How Heather Foeh Manages Her Team

Heather Foeh, VP of Customer Experience at PathFactory, knows the only way to build trust with clients is to first build a trusting team. Heather does this by fostering an open environment where frank two-way feedback is encouraged.

The Nurture & Nudge Philosophy

Heather makes it seem simple: Nurturing and Nudging. Strike an honest balance and you’ll be set.

Nurture is about creating a trusting, honest, and open environment where employees can share without fear. However, if an employee’s performance slips, Heather forces herself to quickly Nudge them back on track right away.
Heather’s tip: provide actionable feedback within 4-5 days of the performance issue. Any longer than that and it loses relevance.

Her “learned-it-the-hard-way” story

The honest truth, as Heather would tell you, is that it came from an experience she had. In her first management role, Heather had an incredible team - but one employee was struggling to keep up.

Heather and the employee talked about a lot of these issues in their one-on-ones. It’s the classic tale of two stories: she thought she was subtle, but clear; they thought the feedback was positive, but constructive.

Then the annual review came. And, when the employee saw themselves in the bottom right “needs work” quadrant they were floored. Turns outs Heather hadn’t been as candid as clear as she thought and the employee had gotten the impression they were doing a fine job. Ouch.

Eventually this led to the employee leaving the company. Why? Well, the same reason most employees leave companies, their manager of course: Heather. Double Ouch. And she found out via an exit interview with the c-suite. Triple Ouch.

From that day forward, Heather began practicing what she calls “nurture and nudge”.

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Yeah, yeah, yeah... How do you actually do it?

Here are three ways to start implementing the Nurture and Nudge way today

#1 Set the expectation of open, two-way feedback.

There’s nothing clearer than just telling people it needs to happen.

Send a "How to work with me" doc

Heather sends every employee a document that outlines how she likes to work. It lets them know she expects them to always bring up whatever issues, questions or ideas are on their mind, and that she will do the same!

Download Heather's Doc

#2 Meet Face-to-Face Regularly

Private face-to-face meetings help her build deeper trust and more authentic relationships with her team.

Heather’s Go To 1:1 Questions

  1. What did you do this weekend?
  2. Do you have any fun trips coming up?
  3. What’s your top priority for the week?
  4. What’s holding you back at work right now?
  5. What’s the thing that’s in your way right now?
  6. What’s going well?
  7. What are you struggling to accomplish by the end of the quarter?
  8. How can I help you?

The Heather Foeh One-on-One

update 30m   date_range weekly   accessibility video + soapbox

One-on-ones are a chance to take everything to a personal level. Not only for personal updates, but company updates, day-to-day work, and professional development.

Start with a few simple, non-work-related questions to reinforce a personal connection. Help them prioritize their day-to-day work and see where they need support. Twice a quarter, devote some time in the meeting to check in on quarterly goals.

Heather’s Team Meeting Agenda

  1. Company news
    • What are you unclear about?
    • How does what you’re working on impact our revenue goals?
  2. Wins & Failures from the team
    • What worked this month? (why)
    • What didn’t? (why)
  3. Project Updates
    • How are you tracking toward your goals?
    • Do you need help?
  4. Guest Update from a different department
    • What are you working on?
    • How does that impact our team?
    • How can we help?

The Heather Foeh Team Meeting

update 1h   date_range monthly   accessibility in person + soapbox

Team meetings are a chance to cover company updates, updates from the team and from other departments, and review metrics.

Start with company news and invite your team to ask questions. Share wins and failures so the team can learn from each other’s experiences. Ask a few people to update the team on their projects. Every month invite someone from a different team to share updates.

#3 Solve Problems Together

Shared Problem? Shared solution.

Heather’s Group Problem-Solving Agenda

  1. Discuss the issue and brainstorm solutions
    • What’s the issue?
    • Why is this happening?
    • What outcome do we want?
    • How will we achieve that outcome?
  2. Decide on a way forward, and divvy up the tasks
    • Which solution is best? [tip: get people to vote in SoapBox]
    • What are the tasks that need to get done to achieve that solution?
    • Who’s doing what?
  3. Set goals
    • When will each task be done?
    • What does success look like?

Group Problem-Solving Sessions

update 2h   date_range ad-hoc   accessibility in person + soapbox

Whenever there’s a big issue to be solved, Heather organizes an in-person sticky session. The team gathers in a room - and they stay until the problem is solved!

Heather and her team have used Discussions like these to solve lots of problems - like how to cut customer onboarding time down from several weeks to one day!

Lightning Round Q&A

How Heather handles the awkward...

You have to put an employee on a performance improvement plan. How do you bring that up?

Two employees aren’t getting along and their negativity is bringing the team down. What do you do?

CX missed their targets and you have to communicate it to the rest of your company. How do you do it?

Be inspired by what inspires her

Books, blogs, videos she recommends...

Want to lead like Heather?

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