Book:  The Effective Manager

Author:  Mark Horstman

Purchase:  PrinteBookAudiobook

Citation:  Horstman, M. (2016). The effective manager. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Three Big Takeaways:

  • The single most important (and efficient) thing you can do as a manager to improve your performance and increase retention is to spend time getting to know your direct reports. The most efficient way to know your team is to spend time regularly communicating with them. (pg. 8)

  • The manager should take notes during 1:1 meetings. These meetings can count as documentation for your employees. Despite what most managers think, the standard for what constitutes "documentation" is incredibly low. You don't need great details either for memory or for official record keeping when it comes to feedback. You need the raw data that will allow HR and their lawyers to construct a history of you communicating frequently with your directs about their performance. The key to documentation isn't form or length - the key is whether or not the info was documented at the same time as the incident. (pg. 52)

  • When an average manager gives feedback, the focus is on what happened in the past. Instead, the purpose of performance communications is to encourage effective future behavior. (pg. 108)

Other Key Ideas:

  • The definition of an effective manager is one who gets results and keeps her people. (pg. 4)

  • What are the first names of all of the children of the people who report directly to you? If you failed the test, consider this: what makes you think you can get the last full measure of devotion to work out of someone when you don't know the names of the people who are the most precious to them in the world? (pg. 11)

  • Just because you're chatting with your direct reports doesn't mean you're building a relationship.  If you're going to create trusting relationships with your direct reports, then, you're going to have to talk to them frequently about things that are important to them. (pg. 16)

  • Any work that could be done by either the manager and the direct report should be pushed down to the direct report because the direct report is cheaper labor. If we can achieve an acceptable quality level with less cost we should delegate the work. (pg. 22)

  • When being delegated work, a direct report might say "I have my own work to do! I don't have any time!" That's right, but that's not a defense against work being pushed down. All workers are busy. Instead, the question becomes "what work is most valuable to the organization?" That's the work that must be done. The most important work of the organization is being done at higher levels. (pg. 23)

  • 1:1 meetings are scheduled weekly and last for 30 minutes. 1:1 meetings are held with each direct report where the direct report's issues are primary and the manager takes notes. (pg. 37)

  • By having your 1:1 meetings scheduled you are saying to your directs, "You're always going to have time with me. I'm always going to be investing in the relationship." Plus, if it's not on your calendar, it's unlikely to happen. (pg. 38)

  • You may be thinking "I'm too busy" for 1:1 meetings. Part of the reason your schedule is so full is because you're not spending enough time communicating with your directs. Time spend with your directs is the most important time that you will spend at work. In the end, you will get more time back in your calendar than you spend actually having the 1:1 meetings. (pg. 41)

  • How do you stay in touch with people who are two levels below you? Insist that your direct reports are having 1:1 meetings with their direct reports. That way you are able to maintain relationships with all employees. You won't have as strong of relationships with your "skips" but that's ok, - you simply don't have enough time to have strong relationships with everyone. (pg. 49)​​

  • Don't ever be surprised by pushback to 1:1 meetings. Just because you think it's a good idea doesn't mean that your directs will go along with it. When you change how you manage, fear and uncertainty are part of the response. Don't assume it's just you; it happens to all of us. (pg. 57)

  • 1:1 meetings are not micromanaging - in fact - a direct who wishes for virtually no managerial oversight is a liability risk. The direct who believes a 30-minute meeting once a week is burdensome is telling you either that he is afraid of oversight, or that he is above it. The problem today with the average manager-direct relationship is NOT one of too much management but of far too little. (pg. 59)

  • 1:1 meetings are not unreasonable, it's a new form of communication that eliminates several other less efficient forms of communication, such as one 15 minute conversation about 10 different things. Further, 1:1 meetings are only asking for 1 percent of your direct report's time assuming they are working 50 hour weeks. The idea that time cannot be spent in work-related meetings with his boss is laughable. (pg. 61)

  • Before trying to get more of everything done, get the most important things done first. Work on the right things first. Then, become more efficient at doing those right things, and you'll have more time for either more right things or some less important things. (pg. 64)

  • The agenda for 1:1 meetings is simple: First, allow your direct to speak. Then, with what time is left, you get to speak. Always start with the direct and allow them to speak. However, you don't have time to chit-chat; that's why it's not on the agenda. But don't ask your direct to send you an agenda - it shouldn't feel like more work to your directs. (pg. 71)

  • You cannot be friends with your directs because the appearance of friendship is a significant detractor to one's ability to lead and manage others. However, you can be friendly way with your directs. What is important is that you can't behave in a friendly way to some of your directs without behaving similarly with all of your other directs. If you make this mistake, your credibility will suffer. (pg. 89)

  • We recommend that you give in when a direct argues or gets defensive. Don't get drawn into a discussion about the details about who said what, what she meant, what you saw, etc.. Do not discuss what happened as none of these topics is about the future you want to focus on. Once you've given the feedback and the direct has pushed back, pause, smile, apologize, and walk away. You've made your point. (pg. 132)

  • If you're a manager, your key to longer-term success is to master the art of delegation. Delegation is 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. (pg. 166)

  • Once your direct report has accepted the delegated responsibility, you need to cover three things that always get covered when work passes from one person to another: the deadline, the quality standard the work has to meet, and whatever reporting frequency is required. (pg. 177)

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