Book Notes: "The Effective Manager" (Horstman, 2016)

Book Notes: "The Effective Manager" (Horstman, 2016)
GenAI picture, prompt: a modern female manager sharing ideas with her team, high res, realistic, glowing

Some management books from US-based authors are a feast of hyperbole, long-winded analogies and stories, eventually leading up to some insights which may or may not be totally based on anecdotal evidence and/or simple common sense.
This book is the complete opposite. It is practical. It is focused. It is based on broad experience and measurements.

Mark Horstman is one of the two founders of "Manager Tools", which was born as a Podcast in 2003 and has grown into a respectable guidance, conference and consulting business for them over the years. I started listening to Manager Tools when I was just starting out as a consultant. Back then, the content was already really interesting - and whilst I was more drawn to the advice on developing one's own career back then, I am now coming back to their universe on the other end of the spectrum: managing a consulting firm as partner.

In "The Effective Manager", Horstman talks about four things, which have proven to significantly enhance results and retention for those managers who apply them, and which they call their "Trinity" (yes. Trinity. yes, four parts. Not my idea!) of key concepts for managers to implement. This, by the way, is their definition of being an effective manager: Achieving results and retaining your people. Yes, I dig that.

I found myself taking a lot of notes/quotes during reading, and the very concrete format, which is also the essence of Manager Tools, is really good to put down the key points in summary in many chapters.

As they are already written, I thought I might share my notes here with you. This is part quotes, part excerpts from the key concepts which I put there as a reminder for myself. They are not even close to comprehensive - they reflect my personal focus, but there might be many other things that you would highlight in your version. Anyhow - enjoy, and if you feel so compelled, get the book on amazon (affiliate link).

Special thanks to Mark Horstman for authorizing so many quotes to be used here, I appreciate it!

(Numbers are the respective pages in the book)


Success at work is about what you DO. You are your behaviors. Almost nothing else matters.

The plural of anecdote is not data

Chapter 1: What is an effective manager?

Your first responsibility as a manager is to achieve results

your second responsibility as a manager is to retain your people

Chapter 2: The four critical behaviors


  1. Get to know your people (40%!)
  2. Communicate about performance (30%!)
  3. Ask for more (15%)
  4. Push work down (15%)

Your directs don't see you as a nice person. They see you as their boss.

The ideal place for your directs to be for maximum output/ results is right on the line between distress and eustress, almost over the line into fear, but not quite there. They should have lots of energy but not panic.

Chapter 3: Teachable and sustainable tools

However you manage, your techniques, behavior and philosophy must be both teachable to others and sustainable.

Chapter 4: One on Ones

A One on One is a meeting...

  • that is scheduled
  • That is held weekly
  • That lasts for 30 minutes
  • That is held with each of your directs
  • In which the direct‘s issues are primary
  • In which the manager takes notes

Chapter 5: Common Questions and Resistance to One on Ones

Phone One on Ones:

  • Start with your back turned. Close the door. Don‘t look around.
  • Ignore Interruptions
  • Focus. Stop checking your emails. Quit other programs

You cannot be friends with your directs.

You CAN behave in a friendly way to all of your directs. 
You can't behave in a friendly way to some of your directs - even if they're not friends - without behaving similarly with all of your other directs.

The agenda for each Project Manager One on One (PMO3) is 15 minutes for the project team member, and 15 minutes for the project manager

PMO3s only occur during the life of the project

Chapter 6: How to start doing One on Ones

For 12 weeks, don‘t introduce any other new management behavioral change.

Chapter 7: Talk about Performance - Feedback

The purpose of feedback is to encourage effective future behavior


  • Step 1: Ask. „Can I give you feedback real quick?“
  • Step 2: State the behavior. „When you...“
  • Step 3: State the Impact of the behavior. „Then this happens...“
  • Step 4: Encourage effective future behavior. „Thank you - keep it up!“ / „Could you please work on that?“

Chapter 8: Common questions and resistance to Feedback

If you are angry, don‘t give feedback. Period.

If you can‘t pause, you may have too much energy at that time to deliver feedback that will encourage effective behavior in the future.

Give in, when a direct argues or gets defensive

Systemic Feedback

  • use it when you have already given six instances of standard feedback in a period of time that indicates a pattern,  and the direct has not been engaging in the behavior they‘ve committed to.
  • The behavior we are giving feedback about is the failure to meet commitments that the direct agreed to
  • Systemic feedback is more serious.

Chapter 9: how to start delivering feedback

After 12 weeks of having One on Ones, you can start the process of delivering your performance communication in the feedback model

Announce your intention in your weekly staff meeting
30 Minutes
Use MT materials
Cover the purpose of the feedback
Walk them through each step

Give only positive feedback for eight weeks

one item of feedback to one direct per day as starting point

Positive feedback is a much more powerful tool than negative feedback. Don‘t wait all your career to finally realize that.

Chapter 10+11: Ask for more - coaching

--> from page 147, not so easy to summarize. Attached to the established rythm of feedback und O3s, making targeted agreements with directs on where/what to improve, with a measurable goal in the future. Brainstorm what could help to improve (from reading a book to getting outside coaching/ attending trainings etc.) and then have the direct work on that in very concrete actions planned one or two weeks into the future. Give feedback on that, evaluate progress jointly, inspect and adapt.

Chapter 12: Push work down - Delegation

If you‘re a manager, your key to long-term success is to master the art of delegation.

Delegation is you turning over responsibility for one of your regular responsibilities - something you routinely do - on a permanent or long standing basis to one of your directs.

Task assignment is different from delegation!
"Delegate to the floor"

Delegating has five steps

  1. State your desire for help
  2. Tell them why you‘re asking them - think about them, and what they could benefit from
  3. Ask for specific acceptance
  4. Describe the task or project in detail
  5. Address deadline, quality and reporting standards

We don‘t say „can you do me a favor“. This is not a personal request. This is a work request.

Chapter 13: Common Questions and resistance to delegation

What should you delegate?

  • Reporting
  • Meetings
  • Presentations
  • Projects


Chose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.