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First, Break All The Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

First, Break All The Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

Based On In-Depth Interviews By The Gallop Organization of Over 80,000 Managers In Over 400 Companies-The Largest Study of Its Kind Ever Undertaken

By Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

If you're a manager, if you work in human resources, or if your company hires managers and you are seeking criteria to hire great managers, you'll want to give First, Break All The Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman a read.

After extensive research seeking correlations and statistical meta-analysis, Buckingham and Coffman summarize the twelve key factors in retaining star employees. If employees can answer the below questions affirmatively, you probably have a strong and productive workplace:

"1) Do I know what is expected of me at work?

  2) Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

  3) At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

  4) In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?

  5) Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

  6) Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

  7) At work, do my opinions seem to count?

  8) Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?

  9) Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

10) Do I have a best friend at work?

11) In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?

12) At work, have I had the opportunities to learn and grow?" (First, Break All The Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently)

What about stock options, high pay, and other more obvious benefits? Don't employees want those also? Yes. However, Buckingham and Coffman point out that those benefits attract all people, including what they classify as ROAD warriors (Retired While On Active Leave or unproductive employees). The above twelve factors attract and keep productive employees.

While the company benefit plan may determine if a person will take a job, his interactions with his immediate manager will determine how productive he is and whether he will remain with the company. Turnover of great employees, which is almost entirely in the hands of your managers, is costly to a business.

So, can anyone become a great manager? According to the research of Buckingham and Coffman, probably not. They found that among great managers, those who are effective catalysts for turning employee potential into production, the motto is "People don't change that much. Don't waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough."

Buckingham and Coffman found that the greatest managers make a clear distinction between knowledge, skills, and talent, where talent is defined as natural recurring patterns of thought within a person. While knowledge and skills can be taught, the greatest managers know that talent cannot be taught. A key of management success is finding the right kind of person for any given job.

Each person has a unique set of talents and proclivities making them unique. This set of talents defines who the person is and, more importantly, the kinds of work the person will enjoy. Each person thinks differently.

What about the various self-help and self-improvement programs used by companies today? Buckingham and Coffman say that most great managers dismiss them as ineffective. You can't just teach employees "the nine habits of an effective life" and expect them to excel. Buckingham and Coffman explain that each individual's brain is uniquely wired. Performance is in the synapses, or the connections between a person's brain cells. This develops in early childhood.

When a child grows, many brain cells exist. There are relatively few connections between the cells. Certain pathways between various groups of brain cells will be strengthened as the child grows. Other pathways will rarely be used. These seldom used pathways and cells will be pruned by the brain.

The result? Some people will be great at strategic thinking. Others will struggle with strategic thinking. Some people will have a talent for mathematics. Others won't. Some people will be naturally empathetic and verbally fluent. Not so for others. Trying to make someone function in an area his or her brain hasn't developed will lead to stress, low satisfaction, and, probably, on-the-job failure. But, putting someone in a role where he is naturally wired will probably lead to satisfaction and competency.

What about simple roles that "anyone should be able to do." Roles people are in only because they need a job and hope to leave as soon as possible? This is a flaw in manager thinking. Disparaging any role within an organization is wrong. Rather, great managers recognize greatness and excellence in any role, even if it is usually considered a common job. Some people will have the talent to do that job while others won't.

Buckingham and Coffman criticize the conventional career path of promoting people out of roles in which they excel and moving them into roles in which they struggle. The authors say it is foolish to reward excellence in a role by removing the person from the role. For example, not everyone has the talent or the desire to be a manager. The talent to be a great computer programmer will not be the same talent needed to be a systems analyst or project manager.

So, why do employees advance from roles they enjoy, and in which they excel, into roles that make them miserable? Money, prestige, and "advancement" are expected by the company. If an employee's pay is severely capped in his current role, he will probably want to "advance" to the next level. Companies which tend to excel in employee management, Buckingham and Coffman find, often have broad pay bands and offer many viable career paths some of which involve staying in the same role. Such companies are careful not to unreasonably cap the potential of any role performed with excellence and drive people from the role.

First, Break All The Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently gives solid advice about finding people suited to a given role and, then, managing them effectively. This applies to all roles, including management. Are you a potentially great manager? Do you have the talent and recurring patterns of thought to manage others effectively? I'll leave you with two questions asked by Buckingham and Coffman:

Do you feel respect and trust must be earned by your employees?


"You have two managers. One has the best talent for management you have ever seen. The other is mediocre. There are two openings available: the first is a high-performing territory, the second is a territory that is struggling. Neither territory has yet reached its potential. Where would you recommend the excellent manager be placed? Why?"

Great managers and average managers answer these questions very differently. Don't feel bad if you get the answers "wrong" and answer differently from the greatest managers.

I highly recommend First, Break All The Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

First, Break All The Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently
First, Break All The Rules:
What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

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