughters now.” You know?

Andy Storch: Right.

Wendy Hanson: It’s amazing if I could be empathetic. It’s a personal experience, and that’s what coaching brings.

Andy Storch: Oh, yeah. It’s so interesting, and I’m glad you brought up experiential learning, too, so it’s not just teaching, but actually giving them an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a good manager, and to practice in a safe place, which is what I’ve been doing for many years.

Andy Storch: In my practice now at Advantage we have partnerships with a lot of different service resolution providers that have had a lot of great experiential learning programs. That’s been my big focus, because I think people do learn absolutely the most and the best through experience.

Andy Storch: If you look at the military or sports are always practicing, but when in business, it’s, like, “Hey, just go coach that person, or go execute on this thing without practicing at all,” and know that everything’s on the line. Getting people a chance to really experience and learn from that, and then have practice in a safe space is so important.

Wendy Hanson: Even when we do virtual training on webinars. We’ll use a Zoom room and have people talk, but then I never want to do one. I call it, “Don’t do any one-night stands. They’re just not right.” You know?

Andy Storch: Yeah.

Wendy Hanson: Make sure you have two.

Andy Storch: Right.

Wendy Hanson: So that having them experience the concept, learning some things behind it. As Simon Sinek says, “Learning the why is really important to the neuroscience in the brain.” Then we have the next session in a week or two. Go out and practice this, and then you debrief. By debriefing and then hearing other people’s experience, that’s how we learn and make it our own.

Andy Storch: Yeah. You mentioned Simon Sinek. You know, of course, he has the book, Start With Why, which came from the TED Talk he did a while ago. Knowing the why behind what you’re doing, behind what other people are doing, discovering purpose is so helpful in figuring out how you can help them, how you can help yourself, getting past challenges.

Andy Storch: I just recorded an episode from my other podcast about that recently. Wendy, I want to ask you, you’ve been doing this for several years, decades, really, for a long time. You’ve worked with a lot of managers. What’s been your biggest accomplishment up to this point?

Wendy Hanson: I think the biggest accomplishment has been the creation of BetterManager with this team. We said it’s so important to be able to make sure we understand … When I send coaches from around the world out to coach people I don’t get to see what happens.

Wendy Hanson: What we did was figured out, how do we provide some coaching and training for them when they come on our team? It actually takes about three months to get onboarded as a BetterManager coach. We have you work with a nonprofit. It’s a way for us to give back, and have permission to record the sessions, so that then we can coach the coaches and say … A lot of our companies are tech companies, startups, quick.

Wendy Hanson: You know, you have to move to action quick, we’re gonna do this, and we get to coach them, and it’s really been a wonderful experience, because we get to help nonprofits, and we get to give our … Our coaches said, “We could never pay for this kind of coaching and training ourselves.” You know, because it’s so unique.

Wendy Hanson: I think that’s really one of the things that I’m proud of, is how we’ve been able to do that, and that we can keep growing our team. We’re coaching in five languages now, we have people all over the world, and we’ve created a community. Because I believe in connection, and I believe we all need community to be able to bounce off of and learn from. I think that’s what I’m most proud of.

Andy Storch: That’s so cool, I mean, you are … You’re vetting your coaches, they’re getting experience, and you’re helping nonprofits, is a total win/win/win. Okay, that’s a fantastic accomplishment.

Andy Storch: I have to ask the other side: what’s been your biggest failure or mistake, and what did you learn from that?

Wendy Hanson: I was thinking about this, because I don’t tend to dwell on failures. I have to dig them up-

Andy Storch: That’s good.

Wendy Hanson: I think I do something with them to say, “Well, I’ve got to turn this one around.” But I can remember years ago, this, thank goodness was probably about 15 years ago, because it was the biggest. When I think of it I get a pain in my stomach.

Wendy Hanson: We were gonna run for a very major company. A training for 300 people that were coming in from all over the world. I brought in coaches that were very … coach facilitators that had trained, and they were all very professional. They knew what they were doing, but we didn’t hit the mark, and it was just so distressing.

Wendy Hanson: I think it was out of our wheelhouse. We couldn’t control those factors. We weren’t close enough to the client discussions, so I learned a lot from that. I think the reason that we do the BetterManager onboarding the way we do with nonprofits is because of that.

Wendy Hanson: We’re gonna send you out in the world, but we want to first make sure we actually know exactly how you coach, and we have given you the right information. That’s the learning that came out of that failure.

Andy Storch: Ah, such a good lesson to learn, and I like what you said. That you don’t really think of things too much as failures, because they’re all learning experiences, right?

Andy Storch: Sometimes I have to change that to: what is something that did not go as planned? Right? And what did you learn from that so you won’t do it that way in the future? We’re always learning lessons, like you said earlier, and we’re always on this journey and learning new things along the way.

Andy Storch: My next question, Wendy, is … You’re working with a lot of different companies, a lot [inaudible 00:31:41] managers are doing different things, you’re seeing how talent is developing in different ways. What’s a trend that you’re noticing that’s kind of changing the way managers work, or people develop talent?


Wendy Hanson: I think one of the big things that we’re hearing so much of is that companies want to create a culture of feedback, and then a culture of gratitude is another. Those two things, I think, are so important. That people want to have continuous feedback.

Wendy Hanson: We’re learning about the annual performance evaluation. It’s really a disaster if it’s a surprise, you know?

Andy Storch: Right.

Wendy Hanson: I’ve coached people that have gone through that, and it’s taken years for them to be able to get over … Like, somebody really, “What? I did this six months ago, and I had no idea, and I never had feedback.”

Andy Storch: Crazy, right? Yep, that’s how so many companies ran for so long, but everybody’s finally changing those things-

Wendy Hanson: But they’re changing slowly. I’m still seeing companies that are challenged by that. That people want feedback, because we’re able to give it in a way that can be heard, and we can say, “It’s because I care about you and your growth.”

Wendy Hanson: I’m actually going to a meeting today with a client who I just started coaching who, manager wanted to talk to me about her, because they really believe in her. I said, “Well, I won’t talk to you alone. I’ll only talk to you if it’s the three of us.” Because, “Well, your boss said this, or your boss said that,” so I said, “Lets, the three of us, get on a call and talk about what your goals look like, and how they can support you.”

Wendy Hanson: I think that piece is important: the feedback, how to give it, and how to know that it’s in service of you that we care about you, that’s why we’re doing this.

Andy Storch: Yeah, that’s excellent. You mentioned, right before we started recording, you had listened to the interview I did with Susan Rusconi from Splunk, who talked about the difference between feedback, and coaching, and how they had implemented a total feedback culture and coaching culture there at Splunk, which is so important. A lot more people doing that.

Wendy Hanson: Yeah.


Andy Storch: What did you mean by “a culture of gratitude”? I love the idea of that. I’m big on practicing gratitude every day, so what did you mean by that for a company?

Wendy Hanson: Yes. I think you and I must share this practice. I write down every day what I’m grateful for. When I coach folks, and they’re really having a problem seeing what’s possible, it’s, like, “What are you grateful for?” You know? That gratitude piece is important.

Wendy Hanson: I hook three things together. I give credit to Mike Robbins, he also has a great TED Talk on appreciation. Mike Robbins talks about the difference between appreciation, recognition, but you also have to have gratitude.

Wendy Hanson: Appreciation is when I appreciate somebody for who they are, and recognition is for what they do. So often in sales it’s, like, you’re as good as your latest sale, and then tomorrow you got to start all over again. That’s all you hear, but I want people to be able to recognize, like, “I really love when you come to a meeting you have a great sense of humor, and you lighten up the landscape here. Thank you for doing that.”

Wendy Hanson: When we give feedback you don’t just say, “Great job,” because that doesn’t … From a neuroscience standpoint I don’t get that. I don’t get what I did. If you tell me exactly what I did and say, “I’m really grateful that you do this,” you know? “This is amazing. This is how you show up.”

Wendy Hanson: Then my brain is gonna say, “Wow! I just got a shot of dopamine. I want to do more of this.

Andy Storch: Yeah.

Wendy Hanson: So, now I know what it is that I want to do more of.”

Andy Storch: Right.

Wendy Hanson: We need to hook those three, I think, together, and really create a grateful environment for people to work in.

Andy Storch: I love that. There are studies that show that by practicing gratitude, and showing it every day, it will make you a lot happier, as well. I do also write down my gratitude every morning-

Wendy Hanson: Yes.

Andy Storch: Tomorrow morning I will write down my gratitude for this interview. Wendy, you’ve already mentioned a couple TED Talks: Simon Sinek and Mike Robbins. What’s a book that you often recommend, and I’ll also ask you for a podcast recommendation, as well, because you said you listen to a lot of podcasts?

Wendy Hanson: Well, yours is gonna be at the top of my list from now on, Andy-

Andy Storch: Aw.

Wendy Hanson: In terms of podcasts.

Andy Storch: You’re too kind, Wendy. Too kind-

Wendy Hanson: No, really. This is fun. I’ve listened to a whole bunch since we first started connecting, and I love your style of being able to bring out what people have. It’s very engaging, and it’s easy to be able to interview somebody like that. I appreciate that.

Andy Storch: Thank you.

Wendy Hanson: One of my all-time favorite books has been Switch, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Andy Storch: Yeah.

Wendy Hanson: I used to do a lot of work with companies on looking how to make change, and the emotional side of change. That’s been very inspiring. When we started BetterManager, the book, Being the Boss, by Linda Hill, Stephane actually … Stephane Panier, CEO, knows Linda, and she came from Harvard.


Wendy Hanson: A lot of the things that she said in Being the Boss: Imperatives of Being a Great Leader, were part of also what had inspired us as we developed the beginnings of BetterManager two years ago.

Andy Storch: That’s great. Last question: what advice do you have for talent development professionals who are either trying to build a great manager development program, or just implement better coaching throughout the organization and getting their managers, not only coach, but being better coaches to their people as well?

Wendy Hanson: Yeah. Well, I think this goes back to where we started our conversation today: connecting. If you can go out and learn from other people, we know that’s how people get coaches or coaching organizations. You don’t really always just Google it, you call a friend and say, “Oh, who do you use or who do you know?”

Wendy Hanson: I think that’s what talent organizations need to do. One of our partners, Karen Callahan, who is learning and development for Survey Monkey, we did our beta testing with her and her team in the beginning, and she’s been fantastic.

Wendy Hanson: Whenever we need a referral, when a company wants to learn more about us, Karen says, “I’m happy to talk to them, because I get to learn about them.” It’s a great example of, “What do you do for this? Here’s what we’ve done.” I think that kind of sharing, and I think try somebody on. Make sure there’s a good cultural fit.

Wendy Hanson: You know, that’s why I’ll go in and meet with people, or we’ll have Zoom calls. I forget that I don’t know people, because I’ve known them on Zoom, because Zoom’s [inaudible 00:37:47] [crosstalk 00:37:47]. Almost like being there. The only other thing, if I haven’t hugged you, then I know we’ve only met on Zoom.

Andy Storch: That’s a good point. Well, we’ve only met on Zoom so far, but I look forward to hopefully meeting you in person one day and getting that hug.

Wendy Hanson: Yes, you will.

Andy Storch: I want to tell you, Wendy, that I am so grateful for you coming on today, and to share your experience, and your wisdom, and your advice with our listeners. thank you. Thank you again for coming on The Talent Development Hot Seat.

Wendy Hanson: Thank you, Andy. It’s been great being here, and I look forward to seeing you, too.

Andy Storch: All right. Take care.

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