First-Time Managers upskilling acceleration factors

Knowledge transfer (on-line or off-line) by teaching what, why, how-to, what not to do and so on, these are all – without any exclusions, just premises to practice. Not only that. Even practice itself in everyday life, what we call “in-field experience”, it doesn’t have the same value of the practice you do with immersive training. Because it lacks some ACCELERATION FACTORS, without which growth is slowed down.
Andrea Laus
SkillGym CEO
11 min read


What is the secret that really makes the DIFFERENCE in great leadership training? How can solutions like ‘immersive practice’, ’emotional feedback’, ‘smart debrief’, ‘augmented replay’ permanently upskill your First-Time Managers?

I’m sure you know the meaning of Immersion, Trial & Error, Powerful Feedback, Actionable Metrics, Smart Coaching.

However, it makes sense that I introduce them to you in the most appropriate way, since they are the travel companions of those colleagues of yours who already get the results they deserve.

Let’s start with immersive practice.


1. Immersive, real-time practice

It is the most important part of the recipe, by the very admission of the best trainers in the world.

Did you know that our brain does not distinguish between reality and fiction? And that neurosciences confirm that immersive, real-time practice makes you change your habits and so your daily behaviors?

Give a look at this video to have an idea of how an interactive Digital Role Play works.



Thanks to the use of A.I., the interaction in SkillGym is particularly immersive and authentic because the characters are “alive” and react in a natural way based on the progress of the conversation, as in reality.
This is the trademark of SkillGym method.

SkillGym simulates real leadership conversations by placing the trainee at the center of a real (but simulated) conversation, in which the other party has a well-profiled attitude on specific psychological types.


The conversation’s objectives are challenging, and the counterpart’s implicit needs are not easy to bring out. Each choice of the trainee involves a twist in the behavior of the character who, gradually, learns to know the trainee and modulates his answers according to his personality and the progress of the conversation.

In this way, in less than 20 minutes natural behaviors emerge that can be addressed during training to learn how to manage complexity before facing it in real life.


Our typical customers obtain surprising results: they increase the confidence of their First-Time Manager of at least +25% simply by setting the pace of practicing at as low as 40 minutes / week for 6 months.

And, as you will discover shortly when I introduce the ‘Scheduling Butler’, this engagement is perfectly fitting any First-Time Manager’s agenda.


It also increases self-awareness, which is very important, since it is calculated that, on average, a First-Time Manager has a self-awareness index as low as 45%.
It means that one time out of two they don’t see the impact of their actions as it really is.

I can confirm this figure by looking at the enormous amount of data we have in “The Gym of First-Time Managers” program.

I also see that already after just 8 weeks of consistent training, self-awareness typically increases already by + 15%.


Even the customers who train their salesforce with our SkillGym Programs that are specifically dedicated to sales upskilling get fantastic performances, measured directly on sales increase.

For example, an important insurance company trained their inside sales using SkillGym and obtained an astonishing +18% on individual sales performance for those who consistently followed the program over 6 months.


And here’s what the Chief Learning Officer of an important bank told me about SkillGym, after having trained 245 First-Time Managers on our Program:

“The Gym of First-Time Managers literally exceeded my expectations. I see a huge difference between this group of First-Time Managers and those we trained last year, before introducing SkillGym. They are way more confident in engaging with critical conversations. And gosh, this is the core of their job.”


2. The emotional feedback

In life, the privilege we don’t have is knowing what others think of us after the conversation has ended. How nice would it be to eavesdrop?

To find out, in a safe place, where we could have done better and why it didn’t go as we thought. SkillGym offers us this privilege…

For 2 minutes, immediately after the conversation and thanks to the A.I. Emotional Feedback, our managers can hear talking about themselves.
And not in general terms, but with precise references to the conversation that has just ended.

Give a look at this video to have an idea of how an emotional digital feedback works.



So, they can understand exactly what worked and what didn’t in their approach.

Nobody in real life has the courage to give us such raw and cash feedback. Here’s how A.I. helps us improve and develops real experience.

Here at SkillGym we calculated that thanks to the emotional feedback, people accelerate by 50% the speed with which they automate virtuous behaviors.

Having such an effective tool as an emotional activator of the caliber of the Emotional Feedback is in itself the secret weapon of any leadership development training program.


It is something that cannot be replicated with other techniques, especially on the scale that is required to activate the automatic behaviors that are necessary to generate experience-based performance.

As you may know, emotional feedback immediately stimulates the right side of our brain.
But what you may not know is that this specific type of feedback activates the receptors that accelerate the excitement of our limbic system.

The limbic system is known as the emotional brain and contains the amygdala, which is located inside the frontal temporal lobe. This means that it is part of the so-called deep brain, the one where basic emotions or survival instincts stand out.


Did you know that its main function is to integrate emotions with the corresponding response models on a physiological and behavioral level?

Its connections not only produce an emotional reality but following its close bond with the frontal lobe it allows the inhibition of behaviors, participating in the well-known emotional seizure or “Amiygdala Hijack”.
This function is absolutely fundamental for unconscious set-up of new and efficient daily behaviors.

Neuroscience has widely demonstrated how this system is involved not only with emotions, but that it is also of vital importance in motivation, in the development of learning and in the consolidation of memory.

More on this amazing scientific subject below!


Thanks to A.I., “The Gym of First-Time Managers” automatically generates, in real-time, the precise emotional feedback that our mind needs to transform learning into experience.


3. The Smart Debrief

Imagine being able to follow each of your First Time Managers in every conversation they make.

And every time you can give them the support they need in real time to:

  1. Measure the effectiveness of their behavior
  2. Compare it with a significant benchmark
  3. Understand how much Self-Awareness they had and what they under or overestimated
  4. Understand in which passages they performed poorly
  5. Formulate powerful questions about those steps to help them challenge themselves
  6. Suggest how to continue training effectively and above all efficiently


This is something that you are certainly very good at, when you focus on a single conversation from a single manager at a time.

Think about what results you would get if you could do it continuously on all the conversations of all first-time managers for the first six months of their new assignment.


Now, unfortunately, think about the fact that such an effort is impossible to sustain with the traditional one-to-one coaching approach. Even if you had enough coaches to assign one to each manager, it would still not be possible to provide this level of service to each of their conversations.

All this is done automatically, thanks to A.I., by “The Gym of First-Time Managers” at the end of each simulated conversation.

Thanks to the Smart Debrief module which is an integral part of the training platform.

Give a look at this video to have an idea of how a digital smart debrief works.



In this way, every manager who practices on our conversations is followed step by step along his path.

With useful advice, such as those you would give (if you could follow each of your managers and if you could measure their behavior objectively and precisely).

If you wonder why this works, think about how you wanted to be supported when it was your first management assignment.


Did you know that a recent Blanchard’s research shows that 59% of First-Time Managers claim that the support they received for the role was insufficient?

It is no coincidence that the 49% of managers on their first assignment, felt unprepared to switch into the role and, after 6 months, 63% felt ineffective!

Instead the surveys on customers who use our Gym show that: 86% of trainees feel very confident with the most important types of conversations they need already after 12 weeks of practicing (and don’t forget that conversations take 80% of their time in the new role!).


If you did not get it, that’s why the Smart Debrief is an essential tool of our Gym: because it allows you to introduce the value that “human factor” can provide, while maintaining the automation that only A.I. can give you.

It means less effort on your part and absolutely one-to-one quality-like delivered to your trainees!


4. The Augmented Replay

Can you imagine if you could review the conversations you had in real life?
From a third and neutral point of view.

And what if you could have the magic of augmented reality helping you to understand the meaning that the other party gave to what you wanted to say, and if you could also grasp their unbiased reactions?

And think if you could also read the hidden meaning of their body language.

And also… what if you could have a comment for all your behaviors and a sharp recommendation on how to improve on each of them?

Give a look at this video to have an idea of how an Augmented Replay works.



Let me tell you what some first-time managers of an important insurance company told me after reviewing all the above through our A.I. Driven Augmented Replay:

“I can’t believe my eyes. It’s like a sort of body-scanner if you know what I mean. It knows me better than I do.” (Mark J., Insurance Area Manager)


“Reviewing the conversation was of great help. I could see some blindspots I would never think about. It’s certainly an eyeopener for me.” (Amy R., Team Manager)


“I shared my conversation with my Coach and she could review the critical steps with me during one of our sessions. It was a great way to provide her an example of a critical situation I was scared of.” (Annie B., Field Manager)


Warning: the benefit of reviewing a conversation is not something that is important just for First-Time Managers.
It’s an essential exercise for middle managers as well.

We are talking about being able to review our behaviors in a protected environment, in which to analyze each individual sentence of our dialogue, understand its impact and receive a recommendation.

Experience has taught me that even many seasoned in-role managers are happy to be able to refine their approach in such a comfortable and safe way.


The need for practicing conversations

First-Time Managers need to practice conversations even more than in-role managers do. Not only are conversations the way they will spend 80% of their time once in-role.

But above all, they will have to learn to guide, inspire, support and listen to others.

There are basically four areas in which they will need to demonstrate excellent capabilities of conversation:



And they will soon find out (normally the hard way) that their new reports expect the same listening, feedback and support capabilities from them as they expected from their leaders when they were individual contributors.

A First-Time Manager is estimated to spend over 800 hours in the first 6 months just making conversations.


And it is estimated that 90% of these conversations belong to the above four areas and specifically to just eight types within those area:

– Align/Update
– Assign objectives
– Coach / Mentor
– Give performance feedback
– Delegate
– Motivate
– Give recognition
– Support on priority setting

“The Gym of First-Time Managers” focuses exactly on these conversations.


In a recent survey conducted with one of our clients in the field of pharmaceuticals, it turned out that after 6 months from the start of training, 85% of First-Time Managers recognized that these conversations as those in which they spend most of their time.

  • 75% said they had overcome the fear of doing them thanks to practice
  • 89% said they understood the meaning of their role much better by practicing conversations than “learning about” in preparation courses


Why Immersive Practice is the real responsible for change?

The basic courses, the classes, knowledge transfer and peer-to-peer exchanges are useful, and they must be absolutely delivered. I am not questioning their effectiveness.

However, these approaches deliver only unexpressed potential, until they are integrated with actionable practice.


On the other hand, how do you think a sports champion can compete only by learning theory or exchanging opinions with those who have already done it?

And before they invented the concept of ‘Leadership Academy’, how do you think a manager was taught to be such?

With the example, and humble practice. Practice!


Instead, when the Leadership Academies were born, they preferred to replace the practice with a teaching method that works well in school but is not suitable for generating the performance expected in the world of business.

Traditional leadership training methods dilute people’s potential instead of concentrating it.

And they delegate responsibility for shaping their behavior to people themselves. And the only way people have to gain experience is by trial & error in real life, without any safety net.
And this makes them vulnerable, inefficient and ineffective.


Immersive Practices CRACKS the process of learning, it eliminates the evaporation of knowledge, turning it into automatic and consolidated behaviors in our unconscious mind. Without we even realize that.

But how is all this possible?

Neuroscience explains it well.
Recent studies have widely demonstrated how emotional learning based on the repetition of experiential paths affects the parts of our brain that stimulate instinctive and automatic reactions, making us act through impulse of the amygdala.


The reactions generated while stimulating the amygdala (also called “prehistoric brain”) are faster compared to the ones generated when we use the parts of the brain that act rationally. Moreover, the use of emotions in training is proven to improve retention and recall of what has been learned.

Unfortunately, however, practice alone in daily life is not efficient.

IT IS SLOW because it is made in an unprotected environment where experience accelerators are missing: Emotional Feedback, Smart Debrief and Augmented Reality.


Imagine what it means to accelerate up to 10X the speed at which we transform experience into new automatic behaviors.

Your First-Time Managers would become great performers in a much shorter time, with a very strong self-awareness of their potential and their limits and a very high level of confidence, with which to face the obstacles that will accompany them throughout their career.

I know what science fiction stuff might look like this to you right now.

After all, it can’t be easy to change people that fast with immersive practice-based learning, otherwise everyone would be able to. In fact, it’s true: it’s not easy… if you don’t have the best tools that allow you to do it.


“The Gym of First-Time Managers” has already empowered hundreds of thousands managers at the beginning of their career all around the world. It has transformed these people into prepared, confident and lucid managers, leading them to outperform up to 5 times those of their competitors.

Thanks to “The Gym of First-Time Managers”, the Learning Officers of these companies have been able to evolve the way they think about developing managerial skills.

By placing CONVERSATIONS and PRACTICE at the center of the transformation of new leaders.

Was that easy? Obviously not. But it was worth it.


What’s next

If you are looking around to find the Digital Role Play solution that suits your need, please give a look around our website, there is plenty of inspiring contents including pre-recorded webinars and articles and of course we would be delighted to continue this conversation with you, all you need to do is book a 1-hour discovery call with us.

Enjoy the rest of your day.

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