Red Green Repeat Adventures of a Spec Driven Junkie

Conference Debrief: Manager Tools

Barberini Cabinet - Francesco Del Tuppo

After a team member attends a conference, I want them to give the team a debrief of the conference. It’s a good practice I just learned came from this Manager Tools Podcast episode: how to send your direct to an industry conference.

Honestly, I was never taught how to attend a conference, I was going to be in the position of asking team members to do something I did not do…

Well, I just so happen to have attended a conference, namely the Manager Tools conference! (Yes, this gets kinda a meta, but not anymore.)

So, I decided to give my team a debrief, the same one the Manager Tools podcast recommends.

A debrief is a short overview of the conference, containing:

  • conference details
  • sessions attended
  • three key lessons
  • people I met

The goal of the debrief is to have the attendee share their learning with the team, but also have structure to their attendance. Of course, attending a conference for work is more than a paid vacation, right?! :-)


Work conferences are fun: one can take a “vacation” from work, the company pays for the trip, and most conferences are in nice locations too. What’s not to love?!

Maybe the biggest downside to a conference is that one is not doing work and conference content’s value to the company can be superficial.

Instead of chosing a conference in a luxury location or on a technology, I chose the Manager Tools conference because it was a topic I am actively working on: becoming a better manager.

I am a Manager Tools podcast listener since May 2018 after my neighbor introduced me to Manager Tools (thanks Jay!) Their framework, called Manager Tools Trinity, is outstanding as it is the right blend of theory and action. I have been executing the Trinity since I heard the first podcast on one on ones.

Conference Location

When I looked at the Manager Tools conference schedule and saw they were going to be in my area, I decided to go, even if it was in New Jersey in February! (Yes, that one way you can tell someone wants to goto a conference for more than a vacation, it’s not in a “vacation spot”. ;-) )

My goal for attending the Manager Tools conference was to level up my understanding of the Manager Tools materials and uncover any flaws in my implementation of the Trinity.

Conference Details

Manager Tools has conferences all over the US and the world. In the latest newsletter, an upcoming conference would be in Bangalore, India! That’s half a world away from New Jersey! Wouldn’t it be great to have work cover such an international trip??

Since the company was paying, I could have gone to any location the conference was at, but I decided to attend the New Jersey one because:

  1. Cost
  2. Stay close to home & my family
  3. Nothing shows you really want to attend a conference like attending one in New Jersey in February!

The conference had two topics: manager training and communication.

Sessions Attended

The conference was a single track conference, so I easily attended all the sessions.

The agendas for each day:

Day 1:

  • One on Ones
  • Feedback Model & Practice
  • Rolling out Trinity(tm)
  • Coaching Model & Practice
  • Delegation Model & Practice
  • Additional Feedback Practice

Introduction Day 1

Day 2:

  • DiSC Overview
  • Behaviors
  • Practice
    • Email
    • Analysis
    • Tailoring

Introduction Day 2

Each day started and ended on time, even with all of my questions. Our speaker, Kate, impressed me with her knowledge and time management. I was certain my questions would cause a slip but nope. We ended right on time each day.

Three Key Learnings

As I listened to podcast episodes, I was familar with the content, but it was really good to have professional to ask and get the right answer on a question, instead of guessing at an answer given what material I had listened to.

I am glad I was executing the Trinity before the conference so I could share my experience using it, but also get answers to questions on my execution of the Trinity.

My three key learnings:

First: Give Team more Feedback

I didn’t realize how important the feedback portion of the Trinity is. I rolled out and by the time I arrive the conference, I just got emails to start the coaching part.

In a way, I am glad I attended the conference when I did. If I did not, I would have started coaching without fully integrating feedback into my routine.

Kate worked with me and said to pause the trinity rollout and focus on feedback for a month.

Also, I need to lower the bar for positive feedback.

I had the impression I would only give positive feedback if my team met or exceeded expectations. If that was the case, I may never give positive feedback, because I don’t work with myself. (which is a good thing!)

Those two lessons would be something I would never have figured out on my own without Kate’s help.

Second: DiSC Power up

I learned DiSC, took the test, rolled out DiSC to the team and found things to be interesting.

In the effective communicator conference, my DiSC understanding and application increase to a level higher than I expected it could be.

Kate went over DiSC’s history and development. Through the day, I learned more about myself and learned how to apply DiSC to improve my communication effectiveness.

I not only use DiSC for work, but also for my personal life too. DiSC is that amazing.

Third: Coaching

As I mentioned, I was just at the coaching part of the trinity rollout. I practiced how to set up coaching items, the activities to plan as a coach, and learned that I really don’t need to be a master at the thing I am coaching.

The issue may be from my impression that:

You can’t teach what you don’t know.

Which is true of most things. It’s also easier to teach something you have done. We see this now with coaches that are former athletes in their field produce fanastic athletes.

At the same time, I wondered how those first coaches learned to coach, especially if they themselves do not know the field.

With the Manager Tools Trinity’s coaching model, now I know.

Coaching is not about teaching what you know, but monitoring the progress of the mentee’s goal. It’s kind of like feedback taken to the next level, except you don’t have to have done or do the work yourself.

So, now I modify the above expression to be:

You can’t teach what you don’t know. but you can coach what you don’t know.

People I Met

As this conference was on the topic of management, I did not meet any others in my industry. In fact, I was the only attendee Kate did not know anything about, except my DiSC profile. She knew everyone else in attendance through their companies.

There were six attendees, all managers in different industries such as:

  • a manager for a team of lawyers for a water company
  • customer service manager and inventory manager for two different LED companies
  • marketing managers for a data science company

I made connections and looking forward to staying touch for the next year.


The Manager Tools conference exceeded my goal of leveling up my understanding of the Manager Tools Trinity framework. I was able to fix flaws in my implementation and will focus on giving feedback for the next month and looking forward to the next part of the Trinity.

If you are a fan of the show, I highly recommend attending. If you only have listened to the podcast, the conference will really step up your learning.

Kate, our speaker was awesome. She answered all my questions during the conference and even spent time with me after the conference. Her insight into my situation was invaluable and saved me (and my team!) from my flaw in implementing the Manager Tools Trinty system.

Finally, if you have read this far and want to know more about anything I write about, contact me!. I love hearing from readers. Also, I am hiring for my team, so if you are a programmer looking for productive work, a great manager, in an awesome team, contact me!!