I’ve written about a couple of dysfunctions—Anti Sales Attitudes and the Need For Clarity and Direction. One of the more common dysfunctions is sales managers leading from behind a desk.

Increasingly, we find sales managers either trapped behind or hiding behind a desk. It comes about in a number of ways.

Often organizations become increasingly bureaucratic and process bound. There are endless reports (odd when many of the tools are supposed to save us time on reporting) and urgent internal meetings requiring sales management participation. Some of this reporting is necessary. It’s important to other people in the organization to do their jobs. We simply have to do it.

But we don’t have to do it during the business day! Schedule these administrative tasks, as much as you can, for the early morning, evenings, or weekends (Who said sales management is a 40 hour per week job?).

Sometimes, we just need to push back on the reporting and internal meetings. We need to look at what’s really being achieved, what can we eliminate.

Alternatively, managers think they can manage by the numbers. They think that endless analysis of the numbers and performance will give them the answers to what’s happening with performance. I suspect some of these managers are a little fearful of being “in the field, involved with customers.” Reports and analysis hide the messiness and challenge we face in helping our people deal with customers.

Reports, numbers, and analysis can be helpful–if we are looking at the right things. But even then, they give clues about potential performance issues. They don’t provide insights into why. The only way we can understand what’s driving the results shown in the analysis is by being engaged with our people. We need to watch and listen to what they are doing. We need to be participating in calls and meetings to understand. We need to understand them as individuals, how they work, what’s driving them, where they need to improve.

No amount of reporting and analysis provides those deep insights.

Looking at it from another point of view, if we could manage purely through the numbers, then we really don’t need managers—or at least as many managers.

Management–leadership–is about people. It’s about maximizing the performance of each person on the team. The only way we do this is by being actively engaged with them, teaching, learning, supporting, and helping them achieve our shared goals.

Anything else can frankly be eliminated and automated.