The Impact of Boon’s “Be Human First” Coaching Model at Start-ups

At Groq, tradition isn’t exactly their approach. In fact, the opposite is becoming their reputation. They live the mindset of first principles thinking, meaning they look at everything and decide what it should be. 

From their technology to their interview process, they’re committed to innovating – a value that has attracted incredible talent density to the AI accelerator start-up. Everyone at Groq comes from some background of success. The gravity of those past experiences means they could either decide what past experiences to adopt or invent the ones they always wanted. Changing habits can be rocky, but once the goal is set, Groq carves a path straight to it with the intent of learning along the way. This doesn’t mean being different for different sake, but rather a result of their cultural axioms – building great teams, focusing on growth through talent density, and innovation via first principles. 

When it came to empowering employees to realize their full potential, they committed to being different. What most start-ups don’t do is focus on motivational drivers for their employees at every stage of the company, from “start-up” to “scale up.” The latter requires balancing the push mode of leadership – tell, direct, delegate – with the pull approach – empower, collaborate, coach. So they went external and partnered with us, recognizing that our influence would positively catalyze changing habits brought from past experiences. 

We are a leadership coaching company, working by the non-traditional “be human first ©” coaching model. In essence, our experienced ICF PCC level Executive Coaches work with leadership and talent to first dive deep into themselves and their potential. This empowers them to bring their true selves to the professional work they do every day in order to explore how they can use their personal strengths to positively impact their team and company culture as a whole. 

It looks something like this: Boon believes the future of leadership is human. 

Our “be human first ©” model drives the work we do. We start by working with leaders and talents  (humans) to understand themselves before they move into understanding themselves as leaders. We uncover past and current patterns and behaviors, belief systems and self-talk to become more aware of one’s current impact on teams, cross-functional teams, and the community as a whole. Our Executive Coaches understand that these insights are only valuable if they can be translated into meaningful opportunities for reflection and action. So we then connect the dots by having them work with their own teams, and cross-functional teams, in new ways. This has a ripple effect on organization performance as a whole – as we drive a sustainable and positive impact on communities, we learn how to deal with work, and that work does not have to be so hard. 

We believe that to become a leader means connecting to your inner purpose. That means the process of becoming a true leader is to connect with the person you were born to be – to explore your personal toolbox of talents, inspirations, dreams while also recognizing weak spots or struggles, past and present. It also means looking at what works for you as a leader but also what works for the families that count on us.



Working with the Individual

The first step in the process is an all-hands call with all participants, where all the coaches take time to introduce themselves personally, giving all participants a feel for who they could be working with. The coach selection is then done via the personal and digital matching service that we provide. Our password protected digital platform allows each participant to go to their own program, and after reading the coaches’ bios again they select a few coaches to interview. It’s mission critical to select a coach they feel a connection with, and to then make their choice. It is seamless, intuitive, and provides a feeling of safety in the journey of choosing a coach.

After choosing a coach, the deep dive towards your purpose or, “who are you and why you are here” begins. We get to know the leader, before they became a leader, and what their journey to date has looked like, both personally and professionally. We say, “Let the heart speak, and listen to it.” This helps us discover old and current patterns and behaviors, belief systems, and self-talk. This also means we focus on “who you are” before we move into “what you do and how you do it.” We don’t want to stay in the past, but we want to understand it to be able to move forward, renewed. This is done through lots of inquiry between the leader and the coach. Open-ended questions, process work if necessary, and an alignment of mind and body – all of which take work – hard work – and courage.  

We recognize that we spend most of our time working and living without actually being aware of how we are really doing, mentally and physically. We are moving forward in auto pilot, a state of busy-ness. And if we are not careful, we twist our teams to do our psychological bidding. Instead, we work towards understanding the why of our leadership first. This requires us to grow up. To do that, we have to be willing to face what we carry. 


Working With Direct and Cross-Functional Teams

This is when we explore how relationships are built and maintained – to genuinely “feel” connected to our people, to understand what team members need, and how to develop them. We encourage this by spending time with them with curiosity and active listening, being with them in the moment, and figuring out what skills and capabilities can and need to be enhanced, and then how to unlock those. 


Working with the Organization

This is about finding ways to connect with external networks. We look at the organizational system as a whole, fanatically wanting to calibrate it to what it takes to shape the industry our clients operate in.

Our coaching program is for everybody and there is an impact across the board. This is coaching at scale. It does not stop at the C-suite. We assume that the focus should not only be on the leaders so everything gets better, we assume that when coaching is offered to teams it creates a multi-layered impact. We focus on all people managers in the company, supporting them in connecting with their team members in the best human way possible

Throughout it all, we use a qualitative 360 degree feedback process to help our leaders clearly see their strengths and weaknesses as well as to understand how they are being perceived. These confidential reviews offer a clearly articulated, well-rounded review for a Leadership Development Plan. Composed of feedback in 20 minute conversations from a group of 4 peers, board members are hand selected by the leaders themselves to ensure they receive comprehensive feedback from people they trust in their development process. The coaches create an insightful handwritten report. And on point, you don’t have to skip through mindless data which is less relevant to the journey we are on – this is feedback on the goals we are working on very hard. We run this qualitative 360 degree feedback at the beginning of the journey, and oftentimes at the end as well, to understand the full impact.


Coaching at Scale

In the larger group we do things a bit differently. Matching the ambitions of our clients, we feel building communities among them empowers the teams. Specifically at Groq, we used a combination of the one-on-one coaching sessions and added group coaching sessions called “Groq Circles.” In these groups of five, we created a development cohort that felt supported and safe to learn together with their peers. It’s more a flexible process to tap the collective wisdom of a diverse group of employees, based upon topics such as Trust, Conflict, and Building Relationships.

It’s impactful as a reinforcement of organizational values and culture. One of our coaches facilitates this process for the cohort, igniting curiosity and stimulating discussion to enable a creation of shared norms and values. This ignites the “be human first” culture, even without the coach, as relationships are formed and sustained. Biweekly there is either a one-on-one or group coaching experience, providing rich and impactful interactions that can be passed on to immediate and cross-functional teams. Learning by doing at it’s finest.


Care Spaces

We also support our clients through “Care Spaces ©” They are based on the idea that mind and body are one, reflecting our perspective of looking at humans as a whole, including mind, body, and spirit. Care Spaces © are used as a tool to help create awareness around topics concerning Cognitive Flexibility, Health, Recovery, Movement. Creating awareness around caring of your mind, body, and spirit has a direct impact on your performance and state of being. This support focuses on developing our leaders’ Cognitive Flexibility through mindfulness and meditation. Cognitive Flexibility is a skill that is helpful in being resilient in stressful and constantly changing times. How do we deal with a pandemic while working from home, striving to be a patient parent, AND being the creative employee who is constantly available? There are lots of examples of the current challenges we as humans face and we help deliver a few tools to face these challenges with. That’s why we integrated Care Spaces © into our coaching programs, which can include Mindfulness Workshops and a 5 Day Meditation Challenge. We are now looking into the other Care Spaces ©, including Strategic Recovery through Sleep, Fueling Health through Nutrition, and Gaining Energy through Movement. We are looking forward to gaining more knowledge around these topics as we believe healthy minds live in healthy bodies.



Having an Impact

We are experiencing the impact we are after as we see shifts inside the organizations we work with. Many clients, mostly those who have been facing honest questions, have been reflecting with their loved ones, their teams, and their coaches. This introspection leads to more self awareness and how our behaviors impact others. For some leaders, this means looking at limiting thoughts and beliefs and moving towards the belief that anything is possible. For all, it means a better understanding of how one leads and what one expects of themselves. At Boon, we’re igniting the sparks of curiosity amongst leadership at client organizations to move forward in a way that is not just comfortable, but in a way that will inspire people. This is not always easy but we know that taking time to listen, reflect, learn, and grow will help us get there collectively. It’s about starting or even just encouraging the dialogue, leaving no stone unturned in order to learn. Some of this is basic, some of it is more refined, but it’s all possible. It’s a testament to our passion for cultivating organizations with work environments that lead to fulfilling lives.