Storytelling about SparkUs With Ozlem Sarioglu

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 151. This week we have storytelling about SparkUs with Ozlem Sarioglu. During this episode, Ozlem and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing SparkUs.

Ozlem is co-founder and managing partner at SparkUs and an expert in all things coaching and upskilling.  Her passion to provide data-driven and scalable coaching solutions to help build high-performing, thriving organizations really comes through during the podcast.

SparkUs is a highly customizable, modular coaching platform designed to help scale a company’s coaching and mentor efforts. The system offers measurable ROI, leadership development, talent development, leadership coaching and much more.

A few things we cover today: What is Ozlem’s definition of a great coach? In a similar frame, what makes a good candidate for coaching? How common is resistance to coaching, and what are the reasons?

There’s more, of course! Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 28 minutes

Enjoy the podcast?

Be sure to check out all our episodes and subscribe through your favorite platform. Of course, comments are always welcome. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the Use Case Podcast!

Ozlem Sarioglu
Co-Founder and Managing Partner Ozlem Sarioglu, SparkUs

Ozlem is the co-founder of Sparkus Platform, which combines AI-Assisted Digital Self-Reflective Coaching and Human Interaction to scale coaching services to a larger population. Sparkus helps organizations scale benefits of coaching for engagement, development and upskilling of their workforce.

Follow Follow

Music:  00:02

Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens, or should happen, when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds and recruitment in HR Tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William:  00:24

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to Use Case Podcast. Today we have Ozlem on from SparkUs, and we’re going to be learning all about the Use Case and the business case for SparkUs. So let’s just get right into it. Ozlem, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and introduce SparkUs?

Ozlem:  00:48

Most definitely. Thank you for having me here, it’s a pleasure. And this Ozlem, I’m Ozlem Sarioglu, I’m a professional coach and co-founder of SparkUs digital coaching platform. I’m also the author of a book called World Voices in a Polarized World. And it is basically about using a coaching technique that was mostly applied for individuals to larger systems like organizations, teams, et cetera. I am selected by the International Coach Federation as one of the young leaders of coaching to carry the coaching into the future. That was back in 2019, and I believe a new round of young leaders are just coming in.

Ozlem:  01:43

I used to be a financial consultant coming from a totally different background. And then I found myself into coaching. I love coaching, and I think I’m one of those happy people that found their passion at work, and that was actually due to coaching itself. So I always believed that if people had an access to coaching at all levels, not only themselves would be more happy but the organizations would be also thriving. So that core belief actually brought SparkUs into life. SparkUs is a coaching technology company, and we provide data driven and scalable coaching solutions for organizations. So that we can build high-performing organizations that are not only thriving, but also passionately working.

Ozlem:  02:47

So for this purpose, we provide coaching culture solutions to organizations, and we have a blend of digital coaching exercises and human touch of coaches, managers, mentors. So that’s basically what we do. We are basically bringing coaching to more people, but at the same time, we are having the strategic goals of the organization in mind. So it’s not just a nice tool for us, but we believe it is one of the core things to achieve, especially in this world of changing economy, changing life conditions as COVID told us. So that’s basically what we do.

William:  03:34

So a couple things to unpack, one is your experience being coached. So I want to kind of get back to, obviously you had a positive experience being coached. And the second kind of spinoff of that question is what do you think makes a great coach?

Ozlem:  03:57

Wonderful question. Actually, when you say when I was coached, I can remember different moments of being coached. So it was not just me receiving coaching, once change of career. So it was more around trying to understand what this coaching thing is. It already started with that. And then along the way I had many coaching conversations and many coaches. And when people ask me, “What changed for you once you started coaching?” I always say it is not a one big moment. It is generally little incremental changes that are happening. And I always give the metaphor of a route of a ship.

Ozlem:  04:50

So you just change the route, maybe just a few angles and at the end the ship ends somewhere completely different. And that’s what coaching does. Yes, we do look into the people’s vision, into their goals, into wherever they feel stuck. So there is that thing about coaching. But the main thing is we basically do very little incremental changes that have a huge impact at the end. So that’s what I really love about coaching, that something on one level so simple. Just somebody asks you questions and they listen to you, that’s the core thing about coaching, but it turns into a life changing event at the end. So that is my general experience of both giving and receiving coaching

William:  05:47

And what makes and go ahead. You [inaudible 00:05:50] [crosstalk 00:05:50]

Ozlem:  05:50

The second question was what makes a great coach. I say on one level it is not just learning the skills. Skills and questioning and listening are important, but I think it requires mainly a mindset. And basically when we are talking about coaching culture in organizations, that’s what we are trying to do. To bring that mindset to the whole organization, and that mindset includes two main things. One is a core belief in potential. Potential of the human being, potential of any business. And getting out of that victim mode of saying, “Oh, this COVID thing happened and we can’t do anything about it.” But just stepping into that potential mold and just checking in, “Okay, so this is the condition. What can we do about it? Where is the opportunity?”

Ozlem:  06:51

What is some potential that we didn’t recognize before? So having that potential mindset is one of the core things that you should have in any coaching setting. And the second one is, I believe, a deep curiosity, Curiosity and not knowing from time to time in that sense. When I say it’s not knowing, it’s sounds a little bit like, “Oh, uncertainty.” But I say approaching things with curiosity, trying to understand that person in front of you, trying to understand. Maybe sounds from the outside little bit weird what they have done, but really trying to understand where were they coming from. Maybe they received some training, but they still cannot apply that’s learning. What’s holding them back? Just having that curiosity really. So those two things that if the coach has them in their own mindsets, that reflects to how they live life and that reflects to how they coach another person.

William:  08:02

So, a hundred years ago at least on some level, intellectually or emotionally, we would try to hire for people that were coachable, which I’m not sure is actually a thing. However, that’s actually, what I want to ask you about is what makes for a great candidate for coaching?

Ozlem:  08:26

Well, we are basically working. I’m very happy that you brought the word coachable. Because our main role when we are doing the digital coaching on our platform is to increase that coachability of the people. So I should say maybe 10% to 15% of all the participants, there are some people who are resistant to the coaching process. So they never even try it out.

William:  08:58

Well, real quick, before you answer the rest of the question, what is that resistant? Why? I’m sure there’s many reasons why people are resistant. So what do you think are like the top two or three reasons people resist coaching?

Ozlem:  09:17

Well, I think on one level it might not be the right time for them in sense of life can be something else. So, they maybe had a new child and their focus is there, et cetera. So on one level, in their lifetime it might not be the right thing. The other thing that is one of the core things about coaching ethics is the person might be having a psychological issue. And then maybe they’re depressed. Maybe they, I don’t know, have some kind of an issue going on in their life, in that sense on a psychological level. There might be something else they need to figure out about themselves. Maybe they should first learn to love themselves, though it’s a very big topic I should say. But there could be something psychological that is standing in the way of them, even to look into themselves. Then as coaches, if somehow that person sent to us and we sit across each other, we are ethically required to refer that person to a psychologist.

Ozlem:  10:30

But those two would be the core things. And the third one might be, again coming back to what I said about not knowing, some people are much more attached to knowing. And it’s more about like, “Yeah, I know already, like I already reached this age, had many trainings and there is nothing more to learn for me anymore.” So that would be [crosstalk 00:11:01]

William:  11:02

Sorry to drill down and interrupt. Is it because they don’t either respect the coach? Like there’s a perception of he or she isn’t going to be able to teach me anything that I don’t already know or just unwilling to learn new things. [crosstalk 00:11:18]

Ozlem:  11:17

I would say unwillingness to work with anybody at all. So it’s not even, maybe I should first describe the model that we are having in SparkUs and then make it a better understanding of how it works. So we first go to an organization and they have this large group of people that they want to coach for any reason, could be talent development, leadership development, first 90 days of the people who just joined the organization, anything. And so they give us the goal, and we then translate that into digital coaching exercises. And we had almost a pay as you go model in the sense of like first people come to the platform, do their digital coaching exercises. And only if they figure out that they really need a coach. Sometimes they just needed nice, heartfelt conversation with their manager.

Ozlem:  12:16

But if they figure out that they need a coach, then they’re matched with a coach and then they have their one-on-one sessions. The core thing is some people don’t even come and start the digital coaching exercises. So that is what I’m calling, like 10 to 15% that is completely not open to coaching. So even before meeting with the coach and thinking that the coach can’t teach me anything, they don’t have the willingness at that point in their life.

Ozlem:  12:48

I’m not saying it judgmentally, but it could be something specifically going on for them. But at that point in their life they don’t have the intention to look into themselves. So that is what I recognize. And based on data, I can say regardless of age, regardless of gender, regardless of any culture, it is always the same figure. So, coming back to it, I would say it really is more about, “I can’t change kind of a thing. Like I’ve come so far, I’ve learned so far, and this is me,” kind of an approach, little bits. Resisting to the whole idea of personal development.

William:  13:34

Are your clients asking you for more of soft skill developments or is it more hard skill and coaching people to that next level? So if they’re in whatever part of their career they’re in, getting them to the next level and helping them navigate what they don’t know. Whatever that next level is, or is it some of the more softer things?

Ozlem:  14:01

Both can be possible, depending on what the strategy goal of the organization is. For instance, we do a lot of leadership development coaching, and most of the leadership development issues are around soft skills. Their communication styles, their resilience, their patience.

William:  14:25


Ozlem:  14:25

So, empathy. Some of them are around those areas. Some of them might be in the gray zone, little bit like delegation, for instance. So it is on one level related to learning how to delegate, but also overcoming that internal barrier to trust somebody else to do the work. But we also did some obstacle re-skill projects. And in those settings, what we basically do is there is one level about up scaling areas. Scaling, which is generally speaking, learning agility. One level is the ability to learn new stuff like that, that new knowledge about, let’s say digital transformation, like what’s really going on in that field. So there is one level of almost downloading information, just looking into those information and reading them. So that is much more handled with trainings.

Music:  15:37

That you delineated between coaching and training.

Ozlem:  15:40

Exactly. But that’s also where I differentiate learning from development, which is a bigger concept at the end. And then there is another level where you hear all those information, new information. And then you need to reflect, so reflect in the sense of, let’s say, we’re talking about again, digital transformation. It could be like, “What does this new technology say about my own business?” So just reflecting upon what are the opportunities, what are some threats, et cetera, et cetera. So there needs to be going into myself process with that new information. Or it can also be like, “Why am I resisting to this new information? What am I not liking about it?” So there is a level of the learning, which is very personal and that can only be done through either mentoring or coaching.

Ozlem:  16:45

That means somebody needs to stay with me, or it could also be a technology like our digital coaching technology. But there needs to be a moment, slow down and think about what is really possible? What am I resisting, et cetera, et cetera? So then I would say that comes almost like an uploading of information, as if you’re writing on a social media or something where we generate own content. So then there is that level of the learning. So that piece we can do with coaching and not only we can do, but I think it has to be done now that we are in this big change. Now we are not teaching people to use Microsoft office anymore. We are teaching not just straightforward thing. It’s new obstacle re-skill projects are affecting people on multiple levels. So it is more than just giving them information.

William:  17:47

So you said a phrase early on those coaching for all, which I absolutely love. And I grew up in an era where coaching was generally afforded to high performers, high potential, top talent, et cetera. So I just love your mentality around that. And I wanted to ask the question around Gen Z and Millennials. And what you’re seeing from them and their needs as it relates to coaching.

Ozlem:  18:17

Great question. Because younger generations, generally speaking, are very open to receiving coaching. They want to receive it from their managers. They’re very open to learn new stuff, and that’s a great thing from the perspective of coaching. While we all know that they are impatient. They have the passion to learn, and on the other hand, they would just wanted to happen quickly and coaching and mentoring and self-reflection takes some while. So it does require for people to slow down a little bit. So what we are doing a lot since we are giving them the digital coaching exercises, it’s quite real time for them so they go with their own pace. For some people who really want to slow down and maybe think about this question a little bit, come back to it later on, do it in a longer period.

Ozlem:  19:31

Versus those people who are really like, “I really want a quick answer to this. I really want to figure this out as quick as possible,” can do it in just one sitting, in 24 hours. And then start their coaching conversation with the coach. And the fact that they have done so much work on the digital exercises, already brings them to a certain level of awareness around the topic. And their preparation is also reflected to the coach. So the coach also reads where they’ve come from, what was the original thing they said about themselves when they were first starting the exercises and what happened at the end? And is there a correlation, are they somehow contradicting or is the person already developed in this topic looking more into it? So the coach knows where the coach is.

Ozlem:  20:25

So rather than spending like the industry standard of 8 to 12 sessions, you can achieve the same results with two to four sessions, six maximum. So it generally economizes the whole process for both ends. And that means, especially the young people who want to receive results as quick as possible, can be coached in a shorter period of time. So we can optimize a total coaching experience for them. So on one level there is scaling, bringing coaching team to more people. But then there is the other level of optimizing the experience for the younger generations.

William:  21:13

So one of the things you said early on was incremental change, and it reminded me of a therapy in some ways. You don’t go to a therapist and all of a sudden, the next day everything’s fixed. If you do, good for you, congratulations. But most people don’t, they go through therapy and its incremental change. And so I find that fascinating that coaching can be seen in a similar vein that you look at it, and you’re going to look at the long haul. And you’re going to look at it, make subtle changes, incremental changes, incremental growth, and you’re going to see it over a long period of time. But the last thing I really want to get your take on is the way that you delineate training, development, mentorship, and coaching. For your clients, how do you delineate those things?

Ozlem:  22:13

May I go one step back, then just then I’ll just move into [crosstalk 00:22:19].

William:  22:19

A hundred percent.

Ozlem:  22:21

About the therapy and coaching. The two areas are very similar with the tools they’re using most of the time. Both are looking into the human being, they’re psyche, what’s laying inside the person. The thing is with the coaching, we are looking more into the future and coaching is also at the same time very action oriented. So I don’t want to create a vision in the mind of listeners. That it just takes a long while for the change to happen. What is not happening in a therapy session and is happening in a coaching session is asking at the end, what are you going to do about this right now?

Ozlem:  23:15

So what is one little step that you’re going to take. So we just define that all the time. So those incremental changes are happening very quickly, but of course the issues we deal with, when compared to therapy, are much more daily, much more just maybe defining your next step in a project or something. So it is much more easy to create those changes. So I just wanted to make a remark on that. I mean, you’re both right and there is also something to change about what you said. So I just wanted to say that. The other question, the differentiation between coaching, mentoring, training is basically about where the person is in terms of what we call a skill will metrics. So for those people who already have the knowhow about the topic that we are discussing, and they have the willingness also to create the change, those are the people we coach.

Ozlem:  24:24

So, we just ask questions and they already know the topic. They already have the knowhow. So if we just listen and give them space to think about it, then they would find their solutions immediately. So that is version one. The other version is people do have some level of skills. They do have the willingness, but maybe they don’t have a certain portion of the knowhow, it’s not there yet. So it could be this person you hired into the organization because of their expertise in the field, but they are somehow new to your organization. So they would need more mentoring. A, to think about what is, “My experience, how can I apply this experience to this organization?” So it could be on one level of reflection for them, but they would also need some information about what is the culture of this organization.

Ozlem:  25:40

So that needs to be told to me. I just need to hear others experiences in the same organization, so that I can both understand the culture and then bring my competency in a good way to this organization, the way that it would work for this organization. So that would’ve been mentoring and the difference between mentoring and coaching, for those who don’t know it very openly. In both of the cases, there is some level of exploration in both of the cases, there is a conversation about actions. But in mentoring, unlike coaching, the mentor brings their own experience about the topic on the table as well. So that’s why I say if somebody’s new to your organization, some parts of the information is missing for them, mentoring could be a better fit.

Ozlem:  26:35

And last one is training. And training would be, the person is again, willing to develop themselves, but they’re maybe completely new to the subject, like they’re a newly hired person. If you’re having a discussion about what’s their career goals. Yes, you can then do some coaching. But if you’re talking about them performing in the organization, learning new stuff, learning what the industry is doing, and that kind of stuff is subject to training. And then we can, of course use our coaching skills to understand what they really understood, what was really not understood. So you can still apply those skills to make the learning stick, but still that would require new, even most of the time, technical information provided to this person.

William:  27:35

I love it. Thank you so much for breaking that down, but also everything else that you’ve said, it’s been wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today.

Ozlem:  27:45

Thank you, William. You said that it would be just a nice and easy flowing conversation. Yes, it was. Thank you.

William:  27:53

Well, very good. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast, until next time.

Music:  27:57

You’ve been listening to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform and hit us up at


The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


Please log in to post comments.