‘Psychological safety means you have a culture where people feel comfortable speaking up, they feel comfortable being themselves, they don't worry that if they suggest an idea, or maybe if they disagree with you that they will get that there will be backlash. And so they feel safe coming into the workplace’.
In this episode
In episode #43, Alice Ko walks us through creating psychologically safe teams and shares tips on how you can individualize your approach to management.
Alice Ko is the Director of Marketing Communications at Procurify.
Alice is a Gallup-certified Strengths Coach and a Chartered Professional Accountant
– two career paths we discuss in this episode.
We talk about the importance of creating psychological safety within your team… and why you shouldn’t use a blanket management approach.
Alice also shares great acronyms to improve communication styles, such as RWR, TS and CATTE.
Tune in to hear all about creating strong teams and efficient communication in a remote world.
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Measuring managers by retention
Remote, psychologically safe teams
More than just a worker
Safe outside of the world of tech
Blanket Management Approach
An individualized approach
Strength informed hiring approach
Know your strength, but be self-aware
When does an interview truly start?
Bad communication creates more work
RWR, TS, NRN, and more acronyms
Cats and lattes
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 01:15
Alice, welcome to the show.
Alice Ko, Procurify 02:27
Thank you so much, Aydin It’s great to be here.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 02:29
Yeah, very excited to have you on. You know, there’s a lot that, you know, we’re going to talk about. And one of the things that’s really interesting for me is how diverse your background is. You’ve worked with brands like Louis Vuitton, Earthsea, and also founded your own digital marketing agency. And I want to dig into this concept of being a Gallup certified strengths coach, which I know you are. And today, your director of marketing at Procurify. This is going to be a really interesting conversation I’m excited to dive in. So one thing that I did want to kick things off with is just to rewind, like in your entire career, like spanning all these different companies. What has been a memorable boss or manager that you have who has been a memorable boss or manager that you have reported to in the past? Whether that’s, you know, something very favorable or something very negative or anything that you remember?
Alice Ko, Procurify 03:36
That’s a great question Aiden, and I’ve worked for a lot of different teams, meaning I’ve had a lot of different bosses. And the one common denominator with the good managers is they always built a culture of psychological safety, meaning they cared about me as an individual, I felt comfortable in front of them. And, you know, one of the best managers that I ever worked for, he told me, his name is Curtis, he told me that managers should be measured on retention. And they rarely are, right. They’re measured on things like performance, did you hit your goals, productivity efficiency, but they’re rarely measured on retention, and that really stuck with me. So it’s kind of tied into how I’ve developed my management style, which is all about psychological safety.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 04:25
Yeah, that’s super interesting. You know, you are right. It’s, it’s not a common thing that we talked about. retention is so important for employees across the organization. And, you know, it’s such a topic, but you’re right, I don’t I don’t think most companies have a retention metric for their teams. I’m curious. So let’s talk about this concept of psychological safety. What are some things that you can do to very practically encourage that within your teams?
Alice Ko, Procurify 04:56
Great question. I think it is a different remote. as well. So I think we should start with defining what is psychological safety? I think a lot of people get confused. And I was actually made aware of the term. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the Google project Aristotle, where they studied, I think it was more than 180 teams over two years. They wanted to know what the most successful teams at Google, what made them successful, was it the level of intelligence, was it the people, and they discovered that it was psychological safety that created the most successful teams. And so what this means is that you have a culture where people feel comfortable speaking up, they feel comfortable being themselves, they don’t worry that if they suggest an idea, or maybe if they disagree with you that they will get that there will be backlash. And so they feel safe coming into the workplace. So this makes everybody feel more creative, more effective, that they’re valued for who they are as individuals. And so now that we’ve defined psychological safety, I personally think and what I’ve done in my teams is really get to know everybody’s strengths and differences. Get to know them more than just a worker, who are you as an individual? What was your childhood? Like? What kind of things do you do on the weekends? So things as simple as every Monday on slack? I asked our team Alright, team, how was your weekend? Share your roses, your thorns and your buds. So we talked about everybody’s weekend, first thing Monday morning, before we dive into weekly group meetings, weekly company meetings, little things like that make us feel more connected.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 06:38
Yeah. And I love the terminology there. Roses, thorns and buds. I like that.
Alice Ko, Procurify 06:43
Yeah. And throughout the week, we have to ask social questions. So this is just a way for team members to get to know each other better, because when we’re working remotely, we lose that water cooler chat. I can’t walk up to somebody and say, Oh, you know, why? What are you reading right now? Sure, I could randomly slack that, but it’s not really on our mind. It’s not natural to do that through slack. So we’ve actually programmed this process in. So I think just this past week, the question was, describe your favorite meal, and as much detail as possible. The week before was do you collect anything? The question the week before was, what was your favorite music? Who was your favorite musician from 10 years ago? So little things like this, start to build that psychological safety? Because you learn who your team members really are?
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 07:30
Yeah. And it allows everybody to be their authentic selves, which, which also helps in that? What about this concept? Cuz I know that one of the things that at Procurify, that you advocate is also a con, you know, experimentation and trying things. And, and when there are failures, almost encouraging them? What does that look like, especially in your teams?
Alice Ko, Procurify 07:57
Yes, that is definitely something that Simon stanlake, who is also on the Supermanagers podcast, but something that he has a very strong advocate for learning. I think we’re really lucky in tech, especially because we encourage each other to fail fast, right? We encourage that, it means that we’ve tried something that we’ve taken a bet. And so recently, we’ve discussed the importance of actually, not just celebrating wins, but also celebrating the failures. In our slack. We also have a daily slack bot, where our weekly slack bot, I’m sorry, when we talk about, here’s what I’m doing this week, here’s what I need help on. And we’ve discussed the importance of adding in a field for what did you fail at recently? What do you try? What did you fail at because in this continually builds that environment, of learning, of encouraging each other to take those bets.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 08:52
That’s really interesting. You know, a lot of people talk about celebrating failure when it happens. Because you know, if you don’t, then obviously, people will only try things that they are sure they’re going to succeed at. And that’s not a great environment for growth. But it’s very interesting that you actually work it into your, to your stand ups to actually asked that,
Alice Ko, Procurify 09:13
what we’re going to Yes. And then again, Aydin, this all goes back to the concept of psychological safety. Because when you feel that you’re allowed to fail, you don’t have to be successful, every single thing that continually builds psychological safety on the team. And then this does actually build greater performance.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 09:33
Yeah, I love this concept. And, and that was in the Google study. That was like the top rated factor, right, that differentiated and I guess that leads to retention, but also, like, the most important thing that a manager can do, like if you fail it everything else but you do this one thing. You’ll still be okay. And even more than Okay, exactly. Yeah, I really like that and it’s very interesting. And I’m curious to get your, your thoughts on. I mean, you mentioned that across your the different companies that you’ve been at that there has always been like the constant thread in the managers that have done really well was, you know, they really got to know you can also form psychological safety in places that are not tech. I mean, you’ve worked with large brands and places that are not typically very technical or sprint oriented. Are these things that people do in technology? How does it work there? Like? Are there the same sorts of concepts? Or would you give the same advice of building psychological safety in those teams?
Alice Ko, Procurify 10:40
I’ll answer your last question first. Absolutely. I think anybody who manages anybody, whether you’re a team, lead supervisor, a manager, a director, an executive, you need to think about psychological safety. It is quite different. In a non tech environment. Oh, my goodness, let me think about, you know, I worked in the retail space for quite some time, you know, you mentioned I did work at the headquarters of Louis Vuitton, North America, in New York, I was also at a company called Remy Martin, a French conglomerate that sold alcohol brands. And the culture is different, right? Because these companies have been around for so long, that they developed their own internal culture, right from years and years ago, whereas tech companies now while you know, they’re popping up, a company that’s been around for six, seven years is considered old. So when you work at institutions that maybe have that embedded culture in it already, you have to start with yourself, because it is very difficult to change, to walk into an organization and just say, I’m going to change the culture, you have to start with your own team. Start with the one person that you manage, start with this three. So we start to unpack and start to do these things on your own team, get to know them on a personal level, ask about the personal life, ask about the thorns going on, not just in work, but in life. And then soon, I expect that other teams, other managers will start to see, wow, that team is really thriving. They’re really creative, they feel in sync. They’re safe, what are they doing? And then what you’ve created in your own mini culture starts to expand throughout the rest of the company.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 12:20
Yeah, I think that’s really great advice. Because I think for those listening to podcasts and say, well, that’s easy for you to say, in tech. It’s just built in and you have these concepts. But I love your right. There’s nothing stopping anyone from being able to like practice these things just within their own team.
Alice Ko, Procurify 12:38
Exactly. You don’t need to get permission, you know, really from HR to build out practices within your own team. Start with you.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 12:47
Yeah. So it’s very interesting. And it seems that you’re set like somewhat of a trailblazer, not afraid to try new things in, in your own teams. And one of the things that’s actually interesting about your career is that you actually started as a chartered professional accountant, and now you’re director of marketing. So I’m super curious. How did that happen?
Alice Ko, Procurify 13:15
Yeah, I became a CPA, CA i article that KPMG considered one of the big four. Honestly, I was really interested in the profession. Because the Big Four, typically they come to universities, typically business programs, and they make it sound so wonderful. And it was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to work in a big corporate environment. I wanted to learn from people. I liked the idea of traveling for work, who doesn’t. But I knew as soon as I started at KPMG, it wasn’t going to be a lifelong profession for me. I had actually been a writer, I’d always blog and blog since 2000. For anybody out there remembers blogspot. I was on blogspot. But I stuck with it. I wanted to give it a chance. All right, you know, before didn’t work out for me, let me go work in house. That’s why I moved to New York to actually work in house, you know, I got out of consulting. And I thought, well, maybe this will be different. Let me try this. Let me experiment. And you know, after seven years, I kind of knew no, I need to change. And so it was then that I decided to move back to Vancouver to switch careers. Honestly, it’s it’s hard to get a visa in the United States as a Canadian citizen, so I made that move back for that reason. And while at a red car, I also started experimenting, I was lucky enough that I was able to move from the finance group at tsia into the E cost group. And that’s when it all it was validate for me All right, I need to be working in a faster paced function, such as marketing. This was 2012 right when Instagram was launching, you didn’t do remember when Instagram wasn’t around you imagined. So um, because a lot of companies didn’t know how to use social media and it worked. In the fashion space for quite a long time, I started helping startups with their social media marketing and blogging. And it was that opportunity that I began to grow my relationships in that area, I started to become known as a social media expert, marketing expert for fashion startups. And that is really what kick started my new career marketing.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 15:21
Yeah, that’s super interesting and very inspiring for those that might be doing something, but thinking about another area, and then obviously, you know, continuing to grow in that role, and now you’re leading teams. So that’s a super inspiring story. Hey, there just a quick pause on today’s episode to let you know that we’d really appreciate you helping us spread the word about the Supermanagers podcast, if you’re enjoying what you’re hearing so far, dial into your podcast app of choice, whether that’s on Apple or Android or Spotify. And just leave us a quick review. Now back to the interview. One of the you know, we’ve had a chance to work and discuss things with each other for a while on various platforms, so on Twitter, through our manager chats and things like that. So one of the things that, like we’ve chatted with you about is and you kind of hinted at it here, which is using a blanket management approaches is never really good. I’d love for you to dive into that concept, and specifically strengths and what you do to figure out and really learn about the people on your team.
Alice Ko, Procurify 16:44
Absolutely. So when I say blanket management approach, I mean, you use the same approach on everybody. And when we break it down, we know that’s not going to work because individuals are different. Everybody has different motivations, everybody has different means they have different strengths, they’ve different weaknesses, we already know that applying the same thing to everybody is just not going to work. I was actually introduced to strengths. It’s formerly known as Strengths Finder, outer redsea, the team that it worked on, everybody had to do the assessment, and then we printed out our results, and everybody had them on the wall. So every day, you would see your own strengths. And then you’d see the strengths of your team members. And I thought, Okay, this is interesting. And then add a few other companies that I worked at down the road, oh, we also did strengths. And then I really started to see the value in understanding people as individuals. So what’s the opposite of a blanket approach? It’s an individualized approach, because we know that everybody has, like I said, different needs different motivations, they bring different things to the table. So it makes sense to individualize your management approach. Yes, I am a Certified Gallop CliftonStrengths, the Clifton strengths assessment. For those who don’t know, it sounds, it’s a web assessment based on positive psychology. It was developed by Donald Clifton psychologist, and it’s based on more than 50 years of research. And I think this is what a lot of people don’t know, there’s been a lot of studies around this particular assessment. There are technical studies, validity studies, viability tests. And what I have found personally beneficial to me is that it improves self awareness of yourself. So as a manager, we all manage differently, how I manage is going to be different than how you manage it, right. And this assessment helps you determine how you are different. And then it helps you determine what are the strengths of your different team members. Because everybody that you work with is going to be different. And this creates a shared language within the team. And so it improves your communication. And I’m very passionate about good communication. So when you have this language of strength, it improves your communication with other people. It improves your understanding of who to partner with. And then it actually helps you give feedback easier, and it’s easier to resolve complex. And this all ties again back into psychological safety. Because when you make somebody feel appreciated for who they are as an individual, and you say to them, you know, what, how do you like to be managed? How do you like to be managed? How can I set you up for success? It’s going to be different than the next person. Let’s talk about it. You create, again, you’re building foundation of psychological safety. And then people are going to be more creative, more engaged, and you’ll have better retention.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 19:40
Yeah, I love this concept. And so how do we like for those that are looking to implement some of this within their own teams? There’s so many different, I guess, assessment types out there. There’s the enneagram. There’s disk, there’s just like so many. Where does one get started.
Alice Ko, Procurify 20:00
That is true. There are so many assessments. And you know, I’m biased, because like I said, I’m a Clifton strengths coach, I would say, do your research, talk to other people, talk to other people in your company, because your company might have rolled something out already. I can certainly say for myself that I appreciate strengths, because it’s based on more than 50 years of research, they have quite a large database, almost 25 million people around the world in more than 100 countries have done this assessment. And like I said, there have been a lot of technical studies to support strengths.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 20:36
Yeah, this makes a lot of sense into what actually drove you to become a certified strengths coach versus just doing the assessment and getting other people to do the assessment.
Alice Ko, Procurify 20:47
Okay, okay, I will tell a story about how I became a strength coach, like I said, I started at Procurify as their very first full remote team member. And what I mean by that is, I was interviewed remotely, and I started remotely, the very first one, and started at the team. And this team is amazing, they have amazing values, they treat each other like family. And for a new person coming in, it was honestly quite difficult to understand the culture and understand what was going on. And I was in a few remote meetings, where I noticed some conflict. I noticed, Oh, that’s interesting. We’re not really understanding each other. We’re having disagreements, people are leaving these meetings, not in a good mood. I wonder why, you know what, let me bring in the strengths assessment, to the marketing team specifically. So I was lucky to have a CMO that really encouraged to this, she had done the assessment herself. Alright, let’s do it. So we had everybody on the team do the assessment I have, because I have been so familiar with it, I gave a workshop and explained, okay, this is what it is. And then when I presented the team springs on a grid, Alright, everybody, here’s our team grid, here are the strengths that we have in common. Here are the strings that we don’t have as much of and that was a lightbulb moment, I think, for everybody on the team. And we really understood that, wow, we are different. Here’s how we’re similar. And here are some individuals with very specific strengths. There was a lightbulb moment. And it was from then on that I decided, well, this is so effective, that I want to increase my learning and really understand how to coach a team on how to use this framework more effectively. And so yeah, just in my, as a manager, myself, I individualized my approach. So I have one person who is very, very high in a strength called harmony, you know, she doesn’t like conflict. So how I manage her is very different than somebody else with a strength of high command, high self assurance, they don’t really mind conflict that much, they don’t really need a lot of one on one time. So this has really improved my relationship and management style, which my team members.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 23:03
Yeah, I really like this. It’s very interesting. I mean, the other day, I heard this stat about manager training, that the average person doesn’t get manager training, or the average manager doesn’t get manager training until 12 years into their career. So that’s just like an incredible, incredible stat. But what I was gonna say is, I feel like this kind of whatever personality assessment of choice that you have, I feel like one should, because one should dive deep and really understand this stuff. Because it’s such an important part to actually be able to, like take these things into consideration for, you know, obviously managing a team, but I suspect that you probably use this for hiring as well, when you said, you know, our team is missing strengths in this area.
Alice Ko, Procurify 23:50
Thank you for picking that up. And I will say that this tool, and all tools, they’re not meant to be the one and done solution, specifically for strengths. They actually say you cannot use this or recruiting and I’ll tell you why. Because people can gain the assessment, right? You can give somebody an assessment, and they can say, Well, I think I’m looking for somebody really competitive. And then they’ll answer the assessment to sway the results. And that’s why, however, you can use this assessment, you can look at your team grid, and you can say, you know what, we’re already really high on this type of strength, we probably need some people who have these strengths, the discipline or focus. So how can we structure the interview to determine if the candidate has the strengths? So you can certainly tailor your interview questions, but certainly not to use this strictly for recruiting and that’s for all personality assessments. Yeah,
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 24:42
This is really interesting. How, how hard is it to remember all these things about the different people on your team? Is it like it becomes second nature is the first week hard and the second week is a little less hard? Or how does it work?
Alice Ko, Procurify 24:59
It certainly can be overwhelming depending on the size of your team. So I started with the marketing team. And then I started doing workshops for the rest of the company, the leadership team has also done their strengths. And so it always starts with self. So if you’re a manager, the most important thing for any individual doing this, it starts with self awareness starts with understanding, okay, who am I? What is my report say? What are my top 10 to 12 strengths? What are my lower five strengths? Start with yourself And then start to pay attention to your own strengths in the workplace. So Aydin, I’m not even sure if you’ve done the assessment, have you?
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 25:35
No, I haven’t. I’m so curious, though.
Alice Ko, Procurify 25:37
Okay, so let’s say I’ll just pick a strength I’m, I’m a very high activator, and the strength of activator means I am very good at bringing ideas to action. I’m the one in the meeting that says, Okay, well, what are our next steps, guys? What are our next steps? Can wait to get started, let’s go. Let’s go activate, activate. With every strength, there’s also what they call an Achilles heel. Right, with great power comes great responsibility. And I have to look out for when my activator is causing the team stress, or when it’s actually hindering me as a manager, is if I’m encouraging people to just start ideas, just go go go, I have to be aware that that might be stressing people out, that might be causing them anxiety. So I have to dial back my activator in certain situations, and dial it up and others. So always start with self. How am I showing up as a team member? How am I showing up as a manager? And then you can start to look at everybody else on your team. There’s only 30 only, there’s only 34 strengths. But you can start to slowly understand them one by one, depending on what is in your group.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 26:44
Yeah. And is it the sort of thing that changes over time? So for example, would you ever do the assessment again, five years from now?
Alice Ko, Procurify 26:52
Great question. They have done test retest studies are Gallup, specifically on the Gallup CliftonStrengths? And there’s about a set if you read the technical papers, there’s about a 70% match, based on the test that we did. I personally have done the assessment, seven years apart, my top five stayed the same, but my six to 10 change. So certainly, because human beings, we as people, managers, we change we develop. So of course, it makes sense that your strengths would shift. But it’s highly unlikely that your number one strength would drop to be your deadlift, strength, does that make sense? to consistently shift depending on how you’ve developed as a person throughout the years?
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 27:37
Yeah, it’s always really interesting. I feel like if you’re maybe well into your career, that some of those things are maybe more stable. But, you know, if you’re just straight out of school, then I don’t know. Maybe it’s more variable. But I don’t know that, I’m hypothesizing.
Alice Ko, Procurify 27:54
That’s a great hypothesis Aydin, you’re right. A lot of colleges, a lot of university students do this assessment at their school as they’re trying to confer or think about careers that they want to be in. Absolutely.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 28:06
Yeah, no, that’s super interesting. So you don’t use it for hiring, but you use it, well, maybe you don’t give it to candidates, but you definitely help it in like it helps inform your hiring.
Alice Ko, Procurify 28:18
Absolutely. I’ll give you another example. There was a there was another very small startup team that I worked on, it was four or five people, I can’t remember two founders, two founders, when we did the assessment, all of their strengths, Britain, the relationship category, these founders are so relationship focused, high empathy, right, like high include or high people scrapes a bit lower on the execution side. And so as they hired into their team, they hired a lot of contractors who had very strong execution strengths. And of course, they gave the assessment to the contractors after, but it was really interesting to see like, wow, this is how they compensated, or this, you know, suppose a gap in execution strikes, they were hiring relationship. And while they didn’t give this assessment to people they knew who to hire for. So as they interviewed people, as they brought in contractors, they knew that those what they were good at what the contractors were good at, would bring in things that they were missing.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 29:22
Yeah, no, that’s a smart way to play it. And the sense that I’m getting is whatever the assessment type that is your favorite are the one that you’ve researched that for, you know, that speaks to you and your specific use cases. It’s about self awareness, right. And I think that you will hopefully become more self aware over time, or you can accelerate it and maybe get there faster, and this might be an approach to help with that. And on top of that, I was gonna say that in a world where a lot of people are remote, I feel like you’re it’s going to take a while. longer period of time for you to pick up on the nuances of someone’s personality. And so something like this might you know, it’s useful in normal times, it’s even more useful today.
Alice Ko, Procurify 30:10
You’re absolutely right Aydin, it speeds up the level of which you can understand and get to know new people on your team in remote environments. Because as we discuss you, you lose that water cooler, you lose the walk to the coffee shop. Right? And so this is a way to speed up building that psychological safety on the team, you know, if you have if you have a high empathy strength. All right. Well, this assessment says that you have high empathy, and now my team members know that it didn’t take three months for them to figure it out.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 30:43
Yeah, this is interesting. And I think like another related concept here is we talked about manager Read Me’s. And there’s somewhat controversial. Some people believe that some people don’t. But this is another way to, like, I guess, feed into that.
Alice Ko, Procurify 30:59
Yes, yes. And we talked about feedback briefly, right. But again, this is really useful for managers to use as a performance management and development tool for their team members. We talked about the Achilles heel, right? Every strength also has an Achilles heel. But then also, some people are not as dominant in other strengths. So these are growth opportunities. I know, you know, Simon talks about growth mindset a lot. And this is exactly one of the ways that you can help your team members determine, well, what do you actually need to work on? Right, you can give them feedback. And then the feedback becomes less personal. People are offended when you give them feedback based on their strengths. So you can say something like, you know, in the meeting, I noticed that you didn’t speak up about xyz. Let’s work on bumping up your communication strength. Or Oh, you know, in the meeting, I noticed someone might say to me, you know what, Alice, I noticed in the meeting that you just wanted to go, go go, you kept asking about next steps. Maybe you could have spent some more time to be deliberative and analytical. Oh, okay. Now using the power of language of strengths, I’ve gotten feedback, I know have something to work on. Now I know where I can continue to grow.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 32:14
Yeah, so that’s interesting, because I know Gallup is very big on managing strengths in general. And I guess there’s a school of thought, where you’re always improving your weaknesses. And then there’s, I think, the more Well, this, certainly, I’m a fan, which is figuring out what your strengths are, and doubling down on them. And so I like that they’re reframing these things, all of them as strengths. And even if it’s, you know, maybe weaker than your other strengths, it’s still a strength.
Alice Ko, Procurify 32:44
Absolutely, there are no, all strengths are neutral, there are no good strengths, there are no bad strengths. And the best leaders, you know, the best leaders, the best managers are self aware. They know what they’re good at. They know what their strengths are. And they can draw upon the right strength at the right time. And then they can draw that out in their team members as well.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 33:04
Yeah. And so have you figured out, you know, just going back to the hiring concept, so if you know that there is an area that you’re looking for, do you? Do you actively try and figure out questions or get the candidate to talk about scenarios where you can actually test for those things?
Alice Ko, Procurify 33:22
Yes, absolutely. I actually worked with a career coach a few years ago, who gave me the greatest advice when assessing candidates, or even if you’re, you know, a consultant assisting clients, the interview starts the moment that you email them, when you get on a call with them. The interview doesn’t start with the interview, the interview starts before. So if you’re looking for somebody with high responsibility, you know, high reliability. Well, in the email, did they contact you, when they said they were going to? Did they email you when they say they’re going to? Does that make sense at Procurify? I think a lot of companies do this. Now we do technical assignments. So I’ll send out a technical assignment to the candidate. And I’ll say, when do you think you can get this back to me? And they’ll give me a date, sometimes a time. And I pay attention to that. If they send back the assignment. At that time that they indicated, okay, this person is probably, you know, very accountable to deadlines. And so you can start to assess how people will fulfill things that you’re looking for, or through their behavior and actions. Yeah, I don’t have to ask them will tell me are you reliable? Are you responsible? You can see it in the way that they respond to your emails, write emails, and look for people with very good remote communication skills written and verbal. Look at the emails that they’re writing to you. Are they clear and concise? Yeah,
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 34:45
that’s super interesting, all these different interview methodologies where you’re actually so you know, it’s an easy task that everybody would get, you’re actually not looking for the content of the tasks. You’re looking for. The meta situation around it. So that’s super interesting. I have to tell you this story, I forget which company it was, but when I heard this story of an interview, I think it might have been for a theme park or something like this. And they were really looking to hire very helpful people. And what’s interesting is they would do these group interviews where everybody would sit in a room, and one by one, they would look at them, and they’d say, you know, you Why do you want to work at this company? And what was interesting was, I mean, obviously, their answer did matter. But the other thing that they really paid attention to was everybody else in the room, all the other candidates? And were they looking at that person? Were they nodding? Were they being supportive? Or were they like trying to practice what they were going to say, in their own heads and not paying attention? And so I just thought that was really interesting. Now, I don’t know how effective it is, or something, you know, and whether it’s a good approach or a bad approach. But it’s interesting, it just reminded me of looking at things surrounding the actual task as signals to test for things that you’re looking to hire for.
Alice Ko, Procurify 36:06
Wow, that’s such an interesting story. I love that I completely agree with what you said, Look at those signals. What are the actions? What are the behaviors that your candidate is presenting to you? Is that the type of person you want on your team?
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 36:19
Yeah, it’s super interesting. You know, one of the other things, Alice, that I know you’re passionate about is good communication. You have this, you have this quote that we found, which is, which is really cool, which is bad communication creates more work, I’d love for you to just dive in. And tell us more about that.
Alice Ko, Procurify 36:40
I am so excited to talk about this with you. Bad communication creates more work, especially in remote environments. As human beings, we are wired to crave certainty. And in a remote environment, we lose the context, we’re not surrounded by people, I can’t look over my shoulder and look at someone’s face and see what everybody else is working on. Clarity creates calm, I say this to my team all the time, clarity creates calm. Communication helps create clarity. And this is really important because improving your written communication skills, and verbal, this actually decreases burnout. And again, we can go back to burnout. You know, this leads to poor performance, and engaged people hire Christian. So this is why starting with basic good communication skills is crucial. When the quality of our communication goes up, the quality of everybody’s work goes up and the quality of everybody’s life goes up. And so I’m a really big acronyms person, people on my team will know this. And so to help, one of the easiest things that people can do is actually use communication shortcuts in a remote environment. Because even if you ever get a message from somebody and they say Aiden, can you send me x y, Zed, and you’re in the middle of living? And you’re and you think to yourself, okay, well, do you need it now? Do you need it now? Or can I give it to you in an hour? Can I give it to you tomorrow? So adding something as simple as we use RWR reply when ready? This can All right, this will look Okay, so now Aiden knows he can reply when he’s ready. You don’t need it ASAP. And if you need it ASAP, just type in TS, time sensitive.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 38:21
I love that.
Alice Ko, Procurify 38:22
Yeah, these small tips and tricks that we’ve implemented in the marketing team have really made a huge difference in terms of leveling up our remote communication.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 38:32
So RWR and TS, what are some other ones? This is such a great tactical tip that I have to dig in.
Alice Ko, Procurify 38:40
Okay. Yep. So we use a lot of our DVR, we use time sensitive. We also use something called NRN. no reply needed, again, in slack threads or teams threads, you’d have this thread that’s going on just 15 messages. All right, somebody just cut it off at some point. All right. Here’s our decision. It just wanted to share this and read no reply needed. We can stop.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 39:04
Yeah, that’s super, super useful. You know, it’s, can we talk about an example or it could be a mock story of where bad communication can create more work?
Alice Ko, Procurify 39:16
Yes, I have this other acronym. It’s called cat a cat plus latte equals latte. Simple things like really written communication are things like D. Did you add context? That’s the C. Hey, did you answer the question? t Did you give a timeline? Another T, were you transparent? in IE, you add an emoji for emotion. And so let’s go through an example actually. So this actually just happened to me yesterday. I was asked to change a sales deck. Oh, can you add transactions? Can you add transaction sales duck? Great, no problem. So I talked to the product. Team, I talked to our CTO, I got the number of transactions. But guess what? That person didn’t mean the number of transactions. They meant dollar value of transactions. Oh, no. So that communication creates more work. And this was on both of us. This was on me, I didn’t ask for clarity. You know, I didn’t actually ask, Well, what do you mean, when you say transactions? And so, again, adding context, you know, asking for more details, this now I have to go do this again, to go pull the information. Again, I tell both people, we’ve lost a day at creating more work for myself.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 40:43
Start with your communication. So how would you do this is very interesting, because this happens all the time. Right? And what would you do differently? If you could rewind back in time? Yeah, I mean, I guess like, you could say, well, if they were more clear, but I think, generally speaking, we have to try and control her own destiny. So if it was on you, what would you do differently?
Alice Ko, Procurify 41:05
Sometimes I don’t think slack or teams or email, or DNS actually helps to get across really important messages, I would have called this person using Slack phone or just call them on phone, say, hey, let’s talk through this. Let me clarify everything that you’re thinking of. So I would have asked, I would have asked more for more context as well, right? Like, Oh, well, why do you want transactions? If I had asked, Why do you want it this way? Or if that person had just given me more context to begin with? I would have easily figured out what they had meant by transactions.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 41:42
Yeah, no, that’s super interesting. And I love the acronym too. So we’ll also include that in the show notes. It reminds me I love that it starts with context. Context is so interesting. I recently heard the story of there’s a very design minded CEO. I guess he worked at Apple and worked with Steve Jobs or something. And so he was in the room. And, you know, the product team presents something. And then he just asks a question of like, have you considered this? You know, fast forward six months, there’s a new product branch based on that feedback. And he finds out and He’s surprised. He’s like, what? Like, why? No, I was just asking, because I was curious. And so again, it’s this concept to have context. So sometimes it’s important to understand and say, Well, you know, just show, you know, it’s mostly because I’m curious, no action necessary. But here’s why I’m asking this question.
Alice Ko, Procurify 42:35
Yes, exactly. Exactly. You know, there’s,
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 42:38
There’s a lot that, you know, we were able to get to and some things that we were not, but I think in general, this has been so interesting. But there is one question that I did want to leave you with. And this is something that we ask all of our guests, which is for all of the managers and leaders out there constantly looking to get better at their craft of management and leadership? What parting advice, tips, tricks, or even words of wisdom? Would you leave them with?
Alice Ko, Procurify 43:09
The first thing that I’ll reiterate is what Curtis told me, which is that managers should be measured on retention. And there have been studies that indicate managers actually account for 70% of the variance in some of these performances. So think about how you can increase the psychological safety on your team. How can you go from boss and manager to a coach that has been really helpful for me and my management practice, learn how to be a better communicator. Communication creates clarity, and clarity creates calm. And this helps to build psychological safety and we have psychologically safe teams, your better performance, more engagement, lower turnover.
Aydin Mirzaee, Fellow.app 43:55
That’s awesome. And a great place to end it. Thank you so much for doing this.
Alice Ko, Procurify 44:01
Oh, thank you so much, Aydin This was so fun. And like I said I absolutely love Fellow, so thank you for building that tool. Thank you.