ATD Blog

Training and Coaching Leadership Teams

Monday, October 13, 2014

Congratulations, Michelle Reid! You’re the winner of the "Developing High-Performance Teams" TD at Work giveaway!


My company has worked with leadership teams in a wide variety of industries in more than 35 countries. Coaching a leadership team toward improving its interactions and effectiveness is different from the executive coaching that individual leaders receive to improve their behaviors. It is often difficult for independent-minded leadership team members to receive critical feedback on how they can interact more collaboratively with their peers.

A leadership team coach helps the team to assess how the members’ collective behaviors or processes may be contributing to or hindering the team’s overall success. The coach provides suggestions or facilitates a team discussion about what norms or processes need to be established to improve effectiveness. Although there is some need for relationship building in leadership teams, we do not believe that sending leadership teams to whitewater rafting courses or “kumbaya activities” serve leadership teams well. Instead, the focus of team coaching should be on real issues facing the team.

While we believe team coaching is the primary responsibility of the leader of the executive team, often this leader seeks a third party to work with the team because she brings team development expertise and can provide an objective perspective to both the leader and the team. The ultimate goal is for the leadership team to become self-managing, but periodic third-party interventions may help the team move forward faster.


For example, we worked with one leadership team whose members knew they needed to improve their collaboration with one another if they were going to take their company to a new growth level. During a two-day off-site training, we used a DiSC communications survey so the leaders could learn about each other’s styles. Team members developed strategic company and departmental goals that would require cross-functional collaboration. And we introduced them to situational leadership skills so they could learn to empower their teams.

A word of caution for those who want to work with leadership teams: These teams are comprised of seasoned leaders who want to work with other credible professionals who provide relevant content and perspectives and have the professional courage to confront executive issues and behaviors. They want to work with people who are decisive and action-focused, and not enamored with their own expertise. This is not territory for novice facilitators or the faint-hearted coach.


Below are some critical skills and experiences you need to develop if you want to work with leadership teams:

  1. Use of assessment tools, MBTI, DiSC, etc.
  2. Consulting
  3. Appreciative inquiry
  4. Individual and team coaching
  5. Active listening
  6. Team start-up/onboarding
  7. Team effectiveness diagnosing
  8. Managing team differences and conflict
  9. Facilitating difficult conversations
  10. Team goal setting and accountability
  11. Creating a team’s charter and vision
  12. Stakeholder management
  13. Team operating agreements
  14. Team decision making
  15. Professional courage to confront authority

What are some additional skills that have served you well when coaching a leadership team? We are eager to hear your thoughts on this question. For a chance to win a copy of the September 2014 TD at Work (formerly Infoline), "Developing High-Performance Leadership Teams," answer the above question in the comments section below. If you prefer to email your response, please send it to [email protected]. The author will review all answers and choose the winner by Wednesday, October 22. To be eligible to win, your comment must be received by 5 p.m. ET on Friday, October 17 and include an email address where you can be reached.

About the Author

Lynda has developed leadership teams in more than 35 countries in a wide variety of industries. She is a Certified Speaking Professional with a master’s degree in organization development, and is a speaker, consultant, and coach. In addition to her best-selling book, World Class Teams, she is the author of three ATD TD at Work publications, including “Basics of Emotional Intelligence," “The Power of Peer Coaching," and "Developing High-Performance Leadership Teams." Lynda’s clients, which include Pfizer, Hearst Magazines, Eli Lilly, Vogue magazine, NYK Liner, and Indianapolis Power & Light, repeatedly seek Lynda’s counsel for help to continuously improve their individual and organizational results.

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