Leadership is More Than Just a Sales Function Imperative – Part 2


In Part 1, we identified leadership as a potential reason for revenue problems. My 30+ years of experience with loads of different organizations and employers has made that perfectly clear, although not popular. Your sales team needs a leader, and Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team helps illustrate the common pitfalls. We’ve already reviewed Trust and Constructive Conflict, now on to the final three points.


We often hear business leaders say they want their teams to take ownership of their role and give it the same commitment as the owner might. That’s a great idea! But getting there requires an equal commitment from leadership. For people to take ownership of their role, they need clarity as to exactly what that role is. Specifically, how they contribute to the destination the team is working toward, as well as the freedom to contribute their unique human perspective in a trusting environment. If what you want your business to be, why, and by when is in a constant state of change, there is no opportunity to build trust or resolve the conflicts that hold your organization and your people back.

The root issue: Many vision statements are clear on team behaviors, but lack a clear picture of the destination. That gap in clarity of where the organization is going prevents individuals from contributing creatively via their unique perspective, and that is the foundation of individual commitment.

Take away: To commit to achieving sales goals, organization leadership must consistently supply and reinforce a vision that pinpoints the destination and includes why the organization is headed there, as well as the behaviors expected on the journey. You then allow the team to build that vision using each of their unique perspectives and talents.


What happens in your organization when everyone agrees on what needs to be done, and then it doesn’t get done? Now that your mind is spinning with your own examples of this, the short answer is usually one of two things: corrective action is taken, or implicit permission is granted for not getting things done.

The root issue: Many leaders do not measure enough of the right things to be able to understand why desired results are or are not being realized, and so they fail to take effective corrective action when desired results are not met. You cannot understand if it is the person or the process unless you have the processes in place and measure their efficiency. Telling people what to do is managing them. Helping people get better at what they own is leadership.

Take Away: Manage things, lead people. If people know what to do, how to do it, and why dong it that way is important, they are now free to get that done, and you are free to focus on what you need to do. When things don’t get done, you have three options for holding your team, and yourself, accountable to your commitments:

  1. Change the process steps that are keeping people from succeeding.
  2. Help people understand how to do those things better.
  3. Both 1 and 2.


The ultimate measure for sales teams is, “Did we, or did we not hit our number?” Consistent, positive results come from a clear and mutual understanding of team and individual contributions that will deliver results – then addressing and removing the issues that prevent this from occurring. The most efficient and effective way of achieving that state of operation is ensuring all five of these criteria for effective teamwork are being addressed by leadership at every level. Specifically:

  1. A clear understanding of what each role needs to contribute, and trust that each person and the team can and will do their part.
  2. Resolving the barriers to obtaining desired results with open, complete, honest, and consistent discussion of the obstacles by those who are involved in creating the results – in an environment that welcomes robust constructive conflict resolution.
  3. Commitment to team and personal results by those who have been involved in the decision and understand their role in obtaining it.
  4. Actively and openly addressing both the process and individual actions that are impeding the achievement of results.
  5. Transparency on desired results and their achievement, by both individuals and teams.

The primary role of leadership is creating environments where teams can succeed without requiring the leader’s constant presence. Effective leadership creates more opportunities by establishing an environment where individual and team productivity thrive by focusing on results. This differs from management, which focuses on assigning and enforcing tasks, then assigning and enforcing new tasks, which restricts result achievement to what the manager is capable of recognizing on his own.

If your organization is experiencing recurring misses to top-line objectives, consider whether or not the root cause – as well as the solution – may be closer to your fingertips than you realize. Contact us today to learn about how to activate more consistent, positive results with your sales team, and take our free Sales Agility Assessment to see right away what your sales operation might be missing.