For 5.12 Solutions, executive coaching rocks

BOULDER — For some, the skills needed to become a successful rock climber may not translate to being a successful business leader. For Sal Silvester, however, they absolutely relate to one another.

Silvester, a climbing enthusiast and owner of Boulder-based 5.12 Solutions Inc., a team-building and leadership training consulting group, has developed an intensive, six-month program for emerging leaders based on that comparison. “Ignite Leadership 2013” is designed to prepare all leaders for roles that directly impact business results, but the course points a lens on employees ready to step into these positions.

“Executive coaching is not just for top-level management anymore,” Silvester said. “Fortunately, many companies are starting to see the value of executive coaching for mid-level or new managers who are expected to quickly step up to leadership responsibilities. Leadership doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it can be learned.”

Teamwork, communications skills and setting of expectations for goals and team members’ roles make for a successful rock climb, Silvester said, and those principles apply in the business world, too. He uses rock climbing as a metaphor in his book, “Ignite! The 4 Essential Rules for Emerging Leaders,” and based the training program on the book.

He even named his business after a rock-climbing term.

“Technical climbing routes are rated on a scale of 5.0 to 5.15, depending on difficulty,” he said. “When you climb at a 5.12 level, you’re a world-class climber. That level embodies the types of clients we work with and the training solutions we deliver.”

His book is split into two parts. The first is a parable featuring Ben, an up-and-coming employee at a fictional software company — who also happens to be passionate about rock climbing. Ben gets promoted to a leadership position, for which he is not prepared. But a vice president takes him under her wing and helps him navigate through many situations in which first-time managers find themselves. Her training helps Ben develop the skills needed to be an effective leader. Ben is also under the tutelage of a more experienced rock climber and transfers the techniques used to help him strengthen and develop climbing skills to building a strong, cohesive team at the office.

One satisfied 5.12 customer is Jill Scott, director of human resources at Professional Finance Co., in Greeley. Scott has implemented Ignite into the leadership training programs provided by her company, which has been in business since 1904 and has a staff of 185.

“We truly believe our employees are our greatest asset,” she said, “and we invest heavily in them — not only from a payroll stance, but work-life balance and education and training.”

Professional Finance is growing like a weed. Because of that rapid growth, it reached out to Silvester to help identify emerging leaders and train them in leadership skills before they actually moved into the positions. The same course was taken by C-level directors and supervisory staff so that everyone “was on the same page as far as leadership goals and outcomes,” Scott said.

The results of the Ignite training have been especially valuable to Professional Finance’s call-center floor, Scott said.

“Our supervisors (in that department) have taken what they’ve learned and completely run with it,” she said. “They’re doing one-on-one sessions with their employees, they’re setting goals, they’re delegating. They are pushing people to meet their full potential and get to their next set of goals. Communication between the leadership team and the staff has improved immensely.”

Scott stressed the value of upfront investment in leadership training instead of “throwing someone into a situation they weren’t fully prepared for and dealing with cleaning up afterwards.”

That sort of investment doesn’t come cheaply. There is a significant financial outlay, in addition to a time investment on the part of trainees. 5.12 charges $650 per month for each person involved in the six-month program. Those involved need to commit four to eight hours a month in workshops and one-on-one training sessions.

Clients can expect two outcomes from the program. The first teaches leaders to develop their internal capacities and self-awareness, Silvester said.

The second focus is on practical leadership skills: how to have a difficult conversation, how to coach individuals in a way that resonates with them both professionally and personally, how to provide helpful feedback and how to delegate effectively so that team members’ skill sets are growing, which in turn increases their value to the company.

Heidi Wilcox heads up training at Datalogix Inc. in Westminster. In addition to keeping the company’s teams current with technology, Datalogix makes a strong investment in personal growth and leadership training, especially with 5.12 Solutions programming.

“Companies that tend to invest more in training see higher retention and lower employee turnover,” she said. “Investing in training can be expensive, but it’s not as expensive as having to replace an employee, whether that’s a high-level employee or not.

“Letting your employees know they are valuable to the company by helping them to grow, both professionally and personally, makes them happy employees. The organization is that much stronger.”

“It’s true,” agreed Silvester. “Employees don’t leave a company. They leave a manager. That’s not good for anyone.”

More information about 5.12 Solutions’ leadership training programs is online at

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