Internal Career Coaching Program

You have done all this work to create a hiring process that will bring in all these awesome smart creatives, and how do they pay you back? By leaving!! That’s right. News flash: When you hire great people, some of them may come to realize that there is a world beyond yours. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact it’s an inevitable by-product of a healthy, innovative team. Still, fight like hell to keep them.
— Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, How Google Works

While at Google I worked in the People Operations organization for five and a half years as the company skyrocketed from 6,000 to 36,000 employees. I trained over 1,000 people, from recent graduates to senior-level managers and directors, and saw how the feeling of bumping up against a career plateau affected everyone, not just entry-level workers. Moreover, both employees and managers wanted the same things—a happy, engaged, productive workforce—but did not always know how to close the communication gaps that opened between them when clarifying next career steps. 

After attending the Coaches Training Institute in 2008 to become a certified coach and while on the career development team, I helped create and launch a global coach training program for managers called Career Guru, which made drop-in coaching available to any Googler—a program still cited as one of the benefits that make Google a top company to work for.

Benefits of Launching an Internal Coaching Program 

In an Inc. survey of five hundred CEOs from the fastest-growing private companies, 41 percent of leaders identified “recruiting talent” as the biggest contributor to their company’s ability to innovate. Fifty percent said “attracting and retaining skilled employees” is the biggest challenge facing leaders today. It is likely that you have worked hard to find great employees; now it is time to apply equal effort toward keeping them.

Creating an internal coaching program with senior-level leaders who are looking to mentor others with a small portion of their time, is a win for all involved:

  • Individuals get personalized, 1:1 attention and a confidential space to talk about their career goals and challenges

  • Senior-level leaders get additional training and community, and feel fulfilled by engaging a small percentage of their time in rewarding work

  • The organization can scale 1:1 coaching globally without the cost of hiring expensive external coaches

  • Career advisors can serve as advocates and ambassadors with cultural knowledge of the organization, encouraging internal mobility, transparency, and increasing visibility for internal learning and development programs

My Backstory . . . and Why I'm so Passionate About Internal Coaching

The career conversation I regret most is the one I never had.

I have given two weeks’ notice twice in my career. The first time was at the political polling start-up where I worked for two years while finishing my undergraduate degree.

What I regret is that my first career conversation with the founder was also our last. I wish I had gone to him and had the courage to say, “I want to keep growing with the company. Help me map a course here where I can see my development continuing.” 

Instead, I started taking phone interviews for Google in my car on lunch breaks. I interviewed for four months,  all while I could have been trying to troubleshoot the job I already had.

After two years at Google, I started itching for change again when I was spending a significant part of my time preparing PowerPoint strategy decks, decidedly not my Zone of Genius. 

I was ready to quit, not knowing if I was cut out for corporate life much longer, when I ran into my good friend Becky Cotton, as I mentioned earlier, and she helped me transition onto the recently formed career development team. Thanks to Becky, the angel on the shoulder of many a Googler, I ended up staying with the company two and a half more years, working with her and a small team to create and launch the global Career Guru coaching program that is still thriving today, and is cited as one of the employee benefits that makes Google a top company to work for.

In the first example, I was green. I did not know how to have a career conversation and admit that I had hit a ceiling, and did not know where to go from there. I did not ask for input from the founder. Instead, I avoided the tough conversation and made plans to leave.

In the second scenario, I was able to parlay my strengths and interests into a new role within the company. I confided in an advocate, Becky—who is still working at Google on career development programs after ten years—who helped me navigate the internal job transition process.

I wanted to know, the second time around, that I had given Google every chance to fit before leaving. I was able to have transparent conversations with my manager about what mattered to me. I demonstrated strong performance in my role, and had developed unique skills by attending coach training on nights and weekends. I got approval to dedicate 10-percent time to a drop-in coaching pilot project. It later turned into a full-time role as the company’s growth exploded and retention became a bigger focus, allowing me to pivot internally.

“Beckys” are crucial to your organization. Imagine if managers and senior leadership in your company reacted the way Becky did:

  • How many great people could you keep, or at least have open conversations with?

  • How would it enable you to create a coaching culture in which impacters like Becky, who love supporting others, can also thrive?

  • How could you provide resources that allow employees to brainstorm solutions to their hairiest career questions without judgment or fear?

Pivot Method as a Coaching Framework for Managers & Mentors

In addition to serving as a method for individuals to map what's next, organizations can also roll out the Pivot Method as a conversation framework for managers, mentors, and internal coaches. Whether or not you have formalized coaching programs within your organization, Pivot can be taught as a method to hold exploratory conversations, rather than tactical or advice-based ones. It can also be used to guide problem solving anytime someone feels stuck and unsure of what to do next, whether on a project, in their role, or in their career.

Career Advisors can be trained in the Pivot Method as their primary coaching framework. The Pivot Method is a shared language for having expansive career conversations with coachees. When used as a coaching framework, it helps others quickly brainstorm solutions to problems, set development goals, and identify ambitious yet achievable next steps. When rolled out on a regular basis among managers and their teams, and between career advisors and their coachees, Pivot can create a culture of open communication. 

Many of the coaches and managers I have trained in the Pivot Method as a coaching tool report a sense of relief that this is a simple process that can be shared directly with the person they are speaking with. Their coachees leave these conversations feeling energized, because the method emphasizes strengths and small experiments, which lead quickly to positive and productive outcomes.

a short video primer: how to apply Pivot as a coaching framework for career conversations

Internal Coaching Case Studies and Articles


Next Steps for Launching an Internal Coaching Program 

We can work together to build a scalable, global program, including:

  • Developing criteria for senior-level leaders to apply as internal coaches

  • Delivering the Pivot Coach training program for selected coaches

  • Creating the systems needed to launch (scheduling, tracking, measurement)

  • Developing evaluation criteria to monitor the success of the program

  • Developing communications to market the program internally

To learn more about working together, fill out the form below and we can set-up a phone call to discuss next steps. I look forward to hearing from you!

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