The Sales Engagement Podcast
The Sales Engagement Podcast

Episode · 11 months ago

Setting Boundaries & Using Empathy As a Superpower

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

There’s a hole in your company, and diversity can solve it. It’s no secret that we’re all different from one another—nothing could be more obvious—and it’s long past the time to welcome a more diverse working world.

Today, we heard from Shauna Cour, Vice President of Employer Sales at Ovia Health, and Jerice O'Malley, Head of Business Development and Sales at Amplify Consulting Partners Inc., about what it means to create a space for difficult conversations, build up psychological safety, and eliminate silence culture.

Join us as we discuss:

- The long-term impact of facilitating psychological safety

- How empathy is powerful in the workplace

- Why setting boundaries and expectations is crucial

- The danger of silence culture

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

Welcome to the sales engagement podcast. This podcast is brought you by outreach, the leading sales engagement platform, and they just launched outreach on outreach, the place to learn how outreach well does outreach? Learn how the team follows up with every lead in record time after virtual events and turns them into revenue. You can also see how outreach runs account based plays, manages reps and so much more using their own sales engagement platform. Everything is backed by data pulled from outreach processes and customer base. When you're done, you'll be able to do it as good as they do. Had to outreach Doo on outreach to see what they have going on. Now let's get into today's episode. Hey everybody, and welcome back to another episode of the sales engagement podcast. I'm one of your host here, Brook Pachesta, from outreach dot IO. I leave global XCR enablement, and I'm super excited to be joined by Shawanakur and Juris and Rolla sees me. Juris o'malley, we're going to talking about something super important, silence culture in the workplace. So we've had a lot of conversations around women and sales how to get more women in sales. But once you've got diverse folks on your team, what do you do with things come up and you're not quite sure how to tackle those conversations. So super excited to have our guests on today. Shana, we haven't had chance to chat with you before. Go ahead and introduce yourself. Sure. Yeah. Thanks. So, my name Shanna and I am currently vice president of employer sales for Ovia health. We were recently acquired by lab core but we're still independent subsidiary. We do programming, SASS, programming for fertility, pregnantcy parenting and moving into menopause and the whole health spectrum for women's in family health. By background is I come from another SASS company prior to this, based out of Bellevue Washington, and then long time at Microsoft, really starting my career there...

...and doing some consulting in between. Great. Thank you and juries I know you and I have chatted a couple times, but for those who may not know, Yah, who are you? What is it that you do? Yeah, thanks, brick. So, my intry Somali. I'm the head of sales over at amplified consulting partners. I've spent the last decade, I'd say, in the consulting space and, more specifically, within the data analytic space. Super All right, well, let's let's dig into it. I know Shanni told us a little bit about what you worked on before, but how did you find yourself in sales and then becoming a VP of sales? I know it's a big question. Yeah, but would your path look like? Sure, yeah, it's one that, if you told me I was going to end up here even, you know, five or six years ago, I was said absolutely not. So, you know, I spend most of my career in marketing and you know, as you know, marketing is sales to many, but a very different type of approach and mindset. And when I came to my company, are to Ovia, I had the opportunity to be working very closely with our sales team. So I would go out on sales pitches, act as this me often for our product, for our marketing experience with our customers, and then was running our all of our creative team, but then also marketing managers and our bed our team or st our team, and so from that had this exposure to sales. To realize one it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it was or that it had been perceived to be for so long for me, and that it was really just about building relationships and understanding products and, you know, pipeline and revenue in all those types of things that I actually found really interesting. So then was able to make the leap over two sales fortunately, because I'd had credibility at linemate and have been running some teams, was able to do that and jump over and then from there, you know, pretty quickly was able to take on a regional vice president role and lead a team because we really honestly needed some diversity. We didn't have that. It was really just primarily a team...

...of men and operating in a specific way, and I had ideas around how we could operate differently and bring in different types of people and then, you know, it just kind of stuck for me and so when I left there, wanted to stay with it and and wanted to get to a company with, you know, some different types of characteristics, and that's that's what I've done and how I landed it Ovia. It's great and the fact that, you know, part of you getting promoted was people early saw that you had a vision for hey like we can have really successful and diverse sales teams. That's awesome. What would you say your relationship was like with your early bosses and peers? Was it similar to what it is like now, or how did that come about? No one would say it was somehow, I would say, honestly, it was a little tenuous at times. You know, I came in and I'd come from a team and particularly working in marketing, I'd worked with primarily women. We had a couple men on our team here and there, and so when I went into sales and it was I was the minority and it was all men for the most part, it was kind of eye opening for me, you know, and just the realization of weight. We operate differently and we value things differently, and so there was a learning curve really on both sides around expectations, around how we treat each other, how we communicate, and a lot of those conversations were really hard in the early days and uncomfortable for both sides. And I would say I went through a period when I first came over of thinking, okay, I'm new to the sales team and while I've got credibility at the company. I haven't earned my stripes and sales yet, and so I sort of automatically went into this place of assimilating and then, after a year was so uncomfortable and honestly, just couldn't function in my own skin because I was trying to be something I wasn't, which at that time was being what I would think about as a more traditional salesperson, a little bit more aggressive and stronghanded, and that just wasn't how I operate. And that's where I, you know, started...

...having these hard conversations about hey, like, I know that you've been bored and bread and sales in this world that has been, you know, primarily mail dominated and for that reason it's the approach and style has been more aggressive often and that's just, you know, I didn't think it needed to be that way. So we started having conversations about what if, one we hire different types of people. We don't need to hire sales guy who's been at, you know, Sales Force for twenty years, or Oracle or what have you. We can hire women, we can hire people of Color, we can hire, you know, men or women with high empathy, high emotional intelligence, and I think that could work, and so that's where I was fortunate enough. Although I was working for men, they were very different than me, they were also open to listening because we developed really good friendships with each other, and trusting relationships didn't always make it easy, but it made it so that at least we could come to the table and hear each other out totally. Yeah, that's great that, you know, you were able to have those tough conversations and I know joining a sales seem I you mentioned like the first things first, like the need to assimilate juries. I don't know. Has that been your experience to like getting started and saying like okay, like I'll just get the lay of the land before I make any statements. So my experience has been the first few jobs I had more as an individual contributor. I honestly thrived in an environment where I was the ownly female and I didn't really I thought about it, but I kind of thought of it as like an edge up, if you will, and I definitely kind of stuck out, not only for being a woman but also my ethnicity. I was the only person that looked like me in the room. But fast forward to like the last few years when I moved into sales leadership. I think that's when I started to look back and save man, I wish I would have been a little bit more proactive about getting more women around me, because now that I'm at the leadership level and I look around, there isn't...

...anyone there, and so I feel like that's when I would I wish I would have tried to get more women to join me at that time. And I've also gotten more pushed back in a female leadership role and again I think it stems to the lack of women in leadership roles to begin with. So I think not only do the men at the top have a an odd relationship with women and leadership. They're not sure how to how to act, but it's also the women and leadership roles are also uncomfortable or unsure how to act with other women in the room. And it seems like women at the leadership level almost feel the need to compete and it's an odd thing because we should be lifting each other up, but not to you know, point any blame anywhere. I just think it's so new people don't know what to do about it and so the more we can expose more women to the leadership roles and and get them into the door of tech sales and then move them up the leadership ladder. I think we'll see a change in the in the way we treat each other. Yeah, and it sounds like I mean silence culture could have a lot of different definitions, but would y'all agree that? Like it can be either like hey, I saw something happened, I didn't say anything, but also that feeling about I just don't know how to advocate for other people or like what else to do other than like maintaining in my own bubble. or how would y'all describe it? Yeah, I think for me it and the way it felt for me, I would say, is living in a culture that had an absence of psychological safety, empathy and high emotional intelligence, and that literally like that's just like cutting my limbs off not to have those things, like it's so necessary for me to function that way. But I found that when I was in environments where I was advocating for that with people that didn't need that, that it wasn't necessary for them, it was...

...looked at as complaining or creating drama because I wanted it to be okay for people to talk about how they felt and talk about emotions. And you know, for me this huge light bulb went off when, all of a sudden I realized that those that don't operate with that and and counter then they often operate with sort of control and and a power tripping sort of presents. I realized it's just they're operating from fear because they're afraid of what I can do and they're afraid of what I'm so in tune with that they do not know how to channel, they don't know how to manage, they don't know how to navigate. And so there then reaction is, I'm going to put up this bravado in this armor to protect myself because I don't know how to do what you're doing. So then it just realizing that it was a weakness on their part and strength on mine. To be able to do that was huge for me, but that took me a long time to get there. I mean, you know, well into my s before all of a sudden I was like, that's what's driving their behavior. You know, I was gonna compliment you. I want an elevated observation the like. Yeah, people are just you they're used to operating within their own rhythm and when something else is against that, it can't you know, we're all afraid of what we don't know. Yeah, and as a senior executive now, like how can one go about changing a culture if that is so heavily ingrained of like we do things a certain way and like there is no room for empathy or difficult conversations? Yeah, that's a great question. I'll give you my perspective on that. So you know, I feel good about progress that I was able to make, you know, with previous employers in that space. But I think it gets to a point where oftentimes it's so bred into a culture from the leaders that that founded the company, that could continue to lead the company,...

...that it's hard to retrain those people because it's not as though they just that's their work persona. They were cultured that way. To write. And that was a learning for me too, is realizing that a lot of the leaders that, and for me it's been mostly men, but I don't want to say that I haven't experienced women who struggle with that too, because I have. But you know, realizing that a lot of this stems from who they are right and we're all a product of our childhood and our environment and everything around us, that it's hard for people later in life as leaders, to figure out how to be different. And I would say, you know, I saw some leaders it was really when things came to a head from their personal life and work life that they were getting this feedback of difficult relationships and tension and all of that on both sides of their life. But then they finally were like wait, maybe I need to start doing something about this. But I also think it's something that I totally give credit to younger generations, right millennials and be you know, before beyond that, because they are so much better about saying this is what we want, this is what we'll take, this is what we won't take. I never put boundaries around my life ever. Like you know, I think about when I was raising my kids and, you know, I was working at Microsoft. I would have to sneak out a back door to go, you know, pick my kids up from daycare so I could see them for an hour before they went to bed at night and it just wasn't a septed that you had a personal life outside of work. So when I went into o via it was critical, like in every interview conversation I had with every company this year. I was so open in our first conversation to say, listen, I need psychological safety. I need leaders that lead with empathy first, and if you don't have that, that's fine, like, I get it, you're not there. It's not something you value. But then we you know, we don't need to talk. I love that, like the idea of just making it known from the get go and not just say okay, like I got the job and now I'll try and, like mcguiver, my way into a safe space.

The recent you ever, do you look for that kind of stuff when you're interviewing candidates as well, like knowing that you're trying to create a similar culture of acceptance and like a collaboration and make sure the people feel at home? How do you search for that as you're hiring for folks? Yeah, I'm starting to realize that we're well leadership and recruiting teams and also everyone really had a company is a recruiter, as we're all trying to bring in people that we want to work with and kind of can bet. But I think it stems from, you know, when you put those Jad's out there and you start looking for a team. When you get on that initial call with them, it's sussing out, like how inclusive they are and how collaborative they are, like what sort of personality type are you working with? And I think from a leadership perspective, you want to find a group of leaders who are inclusive and they may not be there yet, but if you feel like that there's there's a chance right that they're they're open to hearing others and bringing in different perspectives. I think that's what you need to look at as you're looking for a new job, whether that's internally at the company or externally. So the inclusivity is really important and that's what I look for, not only on the leadership level, but I say it's just as important on the middle management layer because really a lot of the work gets done in that layer and you know the leaders at the top, you know we're all working together, but it's just as important from both layers. Yeah, so that's what I would I would respond on that one. And the other one I wanted to respond on is Shan. I mentioned a lot of these leaders react to women in leadership roles from a fear base and they just haven't experienced women who may have those qualities. Will call them competitive, assertive, speaks their mind, but in all honesty, that's what we as women are experiencing from our male allies, and so we're we're acting in the way that we think we're supposed to be acting from a business side. So it's almost just leveling out the playing field, regardless of you're in a man or your woman, and you're acting...

...the same way. Treat others as you want to be treated and don't be so surprised when you see a woman who actually just speaks to mind. Or all just people here. We just happen to be, you know, different genders here, different different sex so, and that's what I've experience is I think leaders have been felt challenged, maybe whenever I've stepped in the doors, because I don't have the standard personality traits as what they expected. You know, I wasn't curtseying before I spoke or something like that. So my advice to all those out there is just, regardless of your bringing in a manner of woman, stopped putting these these sex or gender expectations and just expect us to be like business leaders. Yeah, well said, Theresa, and I think the expectation piece is probably often why people stay quiet about hey. I feel like there's a trend and we're have hiring people that, like our whole hiring classes, totally homogeneous, or I it's appears a like one more meet leading meetings, like so and so isn't comfortable bringing their voice up because they're all just trying to fit in. So what are the business impacts outside of the fact that you're we're not creating a safe space, like what are some business direct bottom line impact that you see when it's like you have a silence culture and this should be fixed, because you know it's obviously in the last couple years we've seen so much data around the financial impact of inclusion. Right now we're starting to see it around belonging and it's so interesting. I was at Conference Board New York couple weeks ago. I've Got Conference Board CE Diego next week and a huge theme and topic there is around Dei, and it is interesting right because you've got speakers there talking about Dei. Still, in terms of hey, we've got employee research groups or and resource groups and listening labs and things like that but not really getting to okay. But how do you operate differently, right, like you can have groups where people feel heard,...

...but it's the belonging piece that is difficult, right, and how do you put that into act, into action? And that's something where I think that that I've we've probably all felt the impact of working in a homogeneous type of environment. And what happens, right, is you shut down all of these people that can so massively expand how you think about your business right, and how the products that you're selling and the types of solutions and your messaging and and price modeling, that all of these things, if you get people that are so like minded, they're all coming to the table with the same ideas. And so that's where you know and also the sense of when you have trust and psychological safety built within a team, you bring out the best in each other, right, because it's the safe space where you come to the table and you're excited and you're collaborating, you're emotionally plugged in, and when you don't have that safety there, you just you, you, you don't feel like you can free flow right and like you can brainstorm and be your best because you constantly have a filter of safety and a lens of fear that you're operating through. So true. Sorry, drew spere, and say no. I was also going to respond. So you know I shot said. What's The financial impact on inclusion? That my take. My mainly is coming from the retention piece and I think there are so many companies out there and something about the pandemic brought this out of people where it's like, I don't have to just accept the norm of what was the norm maybe twenty, ten, twenty years ago. I've got so many options. It's a the market places is incredibly open for the job hunters versus the companies, and so there's a big switch in like who's actually making these decisions. I think the thing to think about is if you are an inclusive company and you're focusing on di I and you you're making the changes to get there, you're going to...

...boost morale, which is going to boost the retention internally and you're going to see positive impact. Adversely, if you are trying to attempt but you continue to see that there's nothing actually changing and it's all just speak, or, quite frankly, if they just ignore it, I would say these days. Most people are going to hang on for six months, maybe a year, and the people that stay on for more than a year, who you no care about diversity, those people aren't actually happy. They may be a little bit more introverted or they have a strong aversion to change, but you're keeping these unhappy people there and they're going to create negative morale for the company and you don't want that either. So I think it's a forcing hand that companies will have to focus on Di because that's what folks are looking for. And the last thing I'd say, going back to psychological safety, is part of being a great leader, in my opinion, is you need to create a safe environment. But creating that safe environment is also supporting the folks on the team with their career trajectory. So it's not about retaining your people and forcing them into a role and staying on your team. It's more about supporting them, making sure that they know there have possibilities to be promoted or move into a different role and if they are unhappy or if they don't feel that this is the right role for them, as a team leader, you need to provide that safety net and say hey, go out, go, go find a new role. I think part of the silent culture again is on the individual contributor level is they need to feel like they they can speak to their up to their boss and manager in a free motion that's not going to make them get sacked. So that's the other thing to think about from a silence culture totally. And it's not just individual contributor to direct manager. There's all the cross departmental relationships, because at some point you're going to work for somebody else, maybe within that same company. So what are some ways that we can you know, I guess tips stilly whether our listeners of hey, if...

...you're a rep and you're trying to build those relationships and create that you know, help create that environment. Like, what are some things that you could do, either as a cross departmental potential hiring manager or the Rep who's looking to move into new roles? Yeah, I think for me, I mean I would again like, if I could go back to my younger self, I would have embraced my ability to have uncomfortable conversations and and realized that how powerful that was right and how productive it was, and that it's all about how you go about it. I can also look at my younger self and know that sometimes I didn't know how to balance the emotions versus just, you know, having effective, positive conversations. And so I've learned about myself, like if there's a situation that I am not happy with how it went, I take, you know, about twenty four hours. I step away from it, I gather my thoughts, I leave space so that when I go to the other person to talk to him want, I've given them a heads up of like, Hey, let's talk about this, I'm going to set some time up for us tomorrow, and then I try to be really common rational understand where they're coming from. But I think it's really about people getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversations and realizing that nine times out of ten you're going to have those and they're going to end well, you know, and that's what in the last, you know, five years of my career I've gotten much better about that and coming to the table with one having an open mind, because I can be pretty feisty. So I've learned like I need to, you know, make sure that I'm leaving space for their thoughts in my head, but really understand we both have the same common goal right. We want to attract great people, we want to retain great people, and so how do we do that right as a company? And and so that's really where just understanding. Okay, we both have the same ultimate intent and how we get there might be different, but let's find that common ground and agree on that and also being super clear with people about, Hey, this is how I need you to communicate with me. What do you need from me? Right and making sure that those expectations on both sides are set so that if...

...there is any big discrepancy that early we're dealing with that and working through it. I think on my end I was thinking just setting boundaries was is incredibly important and I think as we talk through retention and we talked through silence culture, one of the things that I've realized. You know, Shana said, you said you were vice to I think for me, I feel like I'm very amenable to my team and I want to support them and you know, I recently experience that. You know, as a manager, if you don't set boundaries of the Jag of the job itself and you don't set boundaries of kind of the relationship and you know, provide an open space again for psychological safety, if you're almost doing a disservice to your team. And so that's something that I want to use moving forward is saying hey, here's what your career goal is and here's what the role is. At some point, you know, as a good manager, you should support that person to kind of veer off, you know, to the left and to the right to support the career growth, but at some point if they start veering too much, have having an honest conversation earlier and say hey, I want to support you, but it's you're moving in a different direction and this is what the role actually needs. And I think that I'm speaking for again the the folks that are on the ground level. Is You don't have to fit that box, but you just need to know this is what the job entails. You don't don't have to stay. have an almost honest conversation with your boss, and my advice for the managers out there is there needs to be some loyalty and trust with your leadership team as well as the folks on your team, and so they come to you and confidence and say hey, this is what I'm looking to do. You know, how do I get there? Introduce them to peers of your so it's across departmental promotion or a move or like support them as they're thinking about how do I actually grow in my career if there's no space for me at the company? And then same thing goes for you in the leadership team. There needs to be trust there. We're at the...

...most appropriate time, you're able to talk to them from a backful perspective. So think it goes back to just trust, creating that psychological safety on both sides of the of the spectrum, and then setting boundaries. Yeah, I love that juries and you said a few things that made me think of like specific moments that for me that stand out, and one is I had a leader that I worked with that I loved, just very passionate, but just didn't create Greek safety for people around him. And oftentimes, as soon as you'd start talking, his heads already thinking about how he's going to like shut you down or whatever, and I would say to him, I need you to listen, to understand, not to respond, and I would prep him with that before we'd have the conversation, and then he would kind of step back and he take a breath because he knows he would know like yeah, the awareness of yes, I need to learn to practice that. And so that was really helpful for us and how we would, you know, have our conversations. But then the other thing too. It's early in my management career. I always tried to be very nice and and I just wanted to be friends with the people I was managing and and I had a boss that was terrifying and everybody was very scared of verse. Incredibly Smart, but very scary. And one day it was during you know, annual review process, and she said to me, who do you think you're doing any favors by not giving hard feedback to your people? And so we're talking about this sort of growth and promotion path for somebody on my team and I was, you know, being honest with her about how I felt and she was like, well, you talked to that person about it? And I said, well, you know, I've kind of touched on it here and there, and she was like you're not helping them, like you're absolutely hurting them if you cannot have that uncomfortable conversation. And so that was a good like entry for me into how to have uncomfortable conversations and the value in that, but it's so much about delivery and tone and communication in doing that right. Like there's a way to do it in a really positive, constructive way and there's a...

...way to do it in a super dener detrimental, destructive way. Yeah, I think what I'm gathering from this conversation is, like silence culture can pop up when people, you know, we don't feel like it's safe, when boundaries have not been said, when communication is not a line. So the ways to solve for that, or I love what you're talking about, to be clear, is to be kind right, like both when you're giving feedback and when you're talking to somebody and you're like, I need you to listen, to understand and not to solve, like I'm prepping you for how I would like you to respond to this, and it starts early in the interview process, when you're building a relationship with folks. And I would venture to guess that it becomes easier the more times you talk about it. Like if, every time you build a new relationship with somebody, you say hey, this is how I would prefer to communicate with you, and like here's some things that I'm expecting and I will you know, reciprocate just makes all those difficult conversations that you would evitably know you're going to have down the road but easier. Yeah, absolutely, and that's what when I had got a new manager at one point and we had that first conversation of I said to him, you know, help me understand like what works best for you and how you communicate and how we operate together, and and he kind of went through everything and and what he wanted out of the relationship and then he asked me the same and all I said to him was just don't be an Asshole, which of course made him super uncomfortable, but that's truly what I meant, like just be nice, like, and that doesn't mean don't give me a hard feedback, but just don't be an asshole about it. You know, you good way to live your life totally in general. Well, I know I have had a phenomenal time chatting with both of you and what a treat to have not one but two guests on this podcast today. So thank you both so much for coming to share your time and your experience and if folks want to get in touch with your talk more about combating silence culture, creating psychologically safe environments of work. What's the best way that they can get in touch with you in Shawn, you can go first. Yeah, they can...

...find me on linkedin and we can connect and just let me know you heard this and want to talk and I'll respond. Yeah, same, same. On my end, drew saw Malie find me on Linkedin. Happy to connect both. On the leadership side, all you female leaders out there, love to hear from you, and all the account executives and sales reps that are moving up the career ladder please reach out as well, and I do know that I just said women only. This is open to anyone, sorry, that is interested in moving up the career ladder. I love spending time with you all and just kind of bouncing ideas. Love that you heard it here. Folks take take them up on it, all right. Well, thank you both so much and hope to have you on the show maybe again. All right. Thanks so much, th instrees and lady, I think so much, instreies. This was another episode of the sales engagement podcast. To help this get in front of more eyes and ears, please leave us a shining five star review. Join US at sales engagementcom for new episodes resources in the book on sales engagement. To get the most out of your sales engagement strategy, make sure to check out outreach that ioh, the leading sales engagement platform. See you on the next episode.

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