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Mark Horstman: The Importance of Being Trustworthy as a Manager

Learn how to increase the quantity and quality of your communication to boost trust in the workplace.

Mark Horstman has been an Army officer, a sales and marketing executive at Procter and Gamble and has delivered exceptional training to Presidents within The White House. Listen to this episode (or read the transcript below) to learn how Mark approaches hiring diligently and efficiently.

1 When did you start Manager Tools?

My business partner and I went to school together at the academy and served together in the army and we always talked about doing something in management leadership because we saw a wide range of managers and leaders in the army. After I retired about 18 years ago, Mike and I were talking about doing something and we were trying out various ways to provide knowledge about management to people and nothing was really working. Mike’s wife actually ended up buying him an iPod for Christmas in 2004 and that really got him into researching and it took off from there. We’re at around 1500 episodes now and I have a list of over 2500 podcasts that I still want to write for the show.

2 How do you come up with so much content?

Even though people believe Millennials are different, they’re not and they haven’t changed in 10,000 years and management hasn’t changed that much either. Yes, the tools have changed, and everybody talks about how fast the world’s getting, but the world’s been getting faster for years and years and it’s always going to keep getting faster. People are people and managing is about people. It’s not about your tools, it’s about your relationship with your people. The single biggest predictor of management success is the score your directors give you when you ask your directs how much they trust you. You’ll be fine if you get a high trust score. If you get a low trust score, you’re going to have to work really hard to keep your head above water.

3 What do people do to get more trust from their team?

It’s not about trust, it’s about friendship and trust is a great way to measure the strength of a relationship. We have an entire podcast titled; Can I Be Friends with my Directs? And the first word of the podcast is no, and people argue with us about this all the time. They have their anecdotes, and we have our pile of data. Roles come with privileges and there are certain privileges that are associated with friendship, which are reasonably normal and appropriate, that are antithetical to the responsibilities we have as managers so you can’t be friends.

You have to figure out another way to build trust and the answer is really easy. Sociologists and psychologists will tell you all you have to do to build trust with other people is two simple things, you have to measure the quantity of your communication with them, and the quality of your communication with them.

4 Who was your best boss?

I’ve only had one good one, only one and I was young and probably didn’t know just how good he really was. Mike and I both talked about the fact that we want the ability to transform people’s lives the way this guy named Colonel Ed Texera did.

He’s of Portuguese ancestry, he lives in Hawaii, and I think he is the vice-chairman of the state emergency defense board or civil response board. He took over a unit that was an artillery unit in Hawaii in 1983, where the previous commander had been relieved because he had failed a major technical tactical evaluation and the colonel came in and said, this unit is terrible and I’m going to make you great. And over the next 18 months, I worked as hard as I’ve ever worked in my life, and we went from the worst unit in our division out of 50 to the best. He drove everybody incredibly hard, but he was also extremely honest and clear about what he was going to do. There were no tricks, and he didn’t keep people guessing and he told us what he wanted us to do and then he would ask us to do it. Initially, it was chaos but then we began to feel much better about achieving our mission and it was a real army mission, we were deployable and had nuclear codes.

5 Did you teach Presidents in the White House how to have one-on-ones?

I did. President Bush and President Clinton. I had done some work in Washington and my work came to the attention of some people in the White House and when I was raised, my folks said, if you’re living in a small town, if the mayor or the sheriff asked you to do something you do it. And for a long time, I lived in a small town in Texas, so I followed that. If the White House calls you go and the first thing, they asked me to help them do was fire someone and I explained to them that I would tell them exactly what to do and how to do it and they followed the steps and fired the guy, and they were amazed at how well everything went and how easy the steps were to follow.

The goal is to always make the person feel like you treated them fairly and like you gave them a chance to keep their job because if you’re not doing that then you’re just a tyrant. Someone told me that somebody senior wanted to thank me and it ended up being President Clinton’s Chief of Staff Mack McLarty and he applauded me and said I was really good at my job.

6 How do you hire people that are better than you and train yourself to set a high bar?

My general rule about learning is, the moment you learn something, you forget you ever didn’t know it. The key thing to remember is that you can’t compare them to where you are today but rather where you were when you were in that role. When I tell people that they have to find people that are better than them they assume I’m referring to the present day and assume that would put them out of a job but in reality, they have to compare the candidate to where they were at when they were in the same position. When it comes to learning, could they learn at your level, and could they get to your team’s level or above?

7 Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for the readers?

It’s all about people. That’s Horseman’s first law and my second law is that more communication is better. The path to be a great manager is not about the tools, it’s about love. If you want to be a great manager, you need to be willing to love the work you do and love the mission of your organization and you have to love your people and by love, I mean professional love.

When you lead a team of people, it’s not about you. It’s about the team. If you can make each of them 5% more productive, as opposed to making you 5% more productive, that’s more valuable for the organization and not enough managers understand that. You’ve got to be willing to risk yourself for the benefit of your team and spend time with your team and help them. The answer is love.

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Konstantin Tsiryulnikov

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