The Coaching Effect Blog

6 Competencies of Senior Leadership Sales Coaching

Posted by Kristi Shoemaker

February 21, 2011

This white paper was written by our Pillar Partner, Center For Creative Leadership.  "Senior Leadership Team Coaching" was written by Douglas Riddle, Global Director, Coaching Services, Center for Creative Leadership. It is one small example of how we strive to keep your members informed and up-to-date on the latest research, technology, and best practices in sales coaching, leadership, and managing the 6 Pillars of Sales Productivity.

If you would like a full copy of the white paper, all you have to do is leave a comment on what you thought about after reading this post.  It's just that simple. We will email the white paper to you. Get involved! Join the conversation!


There are several critical competencies expected of senior leadership team coaches. It is hypothesized that these competencies contribute to the coach’s ability to foster a climate of trust, safety, transparency, and commitment to the group formation. The most prominent coach competencies are these:

1. The ability to read in the moment the multiple levels of dynamic occurring in the team and raise only the productive elements to the surface for conscious consideration. At every moment there are exciting interactions within each individual, between individuals in their relationships, within the group itself, and in the various external forces playing on the thinking and operations of this group. An awareness of these dynamics is based on a deep theoretical and practical understanding of group dynamics and team development, as well as significant coaching experience with individuals and groups. However, that awareness is only as useful as the coach’s ability to decide on the fly what really matters and to draw attention to it properly.

2. An awareness of power and its movement within groups and comfort at intervening to affect the ways power is used in the group. Who has what kinds of power and how are they using it?

3. An ability to put into simple, jargon-less language what is observed and the stature to raise any issue with the team or its members at the right moment.

4. A firm grasp of the ethical and practical dangers of working with a group and the individuals on it. In particular, the coach should be aware of the consequences of being overly identified with one person (even if it is the CEO) or with any particular “side” to a given issue. Also necessary is the ability to respond appropriately and judiciously in the moment.

5. A keen sense of business acumen, of how businesses make money. Coaches gain the trust of client leadership teams because they know group and team process, but more because they understand the business of that leadership team. The coaches who do not know the market conditions in the client’s industry, the structure of the organization, its competitive advantages and its challenges, its labor and organizational circumstances, and much more are not going to be credible as persons who can assist the leadership team.

It might be valuable to identify the ways that senior leadership team coaching can go awry:

1. It can go pear-shaped before it even begins if the coaching team is not adequately prepared. Kerry Bunker, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, says, “You need to guard against being thrown in front of a senior team without time to assess their characteristics and their needs.” He describes this danger as the “fragility of credibility” with this audience.

2. If a coach cannot simultaneously challenge and support the team and its members, then the trust built on creating a sufficiently safe environment won’t be available. For every senior team, the issues that must be addressed “are more comfortably left under the table or voiced only as the team members are walking away from the room,” says Bunker.

3. A coach or coaches who aren’t clear about their role and the limits of their expertise will disrupt the effective functioning of the client’s leadership team. The nature of this work requires that the coach be knowledgeable about the business, about strategic concerns, about the dynamics of leadership and of senior teams, and many other elements. This knowledge is required to shape the kinds of questions and observations by which the coaches provoke the development of whole team leadership. Seldom is a senior leadership team coach the kind of expert to give specific advice on any business or strategy issue. Coaches who stray outside of their expertise can either be dismissed as quacks (the best outcome of a bad situation) or be influential in the decisions of the team (potentially disastrous in the absence of crazy luck). We don’t want coaches running organizations. We want coaches coaching.


If you would like a full copy of the white paper, leave a comment and we will email it to you!

Also, if sales coaching is a focus for you and/or your sales management team in 2011, consider attending the EcSELL Institute Sales Coaching Summit in Scottsdale, AZ April 7-8, 2011. 

It doesn't hurt to check it out!


Topics: sales management research, executive sales management, professional development for sales management, sales management skills, sales leadership best practices

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