Daniel Koffler

How to Reward Your Incredible Team: With Daniel Koffler

Are you a business owner who is responsible for the determining the pay of your team members? If so, then you know how tricky this can be. There are so many variables to consider!

My guest today is Daniel Koffler, CEO of New Frontiers executive function coaching. He leads a team of coaches, but isn’t clear on how exactly he should compensate and reward them for their amazing work. His team members have an array of responsibilities, so compensation is a bit of a gray area. Daniel also wants to ensure that their pay is sustainable.

I recommend that Daniel take stock of where they already are today. What are his team members doing right now that is generating the most value? How are they currently being rewarded? Then he can start to develop a process and rules that each team member can understand so there are no gray areas.

Listen to this episode for the nitty-gritty details on what goes into creating payment structures and opportunities for your team members.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back™. For those of you who have never heard of The Journal That Talks Back™, it's a new service that we're providing that allows young professionals to get coached at an affordable and accessible way. So we invite you to take a look when you have a moment.  

Today I want to introduce to you our guest. I'm very excited to invite our guest to the call. His name is Daniel Koffler and he comes to us from New York, Brooklyn. Am I right, Daniel? It's Brooklyn? 

[00:00:43] Daniel Koffler:
That's right.  

[00:00:43] Kim Ades:
And he is the CEO of a company called New Frontiers Executive Function Coaching. Daniel, welcome.  

[00:00:51] Daniel Koffler:
Thank you so much for having me, Kim.  

[00:00:53] Kim Ades:
So tell us about your business, tell us about you. What do you do? How long have you been doing it for? And... share. I'm always excited to talk to other people who run coaching companies!  

[00:01:03] Daniel Koffler:
I spend most of my time talking about what we do, so I'm excited to have this opportunity to do so here, for you and your audience. So, at a basic level, we provide executive functioning coaching, which speaks to time management, organizational skills, processing, sequencing information, kind of like frontal lobe activities, which frankly– well, I'm not familiar with any station in life and society that does not require an adherence to these skills, but we don't do a whole lot to teach these skills. 

[00:01:40] Kim Ades:

[00:01:40] Daniel Koffler:
You kind of expect people to just absorb them through osmosis or through life experiences, which is not a hundred percent incorrect, I mean, that is how many of us learn, but it's also at times a virtuously painful way to learn for some and for others, it is not a practical way. 

It's not a way– you actually won't develop the skills, the foundations to be successful, independent in life. The genesis of this is my family's in the school business. We build and operate private schools.  

[00:02:10] Kim Ades:

[00:02:11] Daniel Koffler:
And, over the years, we've operated general ed schools, special ed schools, K-12s, early childhood, it's kind of across the range of programming. 

We had a special education program, K-12, where, you know, the expectation and the hope was that children would graduate from that program at 12th grade and they go to college. And what was happening was a lot of the students, and their parents in particular, were concerned that they were not fully prepared for that transition to college, based on kind of where they were skill-wise, not necessarily academically, more socially, but perhaps academically as well.  

And so, we decided to take that feedback and design an individualized program to support these individuals as they transition to and through college, to ensure that they have a successful experience and a meaningful one. 

What from there happened was we started getting calls from those same families who were working with us about their other sons and daughters who are perhaps kind of, you know, classified as neuro-typical, rather than having a diagnosis of something that might impact their, their ability to kind of move forward. 

So we started working with a neuro-typical population and then the same concept applied to age ranges. We started getting folks coming to us, not just (...) college, but in their mid forties or in their early teens. You know, with similar circumstances, the work can be applied to any willing individual, any willing population, that's really kind of the criteria. 

Are you willing to accept the help? It's really hard to ask for help, it's really hard to accept the help. It's not for everybody. And so, we were very sensitive about that. So, today we see folks across the globe, we have approaching 300 active clients.  

[00:03:52] Kim Ades:

[00:03:53] Daniel Koffler:
A stable of coaches with a whole range of backgrounds and capabilities and styles. And thank goodness we're busy. And again, interestingly for us, the purpose of our work, essentially, if worked to demonstrate our success, people aren't are no longer working with us, right? Like we're moving them out of our envelope, 'cause they developed the skills to do these things independently and to use those to problem-solve through the next issue that comes their way.  

So, we love the work, we're super proud of it, as I hope you can tell from you know...  

[00:04:27] Kim Ades:
I can! I can hear the enthusiasm and the passion for sure. So, before we jump into you, who would a typical client be? They would be someone who comes to you saying "I am struggling with..."?  

[00:04:41] Daniel Koffler:
It's hard to say what typical is this example, right? I think that most people view us as a place you go to if you have like a mild or significant kind of ADHD diagnosis, so you have, you know, the ability to do whatever you want to do, but you struggle to kind of like, you know, put it in sequential order and kind of like stay focused and accountable. 

Accountability is a big part of what we offer. So, defining and establishing goals and then working backwards to take the steps necessary to accomplish those, but holding one accountable. A lot of folks stumble at that step and that's a big part of what we add. 

So again, we have folks who call us who are in their fifties, a family, a business, and they're like "listen, we've gotten this far and we've been successful. We've always been able to strategize through situations. We're at a point that we no longer are able to. We don't have the tools". Is an example.  

Another example could be a kid who's, you know, Ivy bound, a super high achieving individual who just their parents did everything for them, or someone did everything for them. They never learned how to kind of like organize themselves, independent of somebody else supporting them. 

And then of course we have folks who have more significant needs, who are going to require supports and perpetuity. The beautiful thing of our work is that because it's so individualized, we have coaches who can work with those three types of clients in the same week amongst others, because they're focused on that particular person's circumstances for that period of time. 

[00:06:06] Kim Ades:
Got it. Okay. Super interesting. Very fascinating. I know lots and lots of people who could use your help. But you're here on The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast. Tell us what is your greatest challenge today and how can I help you.  

[00:06:20] Daniel Koffler:
Well, so let me preface it by saying anybody in the coaching industry worth their salt should recognize and appreciate the value of being coached, from receiving coaching. I don't have all the answers. I run an organization, I have people who depend on me to kind of think these things through and to make decisions. And one of the issues that has been really kind of a thorn in my side, not because it's not important, but because I just don't have the answer to it, the right answer. 

And we've been working on this hard and we'll continue to work on it, I'm hoping that your input can help influence this decision. It's related to compensation and evaluations. So, we have a team... you know, the wonderful thing about my– one of the wonderful things about my team is that people who are doing this work are put on this Earth to help people. 

[00:07:05] Kim Ades:

[00:07:05] Daniel Koffler:
So, it's not a money thing. And you hear about the great resignation and people are changing jobs all the time, and it's a very current conversation. My particular view is that people are not feeling inspired at work. We don't have that problem at my business, thank goodness. People come into work and they want to do the right thing every day and it's incredible.  

However, as a result, there's not a lot of people advocating for what they deserve for their work. And I think it's really important in my role to make sure that they are compensated properly. But done based in an evaluative process that kind of rewards the right incentives.  

[00:07:38] Kim Ades:
So, are you talking about– let me just understand it. 

[00:07:42] Daniel Koffler:
Yeah, yeah.  

[00:07:42] Kim Ades:
Are you talking about "how do I compensate and reward my coaches for their amazing work"?  

[00:07:48] Daniel Koffler:
Yeah! Yes, yes, within the context of like how the business is performing and do it in a very transparent way, right? I guess it's really important.  

[00:07:54] Kim Ades:
Let me ask you a question. And it's very interesting for me because I have a team of coaches and it's a question we think about, but we have an approach to it, right? So, do you have different compensation levels for the different coaches?  

[00:08:09] Daniel Koffler:
We do, we do. And they have their own KPIs.  

[00:08:12] Kim Ades:
And what are they based on? The different levels of compensation.  

[00:08:16] Daniel Koffler:
So, there's two different tiers of team member, we have full-time and part-time. Part-time is pretty straightforward. Part-time is kind of... they are paid an hourly rate for the work they do, they submit their hours, and then kind of off they go. The full-time staff has kind of more where we're focusing, you know, to this conversation in my mind because they have a wider range of activities. Some of them are revenue generating, some of them are supporting the activities that generate revenue, so they're not necessarily directly. 

Those kinds of areas can become gray for us, and I want to make sure that we're doing things that are gonna be sustainable.  

[00:08:56] Kim Ades:

[00:08:57] Daniel Koffler:
Right? I want people to feel totally great about how they're being compensated and rewarded, but I don't want to do anything that's going to set a precedent that we can't maintain in the future. And that's kind of where we get stuck. We are on the upward trend. 

[00:09:11] Kim Ades:
Got it.  

[00:09:11] Daniel Koffler:
We've been trending upwards for a while now, which gives me the confidence to do this properly. But again, you know, the sky could fall, the bottom could fall out at any moment and my responsibility's to be optimistic, but also realistic about what that could look like. That's where I kind of go back and forth about it.  

And I know that there's a system. There are many systems out there and processes, we've looked at a bunch. We want to take something that works and kind of add our own twist to it. So, we need something that works first to kind of add the twist.  

[00:09:39] Kim Ades:
Yeah. So, I mean, in your case, what I would do is I would look at the various inputs that you're receiving from your coaches. So, what are the actions they are taking in order to make a contribution? Whether it's keeping a client or bringing in a referral or building a great relationship with someone, et cetera but exactly what are they doing? The actions that they are taking in order to make that valuable contribution. And I would start with a little bit of analysis to say, how are we rewarding this behavior?  

So, in my company, our coaches are all paid the same because they all deliver an amazing and very high level of coaching, so, we guarantee a certain quality of coaching and that goes across the board. So, we don't have tears in our pricing, nor do we have tears in the way we compensate our coaches. But we do have a variable cost that we add, or a variable payment that we give to our coaches when they make that contribution. 

So it's not a fee we pay them regardless, it's a fee contingent on certain outcomes and certain behaviors. So for example, if they bring in a referral, they get compensated for that referral and we have that across the board. So for me, it's what are the rules that every single coach understands and there's no gray area, right?  

So, in your case, it's really examining the behaviors that lead to that increased contribution or that increased value. And you say, "when you do this, you get X. When you do that, you get Y. When the client comes back and says this and provides an introduction, let's say to the whole company or to a whole organization, this is how you are rewarded for that". Right?  

It's very black and white, so there are no gray areas. And what I find is the moment that there are gray areas, that's when people become unclear, trust goes down, et cetera.  

[00:12:01] Daniel Koffler:
So, it makes a ton of sense and I totally appreciate it. I think where we've struggled is assigning a quantitative value to qualitative activities or things that don't necessarily generate revenue, the things that are kind of indirectly critical and part of the process, but not necessarily quantifiable. And I guess as we're talking this through, those are the things that you're kind of base salary is intended to cover, it's those additional things that they go above and beyond the pale that kind of like help us reach goals that would be additionally compensated.  

[00:12:34] Kim Ades:
They are the things that are quantifiable.  

[00:12:37] Daniel Koffler:

[00:12:38] Kim Ades:
Those are the things that we want to compensate. So, you know, we also teach our coaches in terms of, like, what are the opportunities you can invite your clients to. Right? So for example, in our case, we have a certification process where we teach leaders how to coach, and that's an incredible opportunity, the experience is phenomenal. And so, all the coaches know that this is something that they can invite their clients to if it's appropriate. And so, when they do that and the client comes in, they understand that this is part of their compensation.  

[00:13:18] Daniel Koffler:

[00:13:19] Kim Ades:
Our job is to inform the coaches what are the opportunities you can invite your clients to. "Here's what's available to you". And again, it has to be appropriate, right? We don't want to push something that's not a fit.  

[00:13:34] Daniel Koffler:
Do you put this stuff in writing? Like, how do you communicate it?  

[00:13:37] Kim Ades:
Yes, we have what we call a coach's handbook and everything is in the coach's handbook. Including things like how we pay, when we pay, what were we paying them for, how we handle a client who may, let's say they start coaching and five weeks in some horrible disaster happens and they have to bow out, right? So, whatever it is, we are addressing everything in that handbook.  

[00:14:08] Daniel Koffler:
Right, that way, there's no misunderstanding when six months later we say, "well, you said this, I thought that" it's written clearly in English or whatever language.  

[00:14:17] Kim Ades:
It's all in the handbook. 

[00:14:18] Daniel Koffler:

[00:14:19] Kim Ades:
Exactly. "Under this condition, you get paid this. Under that condition, you get paid that". And we are so to the book, to the letter that our coaches never, ever, ever wonder about where we're coming from or what our integrity is.  

[00:14:36] Daniel Koffler:
And that's such an important thing, because I think one of the things that I've been– we've had incidences in the past, before we had like better systems, we have much better systems now. Today still they need tweaking and kind of management, is having what I thought was like a noble intention, but it gets misconstrued, and then these good intentions go out the window and there's this lack of trust, you know?  

[00:15:00] Kim Ades:
Give me an example of what you're talking about. 

[00:15:03] Daniel Koffler:
So, for example, you know, we said X... "You're going to be compensated for this activity", and then, you know... we didn't, I guess, very clearly and simply kind of communicate what that activity was, and there was a different interpretation of what their effort was or what the outcome was, and then it became like, "all right, well, you had an opportunity to earn something extra, or be in a line for promotion", whatever it was, and it turns into like, "well, no, you didn't actually do what we had intended to do the things". So it gets intention, you know, is there's really no room for that. It has to be black and white.  

[00:15:39] Kim Ades:
It has to be black and white. And obviously, you know what happens? You write a handbook and then things come up and you're like, "oh man, we didn't think about that situation or that scenario". And so what you do is you work through it in the moment and then you add it to the handbook and we always, always, unfailingly err on the side of generosity with our coaches.  

[00:16:01] Daniel Koffler:

[00:16:01] Kim Ades:
Even when things are like– of course we're going to bump into gray areas because we haven't experienced every single scenario under the sun. And when we do, we always, without fail, err, on the side of getting behind our coaches. Because they're far too valuable to our business to jeopardize that relationship. It doesn't make any sense.  

[00:16:25] Daniel Koffler:
I think that's exactly right. Yeah.

[00:16:28] Kim Ades:
So, that's what we do. That's what we do. And then we learn and then we make adjustments if required.  

[00:16:34] Daniel Koffler:
Makes perfect sense. So, we had a handbook, but it's more like an operating procedure thing, you know, for HR purposes and this kind of thing. And I'm not a hundred percent sure everyone reads it, you know? I would imagine we have a higher than average penetration, 'cause we have a lot of A students amongst our team, who they do read the fine print, which is important. And the feedback is always welcome, of course, and they are flexible.  

You know, the truth of matter is we haven't had like any– I mentioned we've had like issues in the past and we've gotten.. Our team is, you know, just the individuals who are on it and the way that we compose it as is much more thoughtful now, so that's better, but still, I'm sensitive about even the perception of taking advantage of somebody who may not ask the right question or be in a position to kind of understand what's happening. So, that's kind of where this all comes from.  

[00:17:31] Kim Ades:
I encourage you to, when you're bringing on a new coach... Like, in our case, every single one of our coaches started off as clients first, so, they kind of know how things operate. But when you bring on a new coach to work for you, make sure they're signing off on the handbook. You're literally finding it and saying, "I need you to read this. Please make sure you sign the form that says, you've read it. It's very important that you read this, that you know all the conditions attached".  

[00:18:03] Daniel Koffler:
You just said, by the way, that every one of your coaches was a former client? 

[00:18:07] Kim Ades:

[00:18:08] Daniel Koffler:
That's very cool, by the way.  

[00:18:09] Kim Ades:
So, every single coach was a client. They said, "holy moly, that was amazing! How do I learn how to coach?" And that's why we developed our certification program. And mostly, our certification program is designed for leaders who want to go back and do a better job with their team. Who want to coach their team, who understand that there's a very distinct relationship between coaching and results, coaching and productivity, coaching and bottom line, all of that. Right?  

So, we teach our coaching approach to leaders. But many of those people who have gone through the program, some of them have shown incredible promise. And so, we tap them on the shoulder and say, "Hey, would you be interested in being a coach for us?" And then they go through a much, much more rigorous process in terms of getting certified. They have a three hour exam at the end of this whole thing. It's serious. 

[00:19:03] Daniel Koffler:

[00:19:04] Kim Ades:

[00:19:05] Daniel Koffler:
That's very impressive. You know, it's funny. All of our coaches, we don't bring anybody on and let them run with our name without having them being supervised. And if they're going to move up in the organization, they have to either have done or generally still do direct service. We don't let anybody just strictly administer. Everyone has to have a hand in kind of in the actual work. But your approach is very admirable. That's excellent.  

[00:19:33] Kim Ades:
What's very important is for me to be able to look in the eyes of a client and say, "I know that the experience you will have will be extraordinary because our coaches are extremely prepared and they're amazing from top to bottom", right? 

[00:19:48] Daniel Koffler:
I'm sure of that.  

[00:19:49] Kim Ades:
Yeah. You have to be able to say that.  

[00:19:51] Daniel Koffler:
Well, that's the kind of thing where you can't really demonstrate the success until people kind of take the dive and give it a shot. So, you really have to have conviction and be able to stand behind it.  

[00:20:01] Kim Ades:
Well, and you also have to have track record, and it sounds like you have a pretty good track record too. 

[00:20:05] Daniel Koffler:
We do now, but it took us a while to get there before you have a track record. 

[00:20:09] Kim Ades:
For sure.  

[00:20:09] Daniel Koffler:
You need people to be real pioneers and frankly, trust your face, which, you know, I wouldn't fault anybody for not doing. Not that I don't have a trusting face, but the world is slippery out there. People pull a lot of stunts and we meet a lot of folks who are in the coaching space or in the broader kind of sandbox we play in who can say the right thing, but for the person who's seeking the support on the outside, it's very hard to navigate based on a website or even a conversation. 

Is this person really going to be able to demonstrate it? And time and money are real assets that you don't have a lot to waste of. So, we're very sensitive to that.  

[00:20:45] Kim Ades:

[00:20:46] Daniel Koffler:

[00:20:47] Kim Ades:
Yeah, go ahead.  

[00:20:48] Daniel Koffler:
No, I just wanna make sure before I lose thought, I was gonna summarize kind of the learning so far. 

[00:20:53] Kim Ades:

[00:20:54] Daniel Koffler:
So, black and white, quantifiable, sign the handbook. I mean, those are kind of the three things that overarchingly the themes that I think we'll play back to specific circumstances that I have to get into, as I go back to my own pave.

[00:21:10] Kim Ades:
Yes. And err on the side of generosity. 

[00:21:13] Daniel Koffler:
Yes. Right, of course.  

[00:21:14] Kim Ades:
Yeah. Those are some of the things. And also, you know, get some of your coaches that you've been working with for a long time to read through the handbook before it's a complete book and say, "do you have any feedback? Is everything clear? Is there anything that needs to be discussed or clarified?" Because it's always easy to put out a handbook that you think is clear, but you want to make sure everybody receives it the same way as it's intended. So check with some of your key coaches and see what they think and ask for their feedback.

[00:21:52] Daniel Koffler:
Well, especially the end user, right? If I think it makes sense, that's just fine and dandy, but it's the people who are supposed to be on the receiving end of this, who need to make sure– that's a fabulous idea. 

It's something I think they'd be willing to do as well. I think, interestingly, a task and the creation of a handbook is an example, which is I find to be less than the most satisfying part of my work, but it's really important part of the work. It's interesting. I think people who are not involved in that or are not kind of required to be part of that process would feel a lot of sense of ownership over being invited to participate, which I think is just a hallmark of my team. So, that's a great idea.  

[00:22:33] Kim Ades:
Well, I hope that was helpful.  

[00:22:35] Daniel Koffler:
Super helpful! You know, a lot of it, I will be honest with you, a lot of it is not revolutionary concepts, but it's hearing it from somebody who's done this properly and reaffirming it, is very helpful for me to kind of not get stuck on eight different paths and try so many things and never get there because they're always trying. This kind of helps to do the conversation on the right direction, which is what I needed. So, I really do appreciate it. It's excellent.  

[00:22:59] Kim Ades:
I'll throw one more thing in, and it's the word consistency. So, execute your handbook with consistency. Don't change the rules one day and then the next day, and don't change the rules for one person to make exceptions for the next. Like, "here's a handbook, be consistent". That's it. 

[00:23:15] Daniel Koffler:

[00:23:16] Kim Ades:
Yeah. Well, it was so good to meet you. I'm excited about what you're doing, I think it's very interesting, as I said before. I know at least a couple of people who might benefit from your service, and I do wish you the best of luck.  

For those of you who are listening, if you have a team that you're trying to put together and orchestrate, think about what kind of handbook are you giving them, what's in the handbook, and is it clear? Do they have clarity about how you operate and how you treat them and what to expect when things go a little south or different than what's a normal course of procedure? Hope that was helpful. 

Again, for those of you who are listening, please like, please share, please do all the things you do when you're listening to a podcast. And if you have a challenge that you want to share on the podcast, please reach out to me. My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  

If you have a challenge you want to share, but not so much on the podcast, please reach out to me as well. Again, it's Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.

And if you're kind of curious about The Journal That Talks Back, please check it out. It's www.thejournalthattalksback.com. If you know a young professional or a young adult in your life who can use some coaching, that will be an interesting service for you to check out. 

In the meantime, we will see you next week. Have a great week.

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