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Book Summary: First, Break All the Rules

This article is based on the following book:First, Break All The Rules‘What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently’By Marcus Buckingham & Curt CoffmanSimon & Schuster 271 pagesBased on a...

This article is based on the following book:
First, Break All The Rules
‘What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently’
By Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman
Simon & Schuster
271 pages

Based on a mammoth research study conducted by the Gallup Organization involving 80,000 managers across different industries, this book explores the challenge of many companies - attaining, keeping and measuring employee satisfaction. Discover how great managers attract, hire, focus, and keep their most talented employees!

Key Ideas:

  1. The best managers reject conventional wisdom.
  2. The best managers treat every employee as an individual.
  3. The best managers never try to fix weaknesses; instead
    they focus on strengths and talent.
  4. The best managers know they are on stage everyday. They
    know their people are watching every move they make.
  5. Measuring employee satisfaction is vital information for
    your investors.
  6. People leave their immediate managers, not the companies
    they work for.
  7. The best managers are those that build a work environment
    where the employees answer positively to these 12 Questions:
    • Do I know what is expected of me at work?
    • Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my
      work right?
    • At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best
    • In the last seven days, have I received recognition or
      praise for doing good work?
    • Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about
      me as a person?
    • Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
    • At work, do my opinions seem to count?
    • Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my
      job is important?
    • Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
    • Do I have a best friend at work?
    • In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me
      about my progress?
    • This last year, have I had the opportunity at work to
      learn and grow?

The Gallup study showed that those companies that reflected positive responses to the 12 questions profited more, were more productive as business units, retained more employees per year, and satisfied more customers.

Without satisfying an employee’s basic needs first, a manager can never expect the employee to give stellar performance. The basic needs are: knowing what is expected of the employee at work, giving her the equipment and support to do her work right, and answering her basic questions of self-worth and self-esteem by giving praise for good work and caring about her development as a person.

The great manager mantra is don’t try to put in what was left out; instead draw out what was left in. You must hire for talent, and hone that talent into outstanding performance.

More wisdom in a nutshell from First, Break All the Rules:

  1. Know what can be taught, and what requires a natural
  2. Set the right outcomes, not steps. Standardize the end
    but not the means. As long as the means are within the
    company’s legal boundaries and industry standards,let the
    employee use his own style to deliver the result or outcome
    you want.
  3. Motivate by focusing on strengths, not weaknesses.
  4. Casting is important, if an employee is not performing
    at excellence, maybe she is not cast in the right role. 
  5. Every role is noble, respect it enough to hire for
    talent to match.
  6. A manager must excel in the art of the interview. See if
    the candidate’s recurring patterns of behavior match the
    role he is to fulfill. Ask open-ended questions and let
    him talk. Listen for specifics.
  7. Find ways to measure, count, and reward outcomes.
  8. Spend time with your best people. Give constant feedback.
    If you can’t spend an hour every quarter talking to an
    employee, then you shouldn’t be a manager. 
  9. There are many ways of alleviating a problem or non-talent.
    Devise a support system, find a complementary partner for him,
    or an alternative role.
  10. Do not promote someone until he reaches his level of
    incompetence; simply offer bigger rewards within the same
    range of his work. It is better to have an excellent highly
    paid waitress or bartender on your team than promote him or
    her to a poor starting-level bar manager.
  11. Some homework to do: Study the best managers in the
    company and revise training to incorporate what they know.
    Send your talented people to learn new skills or knowledge.
    Change recruiting practices to hire for talent, revise
    employee job descriptions and qualifications.

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Regine Azurin is the President of, a company that provides business book summaries of the latest bestsellers for busy executives and entrepreneurs.

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