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A People Leader We’re Watching: Sarah Pottieger

"A People Leader We're Watching: Sarah Pottieger" next to a headshot of Sarah

This month we spoke to Sarah Pottieger, Head of People at Forum Brands. Sarah shared with us the goals of their coaching programs, how coaching fits into their larger people development  strategy, and how it aligns with their business objectives.

Q: How does coaching fit into your people development and learning strategy?

It’s a big part. It comes back to trying to create an inclusive environment because everyone learns differently, takes feedback differently, and feels guidance differently. 


I know that for some people, if there’s a more senior person giving a training on [a topic like] how to manage, it’s not always easy to trust that this training is going to give them good guidance and tools [since they may wonder] if this is just the way that this person wants me to show up.


Having a third party option has been a good safe space for conversations that don’t need to be between peers, or between oneself and one’s manager, and I think it’s bettered the relationships people have with their managers. 


For someone who might want to talk about a promotion or something that’s been bothering them with another team member, they feel like they get a first pass with their coach and then can bring it up [with their manager]. It’s been good for making things feel more inclusive and for strengthening manager and report relationships.


Q: What are your goals for coaching?

Coaching is a part of our larger learning and development goals. As far as strategy goes, we have a lot of young people leading for the first time, so [we want to make sure] that they feel enabled and empowered by someone that’s not internal. Our goal is simply enablement and making sure that [our leaders and managers] feel empowered to uplevel their own teams.


Q: What role do your business objectives play into creating the coaching programs?

We have two company objectives for the entire year, and one of them is continuing to develop people, [specifically focused] on developing and enabling excellent team members.


Some of the key results [that make up this objective] are a manager effectiveness score, a team inclusion score, and a collaboration and enablement score. Torch plays a huge role in making sure those things are met. I know I’ve become a more effective manager with [coaching] so that directly ties it to a business goal.


Building effective managers is one way that coaching will play a role in supporting our business objectives over the next year. We’ve just had such a shift to learning and development–the shift has gone from hiring and building your best team to retention given the macro environment. I think this [is true for] a lot of companies in 2023. [Our current strategy is] to develop, retain, and keep the good talent you have. To make sure that you’re getting the most out of those people and to make sure that they feel like they’re able to give you the most as well.


Q: Where have you noticed coaching’s impact in your organization?

Some of it is from data from people that have gotten promoted since we’ve had the [coaching] program in place, and some of it is anecdotal… [Employees have] shared that they feel like this really has helped them move on and get confidence. 


I know that for me personally, the way that I have shown up in rooms has changed so much since I’ve started working with my coach. I largely credit her to the confidence piece that’s allowed me to keep moving up, and doing well here, and also being a little more vocal. 


I think that’s the general consensus. [Coaching] has really taught people that you can stay your authentic self while staying professional and showing up in a way that feels elevated for everyone else in the room. I know that that’s been a big impact from the people that I’ve talked to, and that was my personal experience too. 


This article was featured in Torch’s newsletter, Curiouser. Each month, we deliver the latest research, stories, questions, and insights about the art and science of coaching to your inbox. Sign-up and join a community of people who are passionate about growth, learning, and leadership.