leadership skills

Reflections on Coaching: Why a Mirror Might Be Your Most Valuable Development Tool

Organizations worldwide have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the years on peer assessments and live skill practice, all in an effort to hold a mirror up to their leaders.

The goal? To get leaders to see themselves as their employees and others see them – namely in coaching situations – and build on their strengths while improving on their weaknesses.


This approach reminds me of a time when I coached my sons’ youth sports teams. I was that guy on the sidelines, screaming at a group of 8- to 9-year-olds to do this, stop doing that, run over here and block over there – all in the name of winning.

Of course, at the time I didn’t see myself that way. After all, coaching pre-teens in an athletic environment is easy, right? Kids trust quickly, expect to make mistakes, love to learn, and the culture on the playing field is one of constant coaching. Besides, I cared about the kids and enjoyed the incredible environment in which they trusted me and craved my coaching.

But then came the video

I asked my wife to shoot video of some games so I could watch them afterward and look for ways to help the children improve. What I discovered came as a shock: It was me who needed to improve. The videos were key to learning about and improving my own coaching weaknesses.

Through the videos, my coaching style evolved, and I became supremely confident in my skills with the children. I discovered how to challenge them, pick them up when they were down and even occasionally inspire them to greatness. To this day, many of my sons’ friends still refer to me as “coach.”

Your associates, of course, aren’t children in a sports environment; however, I believe there are still some important lessons to be learned from my experience. To enjoy success as a leader, you need to:

  • Build a culture of trust and constant coaching. Encourage your people to take risks and make mistakes.
  • Honestly assess your skills as a coach. You likely model a compilation of everyone who has coached you over the years, which may or may not be a good thing.
  • Find a “mirror” so that you can watch your skills evolve over time. What you see is likely to be truly eye-opening and possibly career-changing.

If accessibility and cost make finding a “mirror” difficult, I’ve got great news: Blueline’s simulation technology offers an exceptionally affordable mirror that enables anyone who needs it to develop and hone their coaching skills in a safe environment. Imagine rehearsing delivering difficult feedback in a range of real-life performance improvement scenarios to a broad range of employee personalities. Imagine using these newfound skills to build a culture of trust and constant coaching. Imagine the positive impact your high-performing team will have on your organization. Demo the simulation now to experience the possibilities.

Contact the coaching specialists at Blueline today to learn more about our leadership-related offerings or any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.

Harnessing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

It’s been nearly 20 years since Daniel Goleman introduced the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to the business world, when his article on the subject first appeared in Harvard Business Review.


What was groundbreaking (and often dismissed as “touchy-feely”) then is fully embraced today – as organizations worldwide are seeing notable results from leaders who score high on their ability to manage their emotions as well as their relationships with others.

Knowledge is EQ power

The field of neuroscience has enhanced our knowledge of how and why the brain does what it does. We now have rich knowledge of the important role EQ skills play in producing business results and predicting individual success. We also have scientifically validated behavior assessments that help us understand our strengths and gaps in managing our emotions and our relationships.

It’s clear that EQ has found its legitimacy as a key business and leadership capability, with the power to deliver stunning business results. Consider these examples:

  • The Coca-Cola Company saw division leaders who developed their EQ skills outperform their targets by 15%.
  • The U.S. Air Force reduced recruiter turnover from 35% to 5% annually by selecting candidates high in emotional intelligence.
  • Fortune Brands had 100% of their leaders who went through EQ development exceed performance targets, compared with just 28% of leaders who failed to develop their EQ skills.
  • Salespeople at an insurance firm who scored high on an emotional intelligence test sold 37% more in their first two years than those who scored lower.

Yes, the results are convincing, and the power of EQ is clear. If your organization hasn’t yet tapped into that power, then now is a great time to do so. Blueline Simulations offers EQ-related learning opportunities that you can put to work right away.

In next week’s blog, we’ll share a project in which Blueline Simulations worked with a Fortune 120 pharmaceutical firm to assess the EQ skills of 80 of its leaders, including coaching around the assessment results and customized training to further develop EQ skills.

Learning to Coach: New Technologies and New Opportunities

What’s a leader to do? Today, with their broad spans of control, leaders are frustrated that they can’t spend enough time with each of their employees. And yet, today’s economic environment demands that managers maximize employee productivity.

Leaders are challenged to build skills and provide counsel, while also motivating and inspiring employees to take action.

What Got us Here Won’t Get us There
Historically, role plays have been the holy grail for developing these skills. But role plays demand time away from the job, and the quality of the practice and feedback is widely variable.

The industry had high hopes for solving this challenge with innovative, new simulation technologies. Early generations of branching simulations offered flexibility and delivered consistent quality.

Think about the endless directions a coaching conversation can take. Unfortunately, the limited outcomes of those early simulations didn’t cut it. Interactions in these simulations presented few choices (nodes) and because they were preprogrammed, were highly predicable.

For a while, it appeared that “Level 4” simulations, which use game engines with rules and probabilities, would come to the rescue. They have similar benefits to that of a live role play, but can be done remotely online at a time convenient to the learner, while still delivering a consistent experience and feedback.

Alas, none of these technologies could provide the chief advantage of an in-person role play: realism. The role player could respond in the conversation ad hoc, as they saw fit. We can’t do that with a computer.

Or can we?

Introducing a New Age in Coaching Skills Training

Imagine a coaching skills practice session so real that you will forget that you are interacting with the computer. Hundreds of nodes and voice recognition deliver the most immersive simulation you have ever experienced. Couple that with coaching best practices defined by one of the world’s best-known authorities and a simulation designed by one of the premier designers in the space. Taken together, it represents a breakthrough in Coaching and Leadership Development the likes of which we haven’t seen in a decade.

We’ve got it here at Blueline Simulations. And you have to see it to believe it. My own experience has made me a believer. I want you to experience it for yourself. Give me a call today, and I’ll give you an exclusive peek at the next level of coaching skills training.

Want ROI? Provide Effective Coaching!

During a recent client engagement I was reminded once again of how critical effective coaching is to success in the workplace. While conducting a gap analysis to identify failure points in a new sales process, one refrain was stated loudly and consistently: “our coaching on the new process is inconsistent, at best.” Unfortunately, this is a theme I’ve heard all too often in my career.

Numerous studies have shown the significant impact that effective coaching can have on performance. One frequently cited study by Olivero and Bane, showed that, “After training alone, the average increase in productivity was 22.4 percent. When training was reinforced with coaching, the average increase in productivity was 88 percent.” And a 2001 case study by MetrixGlobal found that “coaching produced a 529% return on investment and significant intangible benefits to the business.” And if the financial benefits from employee retention were included it boosted the overall ROI to 788%.

Given that coaching delivers such dramatic impact, why is it so underutilized in so many organizations? There are a number of answers to that question, including: increasing spans of control limit coaching opportunities, competing priorities, and simply a lack of focus on employee development within the culture. The one that I want to address here is a lack of comfort with the skills required to coach effectively. While many managers are comfortable with setting goals, allocating resources and developing or evaluating reports, they are often hesitant to engage in a performance coaching dialogue.

While traditional classes devoted to coaching provide the context and process for coaching effectively, they fail to develop mastery. Most training sessions can offer only two or three opportunities to role-play a coaching conversation. While this may be sufficient to reinforce the key concepts, it falls far short of developing unconscious competence. Role-playing rarely provides the variety of emotional responses one is likely to encounter during actual coaching conversations, either. And unless there is an immediate opportunity or need to engage in coaching after the training, the limited proficiency that is developed will have faded before the leader can apply the skills in a critical coaching situation.

Fortunately, the latest in Level 4 coaching simulations addresses all these shortcomings. This new rules-based simulation utilizes voice recognition and hundreds of “nodes” to deliver the most immersive experience ever developed.  Learners encounter a wide range of “personalities” and emotional responses during the practice sessions. This allows sufficient practice to develop unconscious competence while never delivering the same experience twice. And it has the added benefit that leader’s can use the sim for a just-in-time refresher prior to a developmental coaching session.

Blueline will be launching this new off-the-shelf simulation in the next few weeks. Considering the significant return on investment, shouldn’t you be exploring this very cost-effective means of boosting organizational performance?