Review: First Break All the Rules

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book highlights the importance of great managers, and how they are different to average ones.

When looking at people the research found that the following were generally true:

People don’t change that much
Don’t wast your time trying to put in something which was left out
Try to draw on what was left in
That is hard enough

This leads to a managers role being

  1. Select for talent
  2. Define the right outcomes
  3. Focus on strengths
  4. Find the right fit

Select for talent

Every job requires talent and everybody has them, the key is matching the right talents from the person to the role.  Hire people with the same talents as your best people, don’t look at the talents of your worst and invert them.

Skill – this is something which can be learnt
Knowledge – split into
    factual – from being taught
    experiential – from someones experiences and can’t be taught
Talent – a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied but they can not be learnt and are slow to change.  There are three types:
Striving – Why does someone get out of bed?  What is their motivation. e.g. competitive
Thinking – How a person thinks and weighs up options. e.g. critical thinking
Relating – Who this person relates to or whom they don’t get along with. e.g. networking

Define the right outcomes

There are many ways to get a job done, good managers know to keep out of the way so that the people with the right talents can find the best way for them.  There are some limitations:
Accuracy and safety must not be compromised
Company or industry standards must be adhered to
Required steps are only useful if the desired outcome is not obscured – they only prevent dissatisfaction not boosting satisfaction

Focus on strengths

You have to cast people in the right role for their talents, this is key to getting the best results.

Each person is unique with their own motivation, talents, skills and knowledge.  Great managers spend the most time with the best people, helping the best achieve not focusing on their worst trying to get them to average.  Focusing on your best is the only way you can get to excellence.

If people have a weakness there are sometimes ways to turn this into just a non-talent.  This could be by taking away the workload which they are just not good at e.g. filling paperwork on time, pairing them with someone who has complimentary skills e.g. someone who loves paperwork or working around the problem e.g. removing the need for paperwork.  These are all ways to turn a weakness into a non-talent however if this is not an option then it is best to cast the person into another role.

Find the right fit

There are multiple career paths, not just up.  Someone might want to grow in the work they are doing, move between teams, move up, move down or move out.  It should not be assumed that the right move for everyone is to move up the ladder – each run up the ladder is not just growing in something, it is a completely different job from which there may be no way back – so it is critical that someone moves for the right reason.  If you have an accountant becoming a team leader, the book suggests that a junior inexperienced team leader should get paid less than an experiences accountant to remove the financial advantage to the promotion – if they grow and develop in the role then they will likely earn more but this is not until they have built up suitable knowledge and experience.

Create heroes in every role, no matter what it is if someone is performing it excellently then they should be acknowledged for it.

Are you a great manager?

The book presents twelve questions which they have identified as being good indicators of how employees feel, these are directly from the perspective that employees leave managers and not companies – two people in the same company can respond very differently to the same set of questions if they have a poorer or better manager. The book explains the mountain which these questions climb with people responding Strongly Agree to all at the peak.

  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?

What your customers want

This is in the book but I feel that it does not really fit with the rest of it and there are many interesting ways this could have been taken in addition, however I include it here for reference.   Customers require:

  1. Accuracy – what they ordered
  2. Availability – location, opening times
  3. Partnership – personalisation, rewards, understanding
  4. Advice – learning, training

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