top of page

What glassblowing has to do with coaching our people

This connection hit me while watching the glass blowing competitive reality show, “Blown Away”.

Technical, Artistic and Functional

One challenge was to make a wine decanter and wine glass, and it had to be technically elegant, artistically beautiful and the decanter must pour the wine without spilling. All three criteria were necessary. Sometimes the person I felt should win due to technical execution, did not meet the artistic standards and vise- versa.

As a leadership coach, I know the technical part applies to the questioning process a coach uses in a session which, by design, uncovers a lot of ideas, insight, and awareness.

The artistic side is more the qualitative side. If done well, this gives the client a feeling that the session was all about them, that the coach really gets them and it was an easy flow of ideas, a true partnership. Also, the client feels the coach cared about them and their questions really provoked new thinking and connections. These artistic/qualitative differences can be hard to pinpoint, less like checking the box, but they are what makes the experience unique and rich.

Functionality makes sense to include because the learning will stick; and the client will find it particularly useful to their situation and the corporations who hire us see a change in their people, they have grown into more capable, confident leaders.

As a leader, you have opportunities to coach every day. Are you paying attention to all three criteria? The technical, artistic, and functional? Two and maybe three can be found in gymnastics, acting, and song writing, with the lyrics and musical complementing each other. If you over or under utilize any of these three, you may risk being unapproachable or someone your people cannot connect to. Leaders can learn a lot from seeing how this plays out in real life.


How to practice the full artistry of coaching your people:

  1. Is your style of giving feedback and developing your people a balance of all three?

  2. Do you include examples of what you want and what it looks like, which helps them in applying the learning? Some of your employees need examples, that is the functionality they seek. Are you asking them to come up with a way to apply the learning? When they work with it, they will remember it. Their own ideas are best.

  3. For the person who needs more technical support, are you providing it to them? Are you helping them discover where and how they can become more knowledgeable in the technical aspects of their job?

  4. In the coaching exchange, the technical side can include clarity of the message, getting to the point, better listening, open ended questions, and asking for action at the end.

  5. Are you modeling the technical aspects of powerful conversations? There are many great examples, books and videos that you can tap into and learn the steps and process for better conversations.

  6. Are you planning your conversations to insure they are effective?

  7. Do you get to the point?

  8. Do they feel supported by you?

  9. Just like evaluating a piece of art glass, much of what we love comes from the artistic message: the color, shape, and emotion it evokes in you. You feel its power. Your communication skills are your artistic message. How you deliver is critical. You may feel inspired when talking with someone who is masterful at communication. Prepare for your conversations, add a metaphor, an image or a visual to evoke a stronger connection with the employee. If the conversation includes the artistic sense, you both will enjoy it more: the timing, their metaphors, the way they inject fun and interesting examples.

  10. To be functional and useful, are you asking for and offering up examples? Try this for more clarity in your conversations.

Experiencing the artistic, technical, and functional enhances the coaching experience for your people. Just the right balance can be just as masterful and beautiful as that which wins on “Blown Away.


Contact Susan Shapiro at if you want help with strategies to improve your leadership.

Contact Jon at if you are looking for growth through consulting


Follow Susan on social media: LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

58 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page