Coaching can mean a variety of things to different audiences, for example to athletes or musicians, and can be concerned with either individuals or teams. This article speaks to individuals and their employers about a particular type of coaching, success coaching, and how they can each benefit from that coaching approach.
There’s a distinction to be drawn between life coaching and success coaching. Life coaching, often just called coaching, reaches into either or both of a client’s career space and overall life space. This is consistent with the International Coaching Federation’s definition of coaching as “Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential (italics added). The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.”
Success coaching, in contrast, identifies a particular path to success involving a specific, commonly work-related, outcome. In this article, the client population consists of aspiring IT professionals who have committed to a one-year apprenticeship program. They seek the specific outcome to graduate from their program, and have agreed to work closely with a success coach along the way. The timing of this article coincides with the conclusion of National Apprenticeship Week in the US, and contributes to the reflections made throughout that week.
The article introduces three success coaches, all employed by Franklin Apprenticeships, a pioneer in the US apprenticeship space. It provides examples of the range of interactions a success coach can have with their clients. It further describes the kinds of support a success coach needs in order to be effective. The article concludes by reflecting the role success coaching can play in qualifying individuals to move into higher-paying jobs, and in helping employers fill matching job positions.
Meet the coaches
Marlon Carcamo a retired Air Force instructor, is a newcomer to success coaching. He spoke with a former student about what to do after his retirement, and was told Franklin would be “great for you.” Carcamo went onto the Web, and came away anticipating he could gain “that sense of fulfillment I used to enjoy in the Air Force.” He would be able to continue to help in caregiving for his children, and to support his wife’s career. He could also work toward completing his employer’s Department of Labor certified Professional Success Coach apprenticeship program.
Britt Launius began her career in pharmaceutical sales and later became a recruiter and yoga teacher. After meeting with some life coaches she determined to become a professional coach, and earned certification from the International Coaching Federation. She found the experience “eye opening” and founded her own coaching business, but the business side interfered with her coaching time. She concluded that the success coaching approach was similar to life coaching. In both cases they are “helping people focus.” She joined Franklin and also took on a role to “coach the coaches” in their personal development.
Cable Rose, also retired from the Air Force, found his way there “because my car broke down in front of the recruiter’s office.” He got involved in Technology and Communications, jumped at an opportunity t to teach a leadership course, and realized teaching was what he wanted to do. After more than 20 years in the Air Force he retired, spent two years in the public sector, two more as a leadership consultant, then joined Franklin 18 months ago after being introduced to the company by two former coworkers. He saw what was going on and “wanted to be part of that.” He has just begun a podcast about his work.
The coaches’ examples
All of the examples of coaching practice below come from the three coaches introduced above. They illustrate the breadth of topics and conversations likely to arise between a success coach and their clients. All client names have been anonymized. All but one example reflect experiences inside one of seven different programs, three covering IBM zSystems, and four more in cybersecurity, help desk, network engineer and software engineer. All lead directly to the completion of an apprenticeship, and immediate job opportunities in information technology.
Cable provided an example of a young man, Michael, who is making great strides after coming on board as an IT apprentice for a large financial institute. “Right out of the gate, he was very successful in absorbing the industry training with we provided. I’ve been meeting with Michael every week for 30 minutes to go over his training plan. What’s in it? How does it look? His response is great because he is so hungry. We sit with the mentors, align his training, and put him to good use on his team. He was already writing the code that needed to be used by his employer within the first four months. I am his success coach, but the credit goes to the program as a whole.”
Britt spoke about John. “He was my very first apprentice that I ever got assigned. I had developed a relationship with him, but two weeks before starting his apprenticeship he suddenly stopped responding. I drew on my coaching toolbox to make him feel comfortable opening up, and was able to determine that he was unable to relocate due to finances. He could not afford the cost to relocate, and was embarrassed to say that out loud. I got some figures from him, and advocated for him with the company’s HR department. They gave him a $10,000 signing bonus and advanced a few paychecks before his start date, so he was able to relocate. It was a case of win, win, win, for the apprentice, the company, and for Franklin.”
Marlon recently worked with an older immigrant to the United States called Stewart. “He was discouraged that all of the jobs he applied for, and knew he could perform, required a security clearance. I could relate to his situation from my Air Force experience, when recruiters for Special Forces came looking for candidates. I knew they had what I wanted, but I couldn’t join them because I didn’t have my citizenship. I told Stewart I was a legal resident, I could work, I could go to school, but right then I could not get my citizenship. Stewart’s entire demeanor changed. He went from disappointment to hope, and was soon successful getting a job that did not require security clearance. He has since attained that clearance.”
Cable also spoke about Angie, who was facing problems inside the workplace. “She had some personal dilemmas that she was dealing with on her team, and came to me for success coaching. I wasn’t there to fix the problem, but I was there to help her advocate for herself. I was there to help her go in and have effective career planning sessions with her manager, and to take the lead in having difficult conversations with the members of her team. In this company we look beyond technical aptitude to professional aptitude. Angie could have struggled to establish herself, but instead had successful conversations with both her manager and her team.”
Britt shared a second story about a role she plays at Franklin to coach the coaches. They meet weekly and bring up topics or real-world scenarios for discussion. This scenario concerns coach Judith (a pseudonym). “She had a client that was a really hard person to work with. Every time he would show up on a call, he would repeat the same negative stories over and over again. I suggested that the only reason a person does this is because they either have memory loss, or they don’t feel seen or heard. We spoke about and practiced a coaching tool called ‘acknowledgement and validation.’ She reported back that she had successfully used the tool, and helped her apprentice move forward in her apprenticeship journey.”
Supporting the Success Coach Team
The above stories—of clients making great progress, dropping out of communications, lacking the necessary authorization, lacking financial resources or being reluctant to speak up—are examples of a wide variety of coaching situations where success coaches draw on their training to support their clients. The coaches also draw on a series of initiatives taken by their employer to support them in their work. Five kinds of support are particularly relevant.
Building the talent pool: Recruits to Franklin’s programs come from a Talent Solutions Team. They draw from what they describe as a “substantial pool” of available talent, mostly without college degrees, with an average age of 31, and typical ages varying from around 20 to 50, with an outlier aged 70 who has recently signed on. The Team draws on the talent pool to propose potential candidates from which employers interview and select their own apprentices. Those selections are contingent on the recruit completing the pre-apprenticeship program described below. The Team continually draws a diversity of new recruits into the process. Cable observes, “What I love about this job is that there is no cap on age or background or where apprentices are coming from. Every time I get a new client, I have a new face, a new story and a new journey to share.”
A pre-apprenticeship program: Before anyone can join one of the seven IT apprenticeship tracks they are required them to undergo a “scientific matching” exercise (provided by MyInnerGenius and reviewed in an earlier article) to affirm they are likely to be suited to the course of study. They then undergo between 90 and 110 hours of pre-apprenticeship training, reflecting a mix of professional and technical skills considered to be fundamental to all apprenticeship programs. Marlon describes this as his company’s “secret sauce” to ensure apprentices have “the will, the aptitude and the desire for a career.” Up to now, Franklin has always been able to secure grant funding for the pre-apprenticeship program. In turn, an apprentice receives a salary once they are recruited by an employer. Individuals are never charged at any stage of their involvement.
Onboarding and monthly meetings:
After employers have interview and selected their apprentices, a success coach sits with both the apprentice and their manager to established shared expectations, understanding, and putting “everybody on the same page” about the journey ahead. The success coach continues to have separate monthly meetings with the manager and weekly meetings with the apprentice, to stay on top of each party’s concerns, if any. The coach also makes a point to meet at the client’s convenience, to ensure adequate conversation time. Cable gave an example of a client who worked on the night shift, where he made special arrangements to conduct 10.00 pm coaching calls.
Professional development skills: In addition to their direct apprenticeship assignments, the success coaches rotate six professional development seminars – covering conflict resolution, problem solving, communication, career and professional development planning, leadership and time management. A presentation on one of these topics is sent to all the apprentices every month. They watch that presentation and are invited to a live session with a success coach. In that session they talk about the presentation, share examples, and think about follow-up plans. Then each apprentice will go back to work on that skill with their own success coach. In addition, the coaches meet weekly for their own development. In Britt’s words, “The coaches bring real-world topics to our weekly meetings and I love helping other people learn how to better apply coaching tools.”
Internal supervision and teamwork: A core part of Franklin’s model is its Professional Success Coach apprenticeship, which also takes a year to complete, and where Britt serves in her “coach the coaches” role. Each coach has their personal development program, depending on what they have learned previously, with completion of the Professional Success Coach certification an early requirement where appropriate. The coaches meet regularly and take an interest in one-another’s learning endeavors. Since the arrival of Covid-19, all meetings are virtual and Franklin considers itself a virtual company. Marlon described a pattern of “get certified and grow, get certified and grow,” in the careers of all the success coaches.
This article has examined the idea of success coaching from the perspective of the success coaches themselves. Success coaches experience the overall process from an individual connecting with an apprenticeship program, to establishing and developing the relationship between an apprentice and their employer, to final graduation from the program. What’s to be said about the benefits to each party?
The principal benefits for the individual apprentice are the opportunity to “test the water” at no cost throughout the pre-apprenticeship program, to be placed with an employer that stands ready with an apprenticeship opportunity that provides a salary. The program also allows the individual to participate directly in a company department, to initiate a professional network, to experience weekly coaching across both the pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship phases, and to arrive at the opportunity to secure a demanding job and new career opportunities in their intended field, in this case in IT.
Benefits for the apprentice’s employer include the attraction of more diverse talent, gaining a level of productive work over the apprenticeship period, having a privileged opportunity to get to know the apprentice, and being first in line to consider them for permanent employment. The use of a professional coach relieves a busy employer from much of the supervision they would otherwise need to provide internally. Also, by regular participation in apprenticeship arrangements the employer will be part of the solution in meeting the overall demand for talent in their industry.
The success coaching works so well that 90% of individuals graduate from their apprenticeship programs once they have started, and 94% of those remain with their employers after graduation. In the great majority of cases, both parties come out winners.