First, Break All the Rules – A Book Review


First, Break All the Rules

What the World’s Greatest Mangers Do Differently

Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

A colleague recommended I read this book as a support to the research I did last year for a re-design of our new-leader program. She said it was a “must read,” and after reading it, I wasn’t disappointed. The title “First, Break All the Rules” was intriguing, but what caught my attention most was the subtitle: “What the world’s greatest managers do differently.” I dove right in, and here’s what I learned.

First, some background about the contents of the book: it’s based on two research studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization over the last 25 years. The studies were looking for clues into the most important needs of the most productive employees. The introduction provides a nice context for the rest of the book:

“Our research yielded many discoveries, but the most powerful was this: talented employees need great managers. The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he/she is while there is determined by their relationship with their immediate supervisor.”

In the researcher’s observations of one particular manager who was identified as a “great” leader, they found that “his desire to help all employees become more of who they already are; his willingness to treat each person differently; his desire to become close friends with his employees; his acceptance that he cannot change people, that all he can do is facilitate; his trusting nature…broke all the rules of conventional wisdom.”

The real meat of the book can be netted out in chapter 1, “The Measuring Stick.” Through the two studies mentioned above, the researchers found that measuring the strength of a workplace can be simplified to 12 questions. They measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees. Those questions are:

  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 doing 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 my job 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, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

This book is ideal (and, as my colleague suggested, a “must read”) for those who are:

  • Wanting to learn how to attract and keep the best people.
  • Leading teams.
  • Looking for increased employee engagement.
  • Working with millennials.
  • Interested in becoming a great leader by breaking all the rules of conventional wisdom.

Enjoy, and remember: leaders are readers.


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