I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the phone. It was a frustrated sales person looking for help.

She had reached out after reading some blogs, asking me to be a sounding board for some deals she was struggling with. We spent some time talking about the deals, exploring what she might do to better position herself to win. At the end of the conversation, I asked, “Have you sat down with your manager to review this and get his advice?

She responded that she had tried to. “He’s always very busy and just doesn’t seem to have the time to help me on these things.”

Curious, I asked, “What kind of coaching do you get from your manager? How much time does he spend with you?”

She responded, “We have a formal 1 on 1 about once a month for an hour. I do talk to him most every day, but usually he’s just checking the status of things. He’s asking where we are on deals, what the competition is, and when we can get an order. Pipeline reviews are usually focused around what we are going to forecast. We do have a monthly team meeting, but usually it’s each of us giving brief updates on what’s going on. He’ll usually talk about where we need to be at to make the numbers.”

I probed a little further, “So you really get at most an hour of coaching a month?” She replied, “Well, it’s pretty one way. Usually, he’s telling me what I should be doing to maximize my numbers. I really don’t get much coaching or learn much from him.”

Aghast at what I was hearing, I probed further, “How many people does the manager have reporting to him? Is he doing the same with everyone else? How does he spend his time?”

Her responses were, “Besides me, there are 6 other people on our team, he seems to have the same approach with each of us. I really don’t know how he spends his time. He seems to be in the office a lot, the last time he went on a customer call was 6 months ago……”

As you know, my mind starts quickly running through the numbers. Assuming a 40 hour week (I don’t know anyone that actually spends that little time doing their job–I think of 40 hour work weeks as “part time jobs.”), he has roughly 160 working hours in the month. If I’m generous and he spends 90 minutes with each person on the monthly one on one’s, he’s spending roughly 10.5 hours a month coaching. Let me be generous and say he has a monthly 4.5 hour team meeting (granted, sounds like there is little coaching/development.), so he’s spending roughly 15 hours a month coaching and developing his people.

What’s he doing with the other 145 hours of his time?

Undoubtedly, it, he’s in a lot of “important” internal meetings, doing a lot of analysis and reporting, but how does that take 145 hours each month?

Yes, he was “spending time” every day with his people, usually it consisted of getting status updates and telling them what to do. While he may have thought that was coaching, it’s not. He wasn’t doing anything to improve the performance and capabilities of his people. Largely, they were left to figuring it out themselves.

“Is your team making the numbers?” I asked.

She responded, “I’m a little ahead of YTD plan. I think I’ll do it, but I struggling and need help in some areas—that’s part of the reason I’m calling you. A couple of my teammates are in similar positions, they’ll probably make plan or close to it. The other 4 are going to miss by a wide margin. They are good people, but they’re struggling. I don’t have time to help them, but they need help and they aren’t getting it from management.”

“Morale on the team is pretty bad, our manager just is focused on the numbers and is always hammering on us to do better,” she added. “We’re trying, but we need help, he doesn’t seem interested in helping us.”

I wish I were making this story up. Unfortunately, I hear variants of this every week.

I’ve no doubt that managers are investing the hours in working, it’s just how they are investing the hours. As you dive into where they invest their time, a lot is doing analysis and reporting. Some of this is self inflicted–they feel if they just keep looking at the data in different ways, the answer to making the numbers will pop out magically.

Others have the analysis and reporting requirements imposed on them by higher levels of management–in and out of sales. Probably one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen is the US subsidiary of a Japanese company being required to provide pipeline updates every 2 hours during November and December. This division sold high end B2B solutions, with sales cycles in excess of 12 months. The pipeline wasn’t going to change much in two hours—or even a week. In this case, the parent company was a consumer packaged good company. November and December was the period when those products were flying off store shelves, so very frequent forecast and pipeline updates might have made sense for those products—but not for their B2B division.

Then there are the endless “important” internal meetings, covering important topics, like, “Who should be the keynote speaker at the national sales meeting,” or “how do we get our sales people to give us more accurate reports,” or “here are the latest strategies of the corporation.” or, “should we buy this app that allows our sales people to update CRM from smart watches and fitbits?” Those meetings seem important, executives from many parts of the company may be involved. It’s cool to rub shoulders with senior management talking about future strategies. But it diverts you away from your people.

There are some internal things that add value to sales. Running interference for them, getting things done internally, getting them resources they need to do their jobs. Even some of the internal meetings are necessary.

But front line managers need to get their priorities and time allocation right.

The job is to maximize the performance of each person on the team. If they don’t do that, they won’t make their numbers.

The ways we maximize performance of people on the team is working directly with them—every day. Coaching them on deal strategies, calls, prospecting, account/territory plans, weekly time blocking, pipelines. Being in the field or on the phones helping them in customer situations. Your single highest priority is working directly with your people. At least 50% of your time needs to be dedicated to working with them–coaching, teaching, collaborating, discovering–not telling.

The next 25% of your time needs to be spent getting things done for your people. Getting them resources, support, getting approval, removing internal barriers and roadblocks. Your investment in this frees them up to be with customers.

The next 25% of your time needs to be divided in three ways: At least half of it needs to be unscheduled. You don’t know what crises will come up. If you schedule 100% of your time, you have no buffer or flexibility. Consequently, interuptions and crises will destroy your schedule. The rest of that 25% will be the inevitable, but necessary internal meetings.

The next 25% of your time can be spent on planning, analyzing, doing reports. No, my math isn’t wrong, I know I have scheduled 125% of your time–suck it up. Your a manager and this isn’t a 40 hours/week job. The time you spend for planning, analyzing, and doing reports is after hours and on weekends. The business day has to be focused on your people.

The final 25% of your time needs to be spent investing in your own development. Reading, attending courses, learning, keeping yourself up to date with the business, markets, customers, and your profession. If you aren’t continually learning, you will become a dinosaur–useless to your people, useless to the company, and useless to yourself.

You’re probably shrieking, I’ve had the audacity to schedule 150% of your time. If you are counting the hours, we’re at least up to 60 hours a week. That’s tough. You chose this job, it takes a lot of time. If you aren’t committed to putting in the time, you shouldn’t be a sales manager.

Yeah, I know there are some trade offs–trade off the time you spend in reports and analysis. There are plenty of tools that reduce the amount of time you need to spend doing this. Understand the few key indicators or KPIs that are most critical to keeping things on track. Don’t spend as much time in meetings. We hate them anyway because so little is accomplished, so why go in the first place.

When you’re making those tradeoffs on time investment, there is one you cannot change, at least 50% of your time is spent with your people. Anything less, they will fail, causing you to fail.