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[Message to Management]: How Much Time Should You Spend with Direct Reports?

TrisGuest blogger Tris Brown shares some surprising data about how much time sales leaders should spend actually leading.

Not too long ago, new sales recruits were given a desk, a phone, a phonebook, an overview of benefits, and instructions for how to complete time sheets. Then they were told to get to it. The process hasn’t changed much over the years, but the tools sure have. Today newbies receive a desk, a phone, and a password—and maybe a cold-calling list. Then they’re told to get to it. They hang in there for a while, and then they leave for the next sales opportunity.

Companies that want productive employees know this nonsensical process has to change. But how? Considering how busy we all are, where do sales managers find time to coach new hires? And how much time should it take to set a salesperson up to succeed?

In this guest post, Tris Brown, president and CEO of LSA Global, shares some remarkable and challenging facts about how savvy managers grow and develop their teams. Here’s his take:

New manager training programs advocate the importance of spending one-on-one time with employees. This helps you get to know their individual skills and get a sense of what motivates them personally. Knowing both their competencies and their drivers will help you assign them meaningful tasks.

No one argues against the value of this time with team members. The question is: How much time should you spend with each employee?

Most managers try to schedule an hour per employee per week, depending on what projects the team is working on and when they are due. Top quartile leaders—those who outperform their peers in terms of productivity and retention—tend to spend four to eight hours per week with each direct report.

Depending on the size of your sales team, that could be a huge time investment. Is it worth it? Consider whether the benefits of this schedule would outweigh the challenges for you.

First the challenges:

  • It can be difficult to find enough time in the day for connecting—whether it be on the phone, via email, or face-to-face. You and your sales reps have demanding jobs, and there seems to be little slack time for brainstorming together or checking in with one another.
  • The number of direct reports you can manage this way is severely limited. If you devote four to eight hours to each salesperson, you can realistically be in charge of no more than six or seven at a time.

Next the benefits:

  • A report by Leadership IQ claims that employees who spend six hours each week with their bosses, rather than the typical one hour, are more likely to feel valued and that their contributions matter. They are also:
  • 30 percent more engaged
  • 29 percent more inspired
  • 16 percent more innovative

You do the math…

Do the benefits outweigh the challenges? It is up to you to decide. If stronger teams, more engaged and motivated employees, and fresher insights are the results of more frequent one-on-one communication, you might want to rearrange your schedule.

The good news is that not all these sessions need to be formal or even face-to-face. In fact, for virtual teams, this would be impossible. Go for as much time in the same room as possible. Otherwise, use the phone and email to connect.

But watch the clock. More than the critical number of six hours seems to have diminishing returns. One-on-one sessions lasting more than seven or eight hours tend to correlate to a drop in engagement scores—probably because employees feel micro-managed if you hover.

Invest the time and you will reap the benefits many-fold.”

tris_headshotAbout the Author

As CEO and Chairman of LSA Global, Tris Brown is responsible for the overall strategic direction and management of the company and client services. He has more than 25 years of consulting and management experience, and his passion is creating and implementing impactful strategies for clients that align their culture and talent with their most important initiatives. Read more about Tris.

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