Coaching Perspectives: Executive Skills in Practice
Bright Endeavors’ Production and Training Specialist II, Cathy Robinson-Yates, shares her thoughts on how Executive Skills-based coaching makes a difference to young moms who are engaged in paid transitional job making candles at Bright Endeavors.
Cathy, can you explain your role at Bright Endeavors?
Bright Endeavors is the candle making social enterprise of New Moms – a big part of our paid, 16-week job training program for young moms under 24 years old. My responsibility as Production and Training Specialist is to make sure our production floor, staffed by young moms in our program, meets the goals of our business AND our training program. We usually have between 17-20 young moms on the manufacturing floor, split into four production departments: pouring, finishing, private labels, and shipping.
I make sure the moms complete all daily activities, such as morning workshop, production, end of day cleaning, and our post-shift meeting — and that all the moms are getting trained and prepared for permanent employment along the way. Everything we do in training – whether talking about candle wax or a job skill like time management – includes an Executive Skills coaching approach.
Can you describe how you incorporate Executive Skills into Bright Endeavors?
Everyone has Executive Skills – me, you, my colleagues, our young moms! So, we all come to Bright Endeavors with our special set of Executive Skills strengths and struggles. We call these struggles “warming pots” — a candle reference that means the skills we are working to improve. Executive Skills develop in the brain over time and are shaped by your life experiences, environment, stress, and relationships. There are 12 Executive Skills that regulate how we all organize, plan, and get things done.
In the 2nd week of our 16-week program, young moms attend an Executive Skills workshop to learn about Executive Skills. They take a questionnaire to self-identify their strengths and warming pots and then share their results with everyone. All staff also share their strengths and warming pots.
There’s no shame in sharing your Executive Skills at New Moms! We have a big board on the production floor at Bright Endeavors that lists everyone’s strengths and warming pots so that we can use that information to help hold each other accountable and support each other to grow.
For example, my Executive Skill strength is “Goal-Directed Persistence.” I just HAVE to make sure we meet our daily production SMART goal! When moms know this about me, they understand the way I manage the production floor the way I do, why I insist on SMART goals in all departments, and they don’t take it personally when I re-direct them to focus on these goals.
The young moms also know “Working Memory” is my warming pot so they leave me notes to remind me of something we previously talked about, like their time off requests. This is great! I am working on it, with their help. They see how it’s now just something we know about each other, so they can help me with my struggles just as I do with theirs.
How cool that such a small action, like post-it notes, can have a big impact!
We call it an “environmental modification.” We do a ton of that at Bright Endeavors! We change a processes or system, remove barriers to success, use technology to help a mom achieve a goal. For example, we set an automatic timer on our wax melting pot. The timer goes off every 30 minutes, so it reminds a mom to stop her candle making task, check the wax pot temperature and refill it.
When we accomplish small goals with the help of environmental modifications, we gain confidence that we can accomplish bigger goals over time, too. Of course, moms also get paid $13/hr, which removes the stress of where their food or diapers are going to come from and means they can focus more on their training at Bright Endeavors and getting a good job.
How does Executive Skills coaching impact the moms at Bright Endeavors?
The ES coaching approach shows moms they already have strengths. Sometimes young moms come to Bright Endeavors with low self-esteem, struggling with domestic violence or other challenges. When a mom becomes aware of her own Executive Skills, she feels empowered, proud of who she is, and also gets the tools for how she can grow in her warming pots. She also doesn’t feel ashamed of her warming pots since she sees that everyone has them. When a mom knows how her Executive Skills show up in the workplace, now she has techniques to deal with it so she can find and retain a permanent job outside of Bright Endeavors. Our job retention rate is really strong because of this – 81% stay employed for one year after the program! Similar programs are around 50%.
For example, we have a young mom right now, Helena. Helena’s strength is “Task Initiation.” She gets an assignment and there she goes to work on it immediately! Her struggle is “Sustained Attention,” so after a little while she’ll be on the other side of the floor working on another project. Now that Helena and I both know this about her we make very short-term SMART Goals, like “make 50 lavender candles by the end of the hour.” She gets to start “new” tasks every hour and still accomplish her performance goals at Bright Endeavors, proving to herself she can do it!
Now, Helena can share that example in an interview, and can use that technique to perform well in her next job, too.
How do you use Executive Skills to celebrate growth and success at Bright Endeavors?
Young moms are motivated to get a job, get paid, leave a legacy for other moms in the program and for their kids. We use incentives to help motivate people to reach for bigger goals. Each department has a “team lead” position – this is a young mom who gets promoted, wears a red apron, and helps to lead her department. It’s a big boost and everyone wants to be a Team Lead so young moms work hard to get promoted.
We also have a bell on the production floor and when a mom gets a job, she gets to ring the bell. Everyone stops working and goes over to the mom, cheers them on. It’s very public recognition. She then gets to write her name, date, employer, and an inspirational quote on the wall. Alumna of the program will come back to ring the bell. Everyone loves the bell!
Moms also give shout-outs at the end of every day at our post-shift meeting, “Thank you for your help on my shipping project,” “I appreciate you for receiving the feedback really well,” etc. They always want me to hear shout-outs!
Why does an Executive Skills Approach matter at New Moms? And what is New Moms going to do to keep the momentum of this innovative approach going?
Executive Skills matter at New Moms because young moms feel very proud of their hard work and want to share that pride with others – their kids, their family members, friends, coaches, Bright Endeavors candle customers and more! That’s the most rewarding aspect of using Executive Skills coaching at Bright Endeavors, seeing moms feel empowered by knowing their strengths and confident that they can accomplish their goals.
Now, New Moms is testing out parts of the Executive Skills Approach in our Housing and Family Supports programs. Coaches and participants are excited about that. We’ll be able to do another blog post about it, too!