Summary of The Effective Manager

A summary of the key takeaways from the book the Effective Manager by Mark Horstman.

The Effective Manager by Mark Horstman is an excellent read for managers new and old.

It provides insights based on empirical research conducted in the field with clients of the Manager Tools organization on the efficacy of different managerial tactics, including 1:1s, giving feedback, and coaching individuals on your team.

Relationships Drive Results

40% of your ability to drive results and retain people as a manager is based on your personal relationship with the individuals. This is primarily based on your ability to engender trust.


You ought to be conducting 1:1s weekly for 30 minutes, with an 85% or greater compliance rate. If you conduct them less frequently, or for longer, the value starts to diminish.

Don't share an agenda before the meeting as the manager, but the report can share one.

Directs must go first, or you'll hijack the meeting as a manager.

Always start with the same question, which hands them the agenda. For example:

What's on your mind?

Share the notes from the 1:1 after the meeting.

Do this for 12 weeks before beginning to give feedback.

Giving Feedback

Start with only giving positive feedback for 8 weeks, before moving to including negative feedback geared towards individual improvement.

Remember, feedback is all about changing behavior, not about attitudes or about changing the past.

How to give feedback

  1. Ask for permission before giving feedback. Honor their request to receive it or not. Do this whether the feedback is good or bad.

    Can I give you some feedback?

  2. Describe the specific behavior:

    When you...

  3. Describe the impact of the behavior:

    Here is what happens...

  4. Discuss next steps for negative behavior:

    What are you going to do about this?

    Or for positive feedback:

    Thank you – keep it up!

  5. Ask for a commitment to change the behavior discussed above.

    Great idea, I think that will address the issue. Will you do that?

If you give them the same feedback for 6 weeks without changes in behavior, let  the report know things are getting more serious due to an inability to meet commitments, and that you may have to move to something like a PIP if this issue isn't resolved.

Coaching Individuals

According to the author, this should be the last piece integrated into your managerial practices as it's the hardest to get right.

The coaching process is broken into 4 steps:

  1. Collaborate to set a goal
  2. Collaborate to brainstorm resources
  3. Collaborate to create a plan
  4. The direct acts and reports on the plan

Set a goal

Coaching, as they describe it, ought to have a goal which describes a behavior or result that we want to achieve by a date we want to have achieved it, with a quality element.

It starts with a deadline. They advise this deadline be at least 4 months out. Less than that they argue they just need feedback, rather than coaching.

Next, comes a behavior that we want the direct to master.

Then, we have a quality element that measures a boolean success criteria for a behavior.

Brainstorm resources

With a goal in mind, figure out a few possible next steps to move towards a goal.

This shouldn't be the entire process of how to accomplish the goal from start to finish, but rather the next steps to advance toward the target state.

Create a plan

Creating a plan involves taking those brainstormed resources and turning them into deliverables.

This planning session should only cover a week or two at this point. This allows you to quickly course correct and not waste time on unnecessary planning that may be thrown out.

The week or two max planning horizon also forces you to focus on tiny tasks that allow you to generate and show constant progress, which helps with morale and momentum.

Crafting Deliverables

A deliverable consists of a deadline, which should be inside one week, and ideally inside one day.

A behavior, which is a concrete action taken by the report.

And a reporting element, which is how the direct will confirm with you that they've completed the task.

By reporting status to you, they turn a task into a deliverable.

The direct acts on and reports on the plan

The direct then actually acts on and implements the plan.

Following this, you then reconvene and repeat steps 2-4 until the goal is achieved or the deadline is reached without achieving the goal.


The process of pushing down work to your directs in order to allow you to tackle more pressing work for the organization.

A key to managerial success and scaling your organization.

How to delegate

  1. Ask for help: Can I get some help?

    Can I get your help?

  2. Tell them why you were asking for their help specifically.

    I'm asking you because I know you're the engineer most familiar with the part of the codebase.

  3. State the task broadly and ask for acceptance, before giving them all the details.
    • Individuals are more willing to help, and less likely to object before they're given all the details.

    Would you be willing to take the specification of this caching functionality?

  4. After acceptance, describe the task you're delegating in detail.

    Here's what we need this to do...

  5. Cover the deadline, quality standard, and when/what updates ought to include.

    This needs to be done by next Friday, and needs to be able to handle 1000 requests per second. I'd like updates in the form of PRs advancing us toward this each day. In lieu of a PR, a GitHub issue would be a sufficient update.

  6. Discuss any needs they may have to complete the task.

    What do you need from me to ensure you're successful?

Wrapping Up

The Effective Manager provides ready to implement frameworks for improving your efficacy as a manager without ambiguity or much in the way of fluff.

I strongly recommend this one, especially for new managers.