Bravely is a new startup that provides companies with one-on-one coaching for their employees to help them resolve conflicts and navigate workplace challenges.
Tell us a little bit about Bravely. How does it work and who is it for?
Bravely is a resource for confidential conflict coaching and communication guidance for employees navigating issues in the workplace, helping them prepare for conversations with managers, colleagues and HR teams. Our easy-to-use platform connects and schedules employees with experienced conflict coaches and HR professionals for conversations about the challenges employees face that can be intimidating to tackle proactively.
How did you find yourselves drawn to the world of human resources and culture?
Sarah: I started my career working in HR before completely switching gears and eventually leading a large sales organization. One thing that always stood out to me and clearly had a negative impact on organizations was employee’s reluctance to surface or talk about issues they were experiencing. It was something I spent a lot of time thinking about when I was managing people. When Toby and I got together and started talking about Bravely, I was instantly obsessed because I knew we were solving a huge problem.
Toby: I’ve only ever worked in startups and high-growth, volatile environments, where team relationships and dynamics consistently proved the number one determinant of success. I’ve long been fascinated by the art and science of how people work together, and concluded long ago that proactive, fearless communication is the keystone to constructive relationships and success. The initial idea for Bravely sparked as I was working to build a telemedicine platform to serve urgent healthcare needs—a friend of mine called me while mid-crisis at her job, at it struck me that she was having an ‘HR urgent care’ moment, and there was a gap in serving employees in need, where a ‘HR telemedicine’ solution could help people in moments like the one she was facing.
Challenges at work often arise out of complex relationships and political dynamics. How do you ensure that your team of Pros has enough context to give guidance?
We work to give as much context as we can to our Pros, and work closely with companies during their onboarding to gather as much information about their company culture and organizational challenges. This context can include a company handbook, values, and code of conduct, as well as a questionnaire we’ve designed to capture what we’ve seen as the most helpful organizational knowledge that can inform root causes of conflict and issues in the workplace. Before a session, we serve our Pros with a brief about the organization, employee and specific issue they’re facing.
Additionally, the crux of how we’re helping employees is rooted in a universality of human interaction. Interest-based conflict resolution, crucial conversation and effective communication frameworks are all designed to work across a wide variety of individuals and organizations, especially when wielded by professionals who have deep experience dealing with the complexities of workplace relationships and understand there are two sides to every story.
Why do you think Bravely is a better choice for companies than hiring permanent coaches?
Bravely is different from traditional internal HR or coaching because we fall outside the walls of the company and everything shared is strictly confidential and off-the-record. Some employees will always struggle to speak up or assert themselves, no matter how great the company or People team might be, and offering Bravely sends a clear signal that they want to support them and offer a safe space for discussing whatever they are facing at work.
We love coaches and believe that everyone deserves access to resources that help them develop professionally. Programmatic, regular coaching can be quite expensive, and the episodic nature of Bravely means lower cost spread out over time and an employee population, meaning organizations can have coaching available for their entire teams in the stressful moments when they most need support. Many of our Pros are certified coaches.
What would you say is the best piece of advice someone has given you for solving a roadblock at work?
Sarah: A few years ago I was locked in conflict with my boss with whom I had a challenging relationship (to say the least). My mother gave me some tough love and pointed out that holding on to the negativity and the need to be right was not going to serve my future and that I would demonstrate more strength if I let go of my ego. She was right. The minute I changed my mindset and approach, the relationship improved dramatically.
Toby: My number one mantra I adopted at the advice of a long-time mentor, that I repeat to myself as I go through life (and the workday especially): “You can’t control other people, only your reactions to them.” Embracing this idea has totally transformed how I approach every interaction with my team, my customers, my investors and even friends and family.
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