The following is taken from an interview I had with Kevin Gaither, Vice President of Inside Sales at uSamp, a leading provider of online market research technology (and an OpenView portfolio company).
DM: Kevin, I’ve noticed you are big fan of weekly performance reviews with your team. Some may say that reviews that are that frequent could be overkill, and become a bit redundant. What would be your response?
KG: I know lots of people are probably thinking “Are you out of your friggin’ mind? Weekly performance reviews? I hate doing performance reviews annually, semi-annually, or even quarterly, and you’re suggesting doing them weekly? No way.” Personally, I hate annual reviews, too. That’s why I do weekly performance reviews. I actually call them “Coaching Sessions.”
DM: So your reps go for this, having a one-on-one review with their manager each week? Do you get much pushback from them?
KG: Listen, for me, it’s better to be trusted than to be liked by my reps. And by having these weekly coaching sessions devoted to them, I develop their trust by listening to them, showing them empathy, and giving them mentorship. This is especially helpful if you’re managing any Gen Y reps. They LOVE these short sessions because you’re helping to guide their careers.
There’s a great HBR article that gets more into detail on this called “Three Leadership Traits that Never Go Out of Style.” You can’t develop any of these traits if you’re not talking with your reps on a regular basis.
DM: I’m sure for some people a weekly review is fabulous — a nice pat on the back from management. But for others it must be a much tougher conversation if they are consistently missing their goals.
KG: That’s right, but my theory is that people that work for you want to know where they stand, and they don’t want to know once a year. These sessions are great when you have a top-performing rep and you get to tell them each week that they’re doing great and why you think they’re doing great (the “why” is key, of course). But they’re also effective when you’re dealing with a rep who is not doing well.
Have you ever seen a rep be surprised when you’ve had to let him or her go for not performing well? These blind spots are uncovered during the weekly coaching sessions by letting them know that they’re not meeting your expectations, and the big difference is you can then develop a plan to help them meet/exceed your expectations moving forward.
DM: So you bring up a good point: Say you have a rep who is consistently not hitting his or her goal, despite much coaching, etc. What’s a manager to do?
KG: It goes even further than that, Devon. Of course not hitting your number each week is something that should be discussed weekly and documented, but what about harassing other employees? Demonstrating actions that are not in concert with your corporate culture and policies? Making lewd comments? Wearing inappropriate clothing?
You absolutely need to keep a running notepad for your weekly coaching sessions to write down the content of the conversations you’re having. Did you give them clear directives? What were they? Did you address a particular topic? What was it? How did the rep respond to the discussion?
In today’s litigious society, having several documented conversations in your notebook will make it easier for HR to help you take action when needed and reduce your own liability as a manager.
DM: I’m glad you brought that up, Kevin. I think that a lot of managers really overlook documenting these issues. The weekly review is a great forum for those types of conversations. Hopefully they don’t need to happen too often, but, chances are they will happen at some point. So, I’m sure there are managers out there thinking, “If you are doing a weekly review, do you even need to do an annual review?”
KG: Yes, of course you do. And I hate writing up annual reviews. But if you have 50 of them during the year and write down the content of those short 30 minute sessions, you’ll have tons of information that will help you support and substantiate most of the sections of the annual reviews.
Here’s a tip, write your notes during the coaching session in an email fashion with a subject line that would read something like “RE: K.C. Jones: Weekly Coaching Session 111512” and then send it to yourself and save it in their folder in your email. Then you can simply cut and paste content from any of the 50 weekly coaching session emails into the annual reviews.
DM: Brilliant! Any final comments on the topic of weekly reviews?
KG: Don’t delay — book a weekly recurring Coaching Session on your calendar for each of your reps. Trust me. I speak from experience when I say that if you spend the short amount of time each week with each of your reps, you’ll do wonders to improve the trust the rep has for you, calibrate expectations, cover your butt, and make it easier to write that huge, dreaded annual review.
And in the end, this will result in overall improved performance for your team.
DM: Thanks, Kevin!
KG: Anytime, DevMcDee!
Kevin Gaither (@kevinsgaither) is a hands-on Senior Sales Executive with an 18+ year track record of growing early-stage and multi-million dollar businesses. Proven success in attracting, retaining and leading top-performing teams focused on accelerating revenue growth. Recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in Inside Sales by AA-ISP in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Kevin currently is the VP of Inside Sales at uSamp, the fastest growing Market Research company, and a member of the OpenView investment family. uSamp is a premier provider of technology and survey respondents used to obtain consumer and business insights.