Why your team’s success relies on mental health
Hannah Wilson: What I wasn't prepared for, moving beyond a manager role and into a director, and ultimately a VP role, is just the amount of pressure increases. One of the things I talk with my team about, and leaders that I'm developing, and that are moving into their first VP roles, is that just as important as it is to develop those skills that you have around pipeline management, or coaching, or deal support, to be able to build those mental resiliency skills early, because you definitely will need them when you get to be more of a senior leader within your organization.
Devin Reed: This is Reveal, the revenue intelligence podcast. Here to help go to market leaders do one thing, stop guessing.
Sheena Badani: If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential, then this show is for you. I'm Sheena Badani.
Devin Reed: And I'm Devin Reed, coming to you from the Gong studios.
Sheena Badani: There's a much larger conversation around mental health in the workplace now than there has ever been before. In many cases, it's becoming less and less stigmatized to talk about with your colleagues, but even more so, it's becoming standard that companies provide mental health benefits and resources. This is especially prevalent for sales teams, because let's be honest, sales is a high stress role. We're thrilled to have Hannah Wilson join us from Modern Health, where she's the SVP of their sales org. Modern Health has created at a platform that helps companies destigmatize mental health care, break down barriers to access, and give everyone the tools they need to get clinical support. Hannah has an incredible two full perspective to share with us. First, on the landscape of mental health resources, and second, her own perspective on fostering mental health awareness to support her own sales team. You'll learn how both you and your organization can better support your team's mental health needs. Hannah, we are so thrilled to have you here on Reveal and talk a little bit more about your professional journey, and some of the things that you're focused on at Modern Health, but before we get into that, I'm really curious to hear about your passion for mental health, and what drove you to join modern health in the first place.
Hannah Wilson: I think, definitely, like most people, I've seen different people in my family have mental health challenges. I've had friends have mental health challenges. It's one of those areas that I think every single person has either experienced it themselves, or has known someone fairly close to them that has had mental health challenges. That was one of the reasons, but more than that even, in a professional setting, and especially being a sales leader and managing large teams, I had seen various folks on my teams over the years struggle. I really found myself in a place where I didn't know how to help them. I didn't have the resources at my employer to help them either. I had been in the benefit space for a long time and decided to get back into it with Modern Health because of some of those reasons, and because of some of the challenges that I was seeing on the teams that I had managed.
Sheena Badani: Yeah, it's such a timely time in our lives, and in the world right now, to be able to provide an impact for folks who are maybe struggling with mental health issues. I think, particularly in the sales profession, it's infamous for being mentally trying and taxing. In your experience, how does mental health impact those who have chosen a career in sales?
Hannah Wilson: One, no one is immune from having mental health challenges. I think it probably impacts people across any profession, and across any line of work. I think there is something unique in the sales profession, in that we are held very accountable to high standards, as our performance is incredibly transparent across our organizations, across our teams. There's this paradox where there's so much transparency, and there is more pressure. Yet, you have to have good mental health to be effective from a sales perspective. You have to be able to go into conversations with confidence, and to be able to take a lot of no's and things like that. There's this paradox where it is harder on your mental health because the goals are often so high, but at the same time, you really do have to take care of your mental health. That's one of the things that I think about a lot and why it's particularly important for sales professionals to focus on their mental wellbeing.
Devin Reed: I was in sales for about six years, Hannah, before this interview, a few years back. I have a soft spot for this topic because I didn't really know what mental health was. I just felt stressed all the time. Then you become to think that's normal. Sometimes other, that stress, it goes up and down, as we all know the rollercoaster, but it can start to take shape in other ways that you don't realize where it's stemming from. I could go on and on about mine, but I'm curious for you, as a leader, how are you spotting some of those things? What are the most common mental health hurdles that you've seen on your team? Maybe that's from reps, maybe that's from the leaders that report to you as well.
Hannah Wilson: In terms of the challenges, the biggest thing is that it changes so much across individuals. I think the biggest thing that leaders need to do, and this might sound really obvious, is just really get to know the people that you work with really well, so that if you do see subtle changes that you can be there to offer a space, to support them, and help them direct them to resources that could be beneficial, but it's a small thing, but in this virtual world, I think it can sometimes be harder. I know I've even fallen into this trap myself, where sales is very much about hitting numbers in production, and that's why we're all here. It's easy to get into this rhythm of," Where is this deal?", or," Where is this opportunity?", and really being able to take a step back and making sure that in this virtual world where you're not having these one off coffee chats, or going for a walk around the block, that you really can get to know the people that you work with to be able to spot those things, because everyone is so different. Your mental health is so dynamic. It changes from day to day. Unless you have those really good relationships, you're not going to be able to spot those things and support people in the way that's needed.
Devin Reed: Yeah. That's one of the things I've learned as well, quickly, in leadership role, which is everyone responds to things differently. People show their emotions differently, some not at all. I think sometimes spotting it is like," Oh, Sheena's very clearly struggling." You can see maybe body language, never Sheena, by the way, I'm just using her as an example, but body language, and the way they respond to questions, maybe shorter. That's sometimes maybe almost too late, or you're deeper in that spiral and you're just catching wind of it, but you're in a later stage of maybe some mental health challenges. I'm curious, Hannah, do you have maybe a couple examples, obviously you don't need to share names, but of things that you've spotted? Little triggers, or maybe little things that you've said," Hey, maybe there's something going on here," in that broad awareness to you as a leader.
Hannah Wilson: Yeah. Maybe I can talk about some of my personal challenges, as well, I think might be interesting. One of the things I think is interesting about mental health in sales is that it seems like when you're an account executive and you're responsible for a number, this pressure on you is very high. You are totally irresponsible for hitting that number. There's a lot of visibility into that. You might show that stress in different ways. Some people are better at hiding it for longer periods of time and things like that. Then I've oftentimes heard, when people move into their first management role, it feels like," Well, maybe some of the pressure's going to be taken off because I'm going to have more people that report to me, the numbers spread across more people." I think in some ways that actually is true. What I wasn't prepared for moving beyond a manager role, and into a director, and ultimately a VP role, is just the amount of pressure increases. One of the things I talk with my team about, and leaders that I'm developing and that are moving into their first VP roles, is that just as important as it is to develop those skills that you have around pipeline management, or coaching, or deal support, to be able to build those mental resiliency skills early, because you definitely will need them when you get to be more of a senior leader within your organization. That was something that I was very unprepared for moving into a VP role, and something that took me a long time to figure out. I think there's also this pressure, especially when you move into a VP role. I kind of felt this. I feel it even more as a woman moving into a VP role, that I really couldn't be vocal about those things. I really had to hide that, and keep it in, have it all together. I have the numbers down. I'm hitting my goal, until basically I hit a breaking point. That's something that, sometimes going... I guess going back to your question about what are those small things, sometimes you can't even pick up on those small things because, in a sales role that people just feel like they constantly have to present their best self.
Sheena Badani: Thanks so much for being open with that, Hannah. I think a lot of people can really resonate with what you just mentioned, and what you talked about. I definitely can. I want to dig a little bit deeper in what you talked about in terms of developing that skill of, I forgot how you phrased it, your mental agility, or just being able to focus on that as much as any other deal skill. Are there certain tips that you have, or things that people can do to really become more and more aware of their own state before they can even start to help others on their team?
Hannah Wilson: Yeah. I have tons of tips. I'm sure you can just do... You can go online and you can find lots of different things. I think the challenge is that what works for me, probably isn't going to work for someone else. Everyone has their own life experiences that they need to work through. Some people have different challenge than others. For me, I can share some of the things that I do that tend to work for me. Definitely mindfulness is one of them, and meditation. I'm a working mom. I don't have a ton of time to meditate, but I do block in 10 minutes before I get out of bed in the morning to quickly meditate. That seems to really reset me for the day. I also try and find just very quick things I can do. For example, seeing sunlight. Getting fresh air is really important. Getting exercise. I always block 20 minutes on my calendar every afternoon to just do a quick run around my neighborhood. I might come back to the afternoon calls a little sweaty, but I think that's just really important for me to run up a couple hills, get some of that energy out. I see a professional coach twice a month. That's really helpful. The hard part is that you really have to find what's right for you. Oftentimes, when you find something that's right, your life might change next month, and what works this month isn't going to work next month. I would just encourage everyone, we're not perfect. Keep trying things. They don't have to be huge changes where you shift your whole schedule. They can be really tiny things that you fit into your daily workflow.
Devin Reed: You've given me confidence to get back on a zoom call, having gone for that run, because I get really red when I run, redder than my beard. I've always been a little self- conscious about like," Is Devin okay? It's only four o'clock," but I like that a lot. I've done walks, try to do walk and talks, or get outside for some of the same things. I've found too, Hannah, is when you are... It's kind of hard, I think, especially in sales, to stop working. Working. I'm not looking at my laptop, I'm not on a phone call, but to get that confidence of like," No, when I'm on that run, I'm more effective when I come back." When I take that 10, 15 minute walk and I'm doing" nothing," that's actually sometimes where things click, by not thinking about a deal. You're like," Oh wait, that's what I should do," or," That's what I could have said better. Here's how I can get my leader involved." It's good to hear from you it's not an isolated mindset, where it's actually good to get out and play, and like you said, release some of that energy, and let yourself be your truly best self.
Hannah Wilson: I think leaders, it's really incumbent on leaders to be able to model that for their teams, and be open about it. Some leaders, it's maybe taking more vacation time. Some leaders, it's taking more small breaks during the day, but being very vocal about that with your teams, so that they feel the permission to do those things as well.
Sheena Badani: Mental health has definitely become more and more of a hot topic, or a critical topic these days. How have you seen mental health conversations change over the last few years?
Hannah Wilson: One thing that's interesting is that the stigma has really gone down. I don't think everywhere, but so certainly if you think about tech sales, for example, and this is going back even before the pandemic. Part of the reason that led me to Modern Health, as I was explaining, is people on my team coming to me and sharing very personal mental health challenges with me and not knowing how to respond to those types of things. I think, actually, what I've seen at Modern Health, and talking to lots of HR, and people leaders, is that this is something that they're hearing from managers more often, is that more and more employees, as the stigma goes down, more of the burden goes up for managers to be able to work with their employees on these things. I found myself in some situations trying to be a therapist. I would say that is not the right approach. The right approach is to create space, to be supportive, to listen to people, and then to guide them to the right resources. That's not your responsibility as a sales leader to solve everyone's individual challenges. I see my responsibility as a sales leader to set a level playing field to everyone, to build a winning culture, to put the processes and infrastructure in place to make a successful team. The world has definitely changed. People are, just because the stigma is going down, more responsibility is falling on manager's shoulders. More people are actually wanting mental health support via their employers. You can't get high quality mental health support, unfortunately today, through a traditional health plan, or through EAPS, which were the first generation of behavioral health support, but we've done recent studies with Forester, looking at how many people actually want mental health solutions through their employer and it's going up. People are expecting this in the same way that they expect access to physical healthcare benefits.
Sheena Badani: According to a recent survey from the Kaiser family foundation, nearly 40% of employers have expanded mental health benefits since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic. Whether that means they expanded insurance coverage, provided employee assistance programs, or partnered with companies like Modern Health, obviously working from home has taken a toll on our workforce. Even two years in, a lot of us are still facing isolation at home, or major distractions and life cycle adjustments, all while trying to stay on top of our work. Companies being held responsible for mental health benefits is not just a fleeting trend. It's now becoming a big factor for your perspective employees. 76% of workers say they consider mental health benefits as critical when evaluating new jobs. Here's more from Hannah on the reasons why companies are being held accountable for these resources and benefits.
Devin Reed: A lot of mental health challenges, sometimes, stem from work. It's kind of like if my career is causing it, shouldn't my career help me with some of those things?
Hannah Wilson: That's a really good point. It's something that I think there's been a change across the past five years, where mental healthcare used to be," I want to see a therapist because I'm having some clinical need," whereas mental health care now, the definition is just so much broader. Yes, you're right. You might be having challenges because you're having a difficult conversation with your manager. You're struggling with your work performance and that can lead to mental health challenges, or you're having financial challenges, and that leads to mental health challenges, a relationship challenges. The definition has just brought in significantly.
Devin Reed: You talked a bit about some of things that you do personally, Hannah, and I'm glad the conversation is definitely, I would say, started. It's getting some steam, but it's not, unfortunately, not all sales teams everywhere are like," Yes, this is happening in our organization," but I know a lot of leaders, there might be, call it a dozen sales leaders in this one organization, one or two might really agree with a lot of things that we're talking about, want to make that change, but there's a lot of folks who don't value that, or don't see it the same way. What are some of the things that they can do in their organization to destigmatize mental health?
Hannah Wilson: I would say one thing you can do is talk to your HR, and people leaders, about what you're seeing in your organization. My guess is when you go and talk to them, you'll hear that they're hearing it more broadly across the organization, whether you're on a product team, or a tech team, I'm sure those leaders are going to their people partners as well and talking about this. I would say, start a conversation about what you're hearing it. In sales, we do have a lot of, I guess you could say power within an organization because of the revenue associated with it. Even on the teams that I had managed in the past where, and currently even, modern health employees, obviously, aren't immune to mental health challenges either. There is a real revenue impact. There's been studies that show there's greater attrition and productivity loss. In sales, those things are very, very easy to quantify because it's based on a quota, and it's based a number. I would say sales leaders have a really good opportunity to drive change across their organization, because when you start talking about the financial impact of mental health challenges, it might peak the interest of others.
Devin Reed: I would be curious, Hannah, you've worked at a lot of organizations and now you're at an organization that obviously values mental health and provides resources for mental health. What are some of the things that you can see are so clear, like," Wow, the team I lead today is so much," I don't want to say better to make you sound like you're bragging, but you know what I mean? Healthier in some ways, or maybe there's problems that you're used to that have been alleviated because some of these changes in point of view.
Hannah Wilson: One thing that's interesting about working for a mental health company is that the stigma really is gone. People talk very openly about mental health days. People talk very openly about needing time to recharge. People will take time to see a coach, or see a therapist. I think that has created a healthy culture for us, and that we have those conversations internally. Obviously, we're not immune to mental health challenges, especially working for a very high growth startup with a really big mission, and lots of people that need mental health support, and the world changing every day, but I think just having that language, and having that conversation, has been really beneficial.
Devin Reed: I feel like hiring for you is, I don't want to say easy. Hiring is not easy for anybody, not to do it well, but I imagine it is clearer for you who is really here for the mission, versus who just wants a sales job. I have to imagine it's a pretty, forgive the jargon, but like a mission led company, because if you're not really passionate about this I don't know why you'd want to work there.
Hannah Wilson: Yeah. You're right. We've recruited some really, really exceptional talent at Modern Health. I think part of that is it is a unique opportunity to work for a very high growth, fast paced company, all of the things that come with that, but also having a very strong mission, and being focused on being able to provide high quality mental healthcare to thousands of people around the world.
Devin Reed: All right, Hannah, we are going to move into our final question. We ask all of our guests the same question to end the conversation, which is how would you describe sales in one word?
Hannah Wilson: Determination. Sales is not an easy profession. It's a great profession, but it's also a very hard profession that takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of determination to get to the outcomes that you're looking for.
Sheena Badani: For more resources on how you can support your sales team in every way, head over to gong. io. If you like what you heard, give us that five star review on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
Hannah Willson is the SVP of Sales at Modern Health, a platform that helps companies destigmatize mental health care, break down barriers to access, and give everyone the tools they need to get clinical support.
Hannah shares her tips for exactly what your organization and you as a sales leader can do to better support your team’s mental health needs. She’s breaking down the landscape of mental health resources, and sharing her own perspective on how leaders can foster mental health awareness.