I missed something somewhere. What is the McGuire Hump of the Horstman Curve?

I think I've got that the Horstman Curve is the painful process of learning and growing, per this other comment elsewhere on the forum:

"You are experiencing personal growth. It's like in the movies where somebody gets turned into something else - the transition is always shown as PAINFUL.That's just "The Horstman Curve" in action. ;-)"

But what's the "McGuire hump?" And who is this poor bloke McGuire?

simonspeichert's picture

Mark McGwire broke the major league single-season home run record in 1998 with 70. In his rookie year, he broke the rookie home run record with 49.

The "Horstman curve" would be a steep slope, representing the difficulty of growth at the beginning. The "McGwire hump" would be the hump in the graph that represents someone who is really good at something in the beginning. I'm pretty sure Mark is referring to McGwire's rookie record - the one that stands out for a significantly different reason.

And I'm not even a baseball fan!

jhack's picture

Mark is referring to a client of his, not the baseball player. 

Not sure exactly what the McGuire hump is.  Anyone? 


Mark's picture
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Before I posted this I called Dan and left him a voicemail telling him about this thread.  ;-)

The poor bloke is Dan McGuire, a close friend of ours, and a client of Manager Tools.

We wouldn't have named it after our good friend had he not suggested it himself, with this comment:

"I always feel like I'm on the hump. You oughta name it after me."  I never thought we'd name a PART of the curve, but it was too great a comment, and it gave us a chance to memorialize our respect for Dan.  

The hump represents how hard it is to change.  It's why so many start diets but don't finish them, commit to getting better and then peter out, why managers start improvement plans and then slide back to status quo.

If change were easy, we'd call it something else.  Of course, if change were cool and friendly, we'd still call it the McGuire hump, I guess. ;-)

simonspeichert's picture

Sorry Mark! With you being such a baseball guy, I was sure I was on to something. Thanks for clarifying!

US41's picture

Imagine you are driving a car up a hill. As you near the top, the wheels start skidding. The car slides left and right as you inch toward the top. The engine starts to smoke. The transmisison is burning out. Your tires are skidding and burning rubber. There is smoke everywhere. You don't think you are going to make it. You are tempted to pull back and put your foot on the brakes and back down the hill.

Imagine you have learned the feedback model. The first time you use it, you feel like an idiot. You feel self-conscious and silly. You are embarassed you need a model to talk to people. You give the feedback again, and your direct is smiling at you like you are cute. They are nodding as you struggle to get it out. You give more feedback... and more. You listen to more feedback casts and realize you are doing too much negative, that you are giving it angry, that you are picking on details on the first occurance instead of waiting for a 2nd or 3rd repetition. You are tempted to stop. Do you have what it takes to go all the way over and make feedback something you just do all the time with your folks? 

Most people back down the hill and give up. A few go over the hump.

For me, the hump was my pride. I realized that my directs already know that I need a model to communicate with them. They did not think I was perfect. They thought I needed to try harder. When they saw me trying, they appreciated that I was trying. I had to get over myself and do it because it is for others. Now I don't care if I screw up the feedback model. I just shrug and say, "OK, starting over...", do it again, and laugh at myself.


Mark's picture
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I appreciated the effort.  It gave me a good laugh this morning...who knows, coulda ended up on Snopes!

Cheers all,


Mark's picture
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Nice post.  Well said, and powerfully self-deprecating in the service of others.

Just what the forums are for.


SMcM's picture
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Thanks for your post. I feel what you described - I am currently trying to get over the hump and feel like a bit of an idiot using the feeback model. It was nice to see others feel what I do. I am going to keep on going!





fchalif's picture
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Great Post!

Thanks - it clearly expresses how I have felt, and still go through everyday.

It does get easier, but how I got in the way of myself for so long.



PBeaney's picture

I am currently trying to get over the hump to become a regular contributer to the community which has given me so much allready :) So if I dissapear you will know that I have slid back down !!



mporter's picture

I've spent a lot of time over the years on this site and have never posted anything - always seems I have more to learn than to give, I guess.  This discussion, however, is changing that. 

Like Dan, I always feel like I'm on the hump.  I keep waiting for the downhill side and just never feel like I'm at a place where I can coast.  I also find it difficult to recognize how much had to be accomplished just to get to the hump.  What's helped the most is learning to look back at the progress made  - in the effectiveness of the departments I lead and in the growth of the people I lead - and seeing that the hard work and frustration are worthwhile.  The Horstman curve is always shown as one curve.  I've realized that it is one curve in a continuum of many curves that keep moving upward - much like the profits in a successful company.  The key is that it keeps moving up over a long period of time.  I, like many people, I suppose, need to remember that the key is to keep moving up to the next challenge - that's what will allow me to continue to grow and to help others grow.


Mark's picture
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Hey!  That's transitioning to the 3 S Curves concept/cast!  No fair connecting all this stuff that we've already connected and are trying to keep secret!  LOL.

tlhausmann's picture
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The "Three S" curve model is not a secret to those who have attended the Effective Managers conference. :-)

The model is a great visualization of career trajectories.

430jan's picture

I talked to a nurse that is in charge of a QA problem I had just talked to staff about. She wanted to know if I wanted her to check on it for the next 2 weeks. I said "Skip the next 2 weeks, they will do fine.....start checking again in 2 months. That's when the problem will crop up again".

bug_girl's picture

Ugh. I am so glad for this thread, because this was a tough week. One of my directs made a colossal mistake.  (As in, dead animal seen by group of school children).

Eventually, I had to conclude that it was ultimately my fault for not giving her specific enough instructions.  We've talked about thinking about our visitors as "customers", and seeing things through their eyes, but I clearly missed something. 

This will probably be one of the most uncomfortable feedback sessions ever on Monday.


Mark's picture
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Bug Girl-

Been there myself, with poor guidance leading to bad results.  And mind affected THOUSANDS of people, many of whom we lost as clients.

Yep, bad day.

But apparently, it's not fatal, at least in my case.  But memorable.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

bug_girl's picture

Honestly, I never thought I would have to tell someone to hide the bodies. Thought that would be common sense.

Apparently not!  My bad for assuming.

And, everyone else can sigh in relief that body disposal protocols are not on their plate. 


You know what I mean.

bug_girl's picture

Turns out: there is no paddle for the boat. Body falls in water, can't be retrieved.  Now, of course there are other solutions for this besides ignoring it...
but it was interesting to see how the disaster happened, and how my lack of specific directions were interpreted and led to it.  Argh.

The meeting *was* horrible, but also good in the sense that we had a very frank talk about this and other items.

Unfortunately, the "what could you do differently?" part did not produce much in the way of constructive suggestions from my direct, other than "remember that bodies float up eventually, even if they sink at first."

That would be very, very funny if it wasn't -me- it was happening to!

I'm working on acquiring a paddle, and still feel like I'm going upstream.




rgbiv99's picture

I think I could be better at giving specific instructions on a regular basis.  When I'm talking one of my directs through what I want them to do on a project, often I don't know how to detail the specifics because I don't know what the specifics are until I start doing them myself.

I wonder if this is a frequent problem with High D types. For example, if my boss wants me to work on something, I only want her to tell me what she wants the end result to look like and I can do the rest. This is my natural communication style, but when I'm explaining to one of my directs, I literally have to create an outline to make sure I'm clear. It's easy to get frustrated and say, "Just do this." But taking an extra 10 minutes to think through the process before I assign something would likely save everyone a lot of grief. Just a random thought.

bug_girl's picture

What you describe is one of the main ways people supervising interns come to grief.
Students are used to having a syllabus to tell them how to get from point A to D, and leaving out the middle B,C instructions causes them a lot of stress.

Sadly, the direct in question here is a D, and also has an advanced degree.  I think what went wrong was that they didn't stop and plan before taking action.  That's where I think I'll try to focus on, since I can't possibly think of every odd contingency that might happen.  And we have some VERY odd contingencies!

(I'm an S, if anyone's interested. And nearly everyone I manage is a D. Exhausting. That's why I'm afraid I'll be fighting the hump forever.)


jhack's picture


You hit on something very important:  each direct we manage has their own style and needs.  We have to manage each accordingly, so where one might want everything laid out, another may prefer being given only the goal.  We, as managers, will be most effective when we adjust our communications to fit the person.  

And we owe it to them to help them understand that their way isn't the only way;  to help the former do their own planning and work from goals, and the help the latter be effective even when given a detailed map they disagree with.  

...and if it's any consolation, managing can be pretty exahausting for us high D's, too.   

John Hack

jhack's picture

Here's what I've found.

Studying something and putting it into practice proceeds in waves.  Confusion is followed by clarity, and then deeper insight.  Repeating this cycle yields a depth of understanding and level of accomplishment previously invisible.   

MPorter said it well above, and it bears repeating:  " I've realized that it is one curve in a continuum of many curves that keep moving upward"

Each curve we climb yields results;  some are more valuable than others, and some are harder than others (for me, I'm still working on Feedback, making progress...not like breathing yet, though)

And there are clusters of skills with their own curves:  the M-T trinity is the core cluster, and there is a cluster around communications, and running meetings, and handling recruiters, and...   

As my father would have said, "Better and Better" 

John Hack

bug_girl's picture

I don't even want to think about where I would be right now without the framework of MT and all of you sharing your experiences!
I'd probably be huddled under my desk eating chocolate.

Also, thanks for making what I was going at more explicit, John!  Yeah, what he said :)

430jan's picture

<Students are used to having a syllabus to tell them how to get from point A to D, and leaving out the middle B,C instructions causes them a lot of stress.>

Great thought! I have found that the more experience I have, the harder time I have remembering what it was like to be new on the job and connect the dots. I have to be very intentional about inviting open communication about any misunderstandings. Anyway I have found, being relatively high "d", that I have to be careful to keep my body language approachable and keep a sense of fun and humor. (really hard with dead bodies in the water, granted) I appreciate so much that the podcasts do this very practical stuff like "stand here" "keep your hands open". I never used to think of that.

We are in the middle of pandemic flu response right now. Who has managed a pandemic before? Nobody! I had a huge grin in our morning briefing yesterday when I spontaneously a very highly stressed out staff .... "Remember, my job is to make you look good" and then I just grinned and said "And your job is?......and they all just yelled out "to make you look good!!!!!" Sometimes being a boss is fun. Even in a pandemic.


ChrisBakerPM's picture

 Bug Girl says  "remember that bodies float up eventually, even if they sink at first."

It should be "Bug Girl's law". :)

...because it has applications way beyond literal incidents involving corpses of dead critters. I'm thinking of lots of other situations where things don't get dealt with properly (lack of instructions; don't have time right now; don't know what to do) but, hey, we seem to have done enough for the problem to go away.... Until the body floats up eventually, and causes a bigger problem later.

On the original topic I came here for - is there a sketch graph of the Horstman curve (feat. its hump) anywhere?

naraa's picture
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 The Analog to the Mcguire hump in chemistry is the activation energy, the energy that must be provided só two reactants can form a diferent product.  In most reactions that energy is required even if the free energy of the product is lower than that of the reactants, and thus there is a natural tendency and preferred direction for the reactants to convert into the products. 

It seems like we are not that different from molecules after all....

Thanks goes to manager-tools for being the catalists that lowers the activation energy and accelerates the conversion!

At the link bellow a sketch of the free energy for An. Exothermic reaction which is how i visualize the Horstman curve.|2;d|P9GDCy_Z29JJ0M:


SamBeroz's picture

Naraa, your explination was completely unexpected and (speaking someone who has a degree in physics) awsome! Thanks for sharing - Sam

ChrisBakerPM's picture

 Thanks - so I'm thinking of the attached sketch (is that right?)

LOVE Naraa's Activation energy analogy (watch all the science grads come out of the woodwork here).  Might be worth explaining: Activation energy is why your camp fire doesn't ignite spontaneously, no matter how much wood you put in the presence of oxygen. You have to do some work to start the fire, but then you have to do much less work to keep it burning. If it wasn't like that, there would be no sticks  to collect - they'd have caught fire already.

Carrying on that line of thought, it makes sense that there would HAVE to be work needed to introduce a change (e.g. delegating) as otherwise it would have happened already without you. But changes that happen spontaneously are often things managers work to prevent - e.g. not doing all my work today gives me an immediate saving in energy (until "the body floats up eventually"). I suppose that's  the mirror image of the curve I drew.  Someone gets a short term benefit  - an anti-McGuire dip - in return for future difficulties.

PS: Read about banks in trouble for fixing the Libor exchange rate today, & thought: "bodies float up eventually, even if they sink at first."





GlennR's picture

Several years ago I participated in a bicycle tour from Austin, TX to New Braunfels, TX, a distance of about 65 miles. I was thinking that, as I approached New Braunfels, I would start dropping in elevation since New Braunfels is closer to the Texas coast than Austin. However, I found out that actually New Braunfels was deeper into the Texas Hill Country than my starting point east of Austin. As I topped each hill expecting to see a drop, I found another hill behind it, higher than the one I was on. Needless to say I was not happy, but I persevered. That beer tasted really good at the end.

The Horstman Curve may indeed consist of only one hump in many cases. On the other hand, there may be times when there are other humps beyond it, perhaps higher than the first. For example, in starting a sales career in a different profession, you'd first have to learn the product knowledge (perhaps the law behind it even before that) then how to effectively prospect, then how to effectively sell, then service, etc.

Or, if you're being coached in soft skills, there may be a series of skills you must master.

Isn't another term for this the "Learning Curve?"  Of course that only addresses the front part, I like the holistic concept of the Magquire Hump.

naraa's picture
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 Sam, Chris, I am glad you like the analogy!  Thanks for sharing that you did!  Good to know there are other science focus minds around here!  Chris, good sketch, seems right to me.

Glenn, the bicycle analogy makes perfect sense.  What seems harder in management humps is that one cannot see, or anticipate the end of the uphill so well.  One gets so use to climbing up than once it gets easier, when one is going downhill it feels really strange.  I guess that is when it is time to climb another hill!


ChrisBakerPM's picture

 I guess there would always have to be another hump, until you stop trying anything new (not a good fate). I was reminded of a sketch graph I saw once in relation to distance learning courses - rather than showing a smooth uptake of skills leading to mastery, guruhood etc., they showed more of a saw-tooth function - the idea was that they would challenge you with successively tougher assignments, and so you'd find each one a poser. Once you overcome that one, they will of course give you something harder! There was some language about  struggling more interestingly each time and making higher-level mistakes. Which seemed an insightful but brave way to describe training with them - can't find that page today, possibly because the explanation was too brave, & marketing courses was better done by not raising that effort and struggle element :).

I think its easy to get down about what you're struggling with today, & not think of how impressed your past self would be to see the level at which you're now able to attempt things, even if they don't yet come off smoothly at this new level.