Manager Tools: The Best Management Advice I Ever Received


Below is an article written by Jeremy Triplett, one of our listeners, and published in the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ACSLD) Executive Education Digest.  Jeremy agreed to allow us to share the article with you.  Many thanks, Jeremy!


Manager Tools: The Best Management Advice I Ever Received

Jeremy Triplett Forensic Laboratory Supervisor, Kentucky State Police

Chair, ASCLD Training and Education Committee

I was not aware at the time, but the best piece of management advice I ever received was while checking out at my local Pier 1 store. At the time, I had just been promoted from bench-level drug chemist to the supervisor of the drug chemistry section at my lab. I was in the throws of a familiar forensic management dilemma: “I have a degree in Chemistry and a Masters in Pharmacy. Now I’m in management. What in the world do I do now?” My wife was working at Pier 1 at the time and on this day I had stopped by the store to pay for the new rug that, in her words, we just “had to have.” As I was paying for the rug at the register, my wife remarked to her district manager, who happened to be visiting the store that day, that I had just been promoted to supervisor at my job. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Congrats. You need to listen to Manager Tools. Seriously, you should start today.” He seemed so convinced that I figured he must know what he was talking about. So I did listen – and never have I been so glad that I stopped somewhere and bought a rug. What I found in Manager Tools was an incredible source of easy-to-understand, immediately actionable management training and tips, all neatly packaged into a weekly podcast hosted by two successful managers who truly know what they’re talking about. Looking back, today, I firmly believe that 5-second piece of advice changed the trajectory of my management career. If you’ll give me a few minutes of your time to read this article, I think it just might change yours, too.

So what is Manager Tools? In the largest sense, it’s a management consulting and training firm owned by Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman that delivers free weekly podcasts with management and career tools and tips, premium content for purchase on their website, and training conferences all across the globe. In this article, however, I would like to tell you about “Manager Tools” their free, weekly podcast on management.

Manager Tools, the podcast, is focused on how you can become a more effective manager and leader. Mark and Mike discuss nearly every management topic that you can imagine – from big ideas like “Delivering the Performance Review” and “Develop a Sense of Urgency in Your Team” to very focused, detail-type ideas like “How to Write a Thank You Note.” If you have a particular management issue that you wish you had some guidance on, you can bet Manager Tools has covered it. The best part of Manager Tools, however, is not the breadth of content they deliver, but the quality. Mike and Mark are expert communicators and teachers and you can tell that every podcast is carefully planned to deliver maximum value. Many times, Mark will literally check off a list of actionable items from the podcast. You will finish the podcast with a list of concrete, actionable steps to improve your management skills or implement their suggestions into your management role. Additionally, in many instances the Manager Tools team will even provide their own templates, forms, and documents for the listener to use, such as their annual review preparation forms, sample meeting agendas, and one-on-one meeting note sheets. There are so many Manager Tools podcasts available that it’s actually somewhat daunting to decide where to begin. Luckily, they’ve covered that as well. “Manager Tools Basics” is a series of podcasts that cover their core management philosophies, which they call the Manager Tools Trinity (this trinity, oddly enough, has 4 components). The Manager Tools Trinity is composed of: weekly one-on-one meetings, the Manager Tools Feedback Model, the Manager Tools Coaching Model, and finally, Delegation.


The Manager Tools Core Management Philosophy (The MT Trinity) – Summarized


One-on-Ones (also called O3’s) are weekly meetings between you and each of your directs that are consistently scheduled on your calendar and rarely, if ever, missed. They are 30 minutes long, and time is divided into 3 separate 10-minute segments. The first 10 minutes is completely the direct’s agenda. You both talk on anything the direct wants to talk about: their family, their work, their career, their hobbies, anything. The second 10 minutes is the manager’s agenda. You talk about projects, things you both are working on, information to pass along from above you in the organization. The last 10 minutes are to talk about the direct’s future: training, development, career opportunities, etc. The primary thing to remember in the one-on-ones is that the focus is the relationship between the boss and the direct, and not necessarily work-related task discussions. Manager Tools regards one-on-ones as the single most powerful thing that a manager can do to improve their relationship with their direct reports.

The Feedback Model

The MT Feedback Model is a simple, direct, and effective method to deliver feedback to direct reports. Feedback is given often, for both positive and negative behaviors, and is always based on observed behavior and not your perception of the motivation behind the behavior or the direct’s “attitude” (you cannot see attitude). Feedback is about guiding future behavior. The Manager Tools Feedback Model gives you an effective and easy method to deliver it.

The Coaching Model

Coaching is a collaborative effort between a boss and a direct designed to provide value to the company while encouraging and equipping an employee to improve on a specific skill at the same time. The goal is to improve the productivity of your team by coaching higher performance from each of its members. The Manager Tools Coaching Model provides a step-by-step approach to facilitate your employees’ development that is easy to understand and implement.


The (ironic) 4th part of the Manager Tools Trinity is Delegation. Delegation is a key component to successful management, and many, many managers agree that they stink at it (it’s certainly a weakness of mine). Delegation is a topic covered in many books, seminars, and management trainings – and, of course, it’s covered by Manager Tools, as well. Manager Tools provides a great model for how to decide what to delegate, how to choose and speak with the direct that you are delegating to, and how to follow up. In typically Manager Tools style, they even provide their Delegation Worksheet, a step-by-step action plan on how to delegate items to your directs.

In addition to the core management fundamentals presented in the “Manager Tools Basics” series, they also offer casts on how to implement and rollout the Manager Tools Trinity fundamentals in your management situation. There are step-by-step action plans that show you how to start from the very beginning with one-on-one’s and eventually have all 4 pieces in place. Beyond the Basics series, of course, they also cover numerous other topics (in more than 7 years of producing podcasts, the Mark and Mike have recorded well over 400 shows) and anyone interested in a particular topic can simply look on their website and use the dropdown menu feature to find a list of podcasts sorted by topic.

It is my sincere hope that you will give the Manager Tools podcast a listen and that you would find it to be as helpful and as informative as I have. I would certainly also love to hear your thoughts on which Manager Tools podcasts you find most helpful. In closing, I’d like to pass along to you the best piece of management advice that I ever received. Wherever you are in your management career, however far you’ve come – “Congrats. You need to listen to Manager Tools. Seriously, you should start today.”

Reprinted with permission from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLD) Executive Education Digest, 2013, Vol 2, p. 29-32

Questions or comments can be directed to the author at:

Even Comedy News


I was curious to find out how John Oliver got the job of hosting the Daily Show while Jon Stewart is away for the summer. (If you don't watch it, don't worry, that's not really what this is about). While looking around, I found an interview of John Oliver in the New York Times talking about the preparation that John was doing to take over the show. He's not only presenting, I found out, but he's in charge of all the content too.

There were two parts I found particularly interesting. First, Oliver is asked: "How did Jon Stewart approach you about this?", and he replies: "..he called me up and said, “We’ve got the money — I’m going to shoot it this summer. Would you do it?” To which I guess the only answer is yes." The follow up question is: "There was no hesitation?" and the answer: "I’ll do anything for him, whether it’s hosting this show or disposing of a body." That's loyalty to a boss. The interview absolutely gives the impression that Stewart is in charge of the show, and that he is the boss. Yet, Oliver would do anything for him. However Stewart acts as a boss, he's doing it right.

Then there are some questions about the process. It turns out, that they don't just turn up in the afternoon, mess around for a while and hope that the jokes are funny. There are two parts where he describes the process: "Jon built it to operate in a certain process, so that process really has to stay. It’s like a Nascar driver giving keys to his car to a member of his pit crew. I fundamentally understand how the engine works — I just never have driven it that fast before." and "What he’s always told us is you want to make sure that the spine of the argument is in shape. You can write jokes at any point of the day. Jokes are not that hard to write, or they shouldn’t be when it is literally your job. It’s harder to shift the point of view of a headline later in the day. That’s the kind of thing you need to keep an eye on early. You’d think you’d come in early in the day and go, “What jokes should we tell?” And that’s not always the case."

And the lesson from all this? Everything that is good has a process. Someone has thought through every detail of how to make it good, and better and better, until it just works, and looks effortless. Even comedy news.

Things I Never Knew


I love finding out something new. The internet is the best thing that ever happened in my life. I can't wait more than 2 seconds to look it up when someone asks a question. Do you know how they make steel shapes (for boat propellors and golf clubs)? First, they make a wax mold. Then they dip that in glue and sand, until it's big and fat. They bake that so the sand hardens and the wax melts. Then, they pour in the steel. Once it's set, they break off the sand template, and voila! No wonder those things are so expensive. It takes ages!

I read in last September's Success about a new Macy's distribution facility in Martinsburg, West Virginia. It's so large, that the architects had to take account of the size of the curvature of the earth. I can't imagine that. I looked up how long the building would have to be (because.. well, I had to KNOW), and it's 2.9 miles long. That doesn't sound far, but on the other hand, a nearly 3 mile long BUILDING. That's massive! They're going to keep 900,000 pairs of shoes in there. (I think that's the definition of heaven).

What does any of this have to do with my daily life? Not a lot. It keeps me curious, because I know if I look it up I can find the answer to everything. Some days, two brain cells collide and come up with something completely new. I'm convinced that wouldn't happen if I didn't let my mind wander and explore and wonder.

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New and Old


I read in June's Success magazine about the founder of Ikea. First, I was surprised to find out he was born in 1926. With all the startups run by under 25 year olds now, I think we've become conditioned to thinking it's success by 25 or else.

He started selling low-cost furniture in 1947 and discontinued all his other lines in 1951. He opened a showroom only because of competition from another catalogue retailer.

I love Ikea showrooms. I love how they encourage you to follow the route they dictate so you see everything. I love the pencils and measuring tapes in case you forgot your own. I love the bit before you checkout where you can't help but buy 100 tealights. I don't care that I'm being manipulated by marketing. I enjoy watching them do it well.

I'd always assumed it was a new thing. But no, there is nothing new under the sun. [A quote from the Bible, which shows that sometimes what is old still has value to us.].

An Hour? Is That It?


I was reading an article in Inc about Duolingo, which is a language training website. It caught my eye, because earlier in the week I'd seen some people discussing it on a forum and saying it was very good.

Anyway, the co-founder, Luis von Ahn, was asked "Do you take a hands-on approach with the hiring now?". He answered: "I do. Every person who comes through here, I talk to them for an hour. It is amazing how much comes out in an hour".

Earlier in the interview he said: "I made a concerted effort to hire people who are going to play nice". Believe me, you don't learn if someone will play nice in an hour. You have to spend hours and hours. The honeymoon period wears off everything we do, including interviewing. If you still like the person after the honeymoon, then get married. But not an hour.

Avoiding the question


There's an article in April's Entrepreneur magazine about answering questions in media interviews. It says "Media trainers will say, "Answer the question you wish they had asked." Politicians do this. It's an interesting move because it makes you seem self-possessed and stupid at the same time."

I've seen the same advice given for interviewees interviewing for jobs, and it's just as stupid. Everyone knows what the politicians are doing, and everyone knows what you're doing too. They make me want to do this: no,no,no,no,no,no ANSWER THE QUESTION.

But instead, I just give up and move on. So now the candidate hasn't answered my question, I haven't listened to what they were trying to tell me (because I've decided that it's not relevant), and I'm not inclined to believe in the interviewees honesty. Who wins? No one.



January's Fortune had an interview with Herb Kelleher, Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines. In it he says that many companies have come to Southwest to find out how they hired and motivated their employees. Basically, he says, they were looking for a formula.

Then he says: "The concept is simple, but the execution takes a lot of work and a lot of attention. If you're going to pay personal attention to each of your people, for instance, and every grief and joy that they suffer in their lives, you really have to have a tremendous network for gathering information'.

That line 'every grief and joy that they suffer in their lives' reminded me what One on Ones are really all about. They might be rote, and boring and mundane for weeks and weeks and weeks, but they allow you to build the relationship which allows you to share in the grief and joy of your direct's lives. That's professional love. That's management.

Audacious Culture


May's Inc contains an article about 'Audacious Culture' and lists several companies who have non-standard corporate cultures and rules. There's one which requires a health risk assessment each year and which has introduced a 'twinkie tax' in their cafe. There's one which gives employees a four week sabbatical after 10 years.

The one that really caught my eye though, was Menlo Innovations. The headline says 'Taking Teamwork To The Extreme'. In the text it says 'Developers - and nearly everyone else - work in pairs and switch partners weekly. Employees talk through problems while passing the mouse back and forth...'.

The thought of sharing my thoughts, computer and mouse with someone while I'm working was like nails on a chalkboard for me. Which is why I work from home, on my own, and don't share my thoughts until I've had time to at least half bake them. Fortunately, our company allows that.

It shows though, that you need to chose your place of work carefully. If you can't deal with that kind of teamwork, don't go to work there. One person rarely changes the culture from the bottom up. You'll be miserable and that'll show in your results. Find somewhere you'll fit, even if the job title, pay or location aren't what you would have liked.

Non-Resume Life


Vizify, a new app is described in Inc. It says it's 'designed to help job seekers create online resumes that give potential employers a sense of their off-resume lives'. Every time I see something about interests and non-work lives on resumes or as part of the job search process, I get mad all over again.

Yes, it's all about people. Yes, we want to get to know people and have relationships, and that's not all about work activity. But during the interview process, it's all about the 9-5. An interviewer CAN'T ask about your family or your age or your politics and nor do you want them too - that's why we have discrimination laws.

You don't want them to ask about your interests or your other non-work activities, because the time you spend time talking about sailing you're NOT talking about what matters - what you can do for them.

There are times and places for everything. The interview process is NOT the time for your non-work life.