Posted by Ken Eiken, Advisory Council Member of the EcSELL Institute
In last week's blog, we looked at Annual Performance Goals and using the SMART template for creating effective goals for your team members.
Today we will examine another tool that effective sales leaders use for coaching - Regular One on Ones.
Like most most of you, I look forward to One on Ones, both with my boss and with my direct reports. Salespeople are busy, so having an opportunity to take a "break in the action" to update each other on activities, get / give advice on a project and build relationships is always welcome. Additionally, I have found that slightly formalizing the process makes these meetings more effective.
The thing to remember with Regular One on Ones is that they exist FOR THE EMPLOYEE. You do not want to use the One on One as an information presentation or individual "staff" meeting. That is why you have regular staff meetings... right? Thus, I always have my direct reports prepare the agenda for their meeting. Of course, I generally bring a few items to the meeting, but overall, my expectation is that my sales person will drive the meeting. Don't forget, if you haven't had your employees set their own agenda for these meetings in the past, you will need to coach them on effective use of this time together.
Here are the minimum items that should be on the salesperson's One on One agenda:
- Progress towards achievement of Annual Performance Goals
- Current and Upcoming Projects (Proposals / Prospects / Customer Visits / etc)
- Roadblocks / Areas of concern
- Any additional discussion points
It is up to you, the sales leader, to determine if you want to see the agenda items before the meeting (if so, make sure your team knows that expectation). Personally, I prefer NOT to have agenda items in advance - the spontaneity of the meeting makes it more of a "brainstorming" session than a performance review. Obviously, the sales person does need to provide the agenda ahead of time if I need to prepare for our discussion. I'm not advocating a particular approach, just follow the protocol that is most appropriate for your leadership style and your organization's culture.
Another important aspect of the Regular One on One is duration and frequency of the meeting. In general, the more often you meet, the shorter the meeting and vice versa. I've had good results from 1 hour meetings twice a month as well as 30 minute weekly meetings. Choose whichever approach works best for your organization. Sometimes, when you have a new employee, it might be helpful to have short, more frequent meetings which can taper off as the new team member gets acclimated to your organization. Another technique is to "schedule" weekly meetings, but set the expectation that bi-weekly or monthly meetings are acceptable. This method works well if your sales people travel extensively - just make sure that you both communicate effectively regarding if the meeting is on or not! Regardless of duration and frequency of the meeting, ensure that you meet AT LEAST once a month and accomplish a thorough One on One.
Finally, when it is time for a Performance Review or if you need to conduct some form of Discipline Session, schedule those separately from the One on One. Both of those meetings' agendas are driven by you and thus, should be treated independently. Hopefully, if you have conducted Regular One on Ones and followed a consistent agenda during each, you'll minimize Discipline Sessions and prevent surprises at Annual Performance Reviews.
One on Ones are an essential tool for effective coaching. Requiring your direct reports to provide an agenda and meeting regularly (at least monthly) will help improve your coaching. It is essential that you make time to coach your team with Regular One on Ones!
I'm looking forward to your thoughts and best practises!
Your fellow student of leadership - Ken