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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by Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman
     
 

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In First, Break All the Rules, Gallup presents the remarkable findings of its massive in-depth study of great managers—those who excelled at turning each employee’s talent into performance.

The world’s greatest managers differ in sex, age, and race. They employ different styles and focus on different goals. Despite their differences,

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Overview

In First, Break All the Rules, Gallup presents the remarkable findings of its massive in-depth study of great managers—those who excelled at turning each employee’s talent into performance.

The world’s greatest managers differ in sex, age, and race. They employ different styles and focus on different goals. Despite their differences, great managers share one trait: They break virtually every rule conventional wisdom holds sacred. They don’t believe that, with enough training, a person can achieve anything he sets his mind to. They don’t try to help people overcome their weaknesses. They disregard the golden rule. They even play favorites.

Companies compete to find and keep the best employees using pay, benefits, promotions, and training. But these well-intentioned efforts often miss the mark. The front-line manager is the key to attracting and retaining talented employees. This amazing book explains how the best managers select employees for talent rather than for skills or experience, how they set expectations, how they motivate people, and how they develop people.

Gallup’s research—based on 80,000 managers in 400 companies—produced twelve simple questions that distinguish the strongest departments of a company from the rest. First, Break All the Rules introduces this essential measuring stick and proves the link between employee opinions and productivity, profit, customer satisfaction, and rate of turnover.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Out of hundreds of books about improving organizational performance, here is one that is based on extensive empirical evidence and a book that focuses on specific actions managers can take to make their organizations better today! In a world in which managing people provides the differentiating advantage, First, Break All the Rules is a must-read."–Jeffrey Pfeffer Professor, Stanford Business School and author of The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First

"This book challenges basic beliefs of great management with powerful evidence and a compelling argument. First, Break All the Rules is essential reading."–Bradbury H. Anderson President and COO, Best Buy

"This is it! With compelling insight backed by powerful Gallup data, Buckingham and Coffman have built the unshakable foundation of effective management. For the first time, a clear pathway has been identified for creating engaged employees and high-performance work units. It has changed the way I approach developing managers. First, Break All the Rules is a critical resource for every front-line supervisor, middle manager, and institutional leader."–Michael W. Morrison Dean, University of Toyota

"First, Break All the Rules is nothing short of revolutionary in its concepts and ideas. It explains why so many traditional notions and practices are counterproductive in business today. Equally important, the book presents a simpler, truer model complete with specific actions that have allowed our organization to achieve significant improvements in productivity, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and profit."–Kevin Cuthbert Vice President, Human Resources, Swissôtel

"Finally, something definitive about what makes for a great workplace."–Harriet Johnson Brackey Miami Herald

"Within the last several years, systems and the Internet have assumed a preeminent role in management thinking, to the detriment of the role of people in the workplace. Buckingham and Coffman prove just how crucial good people — and specifically great managers — are to the success of any organization."–Bernie Marcus former Chairman and CEO, Home Depot

"The rational, measurement-based approach, for which Gallup has so long been famous, has increased the tangibility of our intangible assets, as well as our ability to manage them. First, Break All the Rules shows us how."–David P. Norton President, The Balanced Scorecard Collaborative, Inc.; coauthor of The Balanced Scorecard

"As the authors put it, "a great deal of the value of a company lies between the ears of its employees." The key to success is growing that value by listening to and understanding what lies in their hearts — Mssrs. Buckingham and Coffman have found a direct way to measure and make that critical connection. At Carlson Companies, their skills are helping us become the truly caring company that will succeed in the marketplace of the future."–Marilyn Carlson Nelson President and CEO, Carlson Companies

Newsday
If you're a manager wracking your brain for ways to find and retain good people...this book is worth paying attention to.
Miami Herald
Finally, something definitive about what makes a great workplace.
Detroit Free Press
At last, a management book with a huge amount of statistical evidence...the results are eye-popping...this is one of the best, most practical books I've seen on managing.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684852867
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
05/05/1999
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
34,689
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION
Breaking All the Rules
The greatest managers in the world do not have much in common. They are of different sexes, races, and ages. They employ vastly different styles and focus on different goals. But despite their differences, these great managers do share one thing: Before they do anything else, they first break all the rules of conventional wisdom. They do not believe that a person can achieve anything he sets his mind to. They do not try to help a person overcome his weaknesses. They consistently disregard the Golden Rule. And, yes, they even play favorites.
Great managers are revolutionaries, although few would use that word to describe themselves. This book will take you inside the minds of these managers to explain why they have toppled conventional wisdom and reveal the new truths they have forged in its place.
We are not encouraging you to replace your natural managerial style with a standardized version of theirs — as you will see, great managers do not share a "standardized style." Rather, our purpose is to help you capitalize on your own style, by showing you how to incorporate the revolutionary insights shared by great managers everywhere.
This book is the product of two mammoth research studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization over the last twenty-five years. The first concentrated on employees, asking, "What do the most talented employees need from their workplace. Gallup surveyed over a million employees from a broad range of companies, industries, and countries. We asked them questions on all aspects of their working life, then dug deep into their answers to discover the most important needs demanded by the most productive employees.
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 is while he is there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.
This simple discovery led us to the second research effort: "How do the world's greatest managers find, focus, and keep talented employees?" To answer this question we went to the source — large companies and small companies, privately held companies, publicly traded companies, and public sector organizations — and interviewed a cross section of their managers, from the excellent to the average. How did we know who was excellent and who was average? We asked each company to provide us with performance measures. Measures like sales, profit, customer satisfaction scores, employee turnover figures, employee opinion data, and 360-degree surveys were all used to distill the best managers from the rest During the last twenty-five years the Gallup Organization has conducted, tape-recorded, and transcribed one-and-a-half-hour interviews with over eighty thousand managers.
Some of these managers were in leadership positions. Some were midlevel managers. Some were front-line supervisors. But all of them had one or more employees reporting to them. We focused our analysis on those managers who excelled at turning the talent of their employees into performance. Despite their obvious differences in style, we wanted to discover what, if anything, these great managers had in common.
Their ideas are plain and direct, but they are not necessarily simple to implement. Conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason: It is easier. It is easier to believe that each employee possesses unlimited potential. It is easier to imagine that the best way to help an employee is by fixing his weaknesses. It is easier to "do unto others as you would be done unto." It is easier to treat everyone the same and so avoid charges of favoritism. Conventional wisdom is comfortingly, seductively easy.
The revolutionary wisdom of great managers isn't. Their path is much more exacting. It demands discipline, focus, trust, and, perhaps most important, a willingness to individualize. In this book, great managers present no sweeping new theories, no prefabricated formulae. All they can offer you are insights into the nature of talent and into their secrets for turning talent into lasting performance. The real challenge lies in how you incorporate these insights into your style, one employee at a time, every day.

This book gives voice to one million employees and eighty thousand managers. While these interviews ground the book in the real world, their sheer number can be overwhelming. It is hard to imagine what one talented employee or one great manager sounds like. The following excerpt, from a single interview, captures something of both the tone and the content of our in-depth interviews.
As with all the managers we quote, we have changed his name to preserve his anonymity. We will call him Michael. Michael runs a fine-dining restaurant owned by a large hospitality company in the Pacific Northwest. Since Gallup first met Michael fifteen years ago, his restaurant has been in the company's top 10 percent on sales, profit, growth, retention, and customer satisfaction. From the perspective of his company, his customers, and his employees, Michael is a great manager.
Throughout the book you will hear Michael's comments echoed by other managers and employees. But rather than pointing out these echoes, we ask you to make the connections for yourself as you move through the chapters. For the moment we will simply let Michael speak for himself.
Gallup: Can you tell us about your best team ever?
Michael: You mean my whole team? I have at least thirty people working here.
Gallup: Just tell us about the core of the team.
Michael: I suppose my best team ever was my wait staff team a few years ago. There were four of them. Brad was about thirty-five, a professional waiter. Took great pride in being the best waiter in town. He was brilliant at anticipating. Customers never had to ask for anything. The moment the thought entered their mind that they needed more water, or a dessert menu, Brad was there at their shoulder, handing it to them.
Then there was Gary. Gary was an innocent. Not naive just an innocent. He instinctively thought the world was a friendly place, so he was always smiling, cheerful. I don't mean that he wasn't professional, 'cause he was. Always came in looking neat, wearing a freshly pressed shirt. But it was his attitude that so impressed me. Everyone. liked to be around Gary.
Susan was our greeter. She was lively, energetic, presented herself very well. When she first joined us, I guessed that she might lack a little common sense, but I was wrong. She handled the customers perfectly. On busy nights she would tell them pleasantly but firmly that last-minute reservations couldn't be accepted. During lunch some customers just want to get their order, pay, and leave. Susan would figure this out and let their server know that, with this particular customer, speed was of the essence. She paid attention, and she made good decisions.
Emma was the unspoken team builder in the crew. Quieter, more responsible, more aware of everyone else, she would get the team together before a busy Saturday night, and just talk everyone through the need to put on a good show, to be alert, to help each other get out of the weeds.
These four were the backbone of my best team even I didn't really need to interfere. They ran the show themselves. They would train new hires, set the right example, and even eject people who didn't fit. For a good three years they were the restaurant.
Gallup: Where are they now?
Michael: Susan, Emma, and Gary all graduated and moved back east. Brad is still with me.
Gallup: Do you have a secret to building great teams?
Michael: No, I don't think there is a secret I think the best a manager can do is to make each person comfortable with who they are. Look, we all have insecurities. Wouldn't it be great if, at work, we didn't have to confront our insecurities all the time? I didn't try to fix Brad, Susan, Gary, and Emma. I didn't try to make them clones of each other. I tried to create an environment where they were encouraged to be more of who they already were. As long as they didn't stomp on each other and as long as they satisfied the customers, I didn't care that they were all so different.
Gallup: How did you get to know these people so well?
Michael: I spent a lot of time with them. I listened. I took them out for dinner, had a couple of drinks with them. Had them over to my place for holidays. But mostly I was just interested in who they were.
Gallup: What do you think of the statement "Familiarity breeds contempt?"
Michael: It's wrong. How can you manage people if you don't know them, their style, their motivation, their personal situation? I don't think you can.
Gallup: Do you think a manager should treat everyone the same?
Michael: Of course not.
Gallup: Why?
Michael: Because everyone is different. I was telling you about Gary before, how great an employee he was. But I fired him twice. A couple of times his joking around went too far, and he really jerked my chain. I really liked him, but I had to fire him. Our relationship would have been ruined if I hadn't put my foot down and said, "Don't come in on Monday." After each time, he learned a little bit more about himself and his values, so I hired him back both times. I think he's a better person because of what I did.
My firm hand worked with Gary. It wouldn't have worked at all with Brad. If I even raised my voice with Brad, I would get the exact opposite reaction from the one I wanted. He would be crushed. He'd shut down. So when I disagree with him, I have to talk quietly and reason everything through with him quite carefully.
Gallup: Isn't it unfair to treat people differently?
Michael: I don't think so. I think people want to feel understood. Treating them differently is part of helping them feel unique. If I know that one of my people is the primary breadwinner, then as long as they perform, I will be more likely to give him better hours than someone who is a student. The student might be a little annoyed, but when I explain the situation to him, he usually calms down. Besides, he now knows that I will be paying attention to his personal situation when he needs a special favor. That's always a good message to send.
Gallup: Other than Gary, have you ever fired anyone?
Michael: Unfortunately, I have. Like most managers, sometimes I don't pick the right people and things start to fall apart.
Gallup: What is your approach to firing an employee?
Michael: Do it fast, the faster the better. If someone is consistently underperforming, you might think you are doing them a favor by waiting. You aren't. You're actually making matters worse.
Gallup: You've been managing now for fifteen years. If you were going to give any advice to a new manager, what would it be?
Michael: I am not an expert at this, you know. I'm still learning.
Gallup: That's fine. Just tell us a couple of the ideas that have helped you over the years.
Michael: Well...I suppose the first would be, pick the right people. If you do, it makes everything else so much easier.
And once you've picked them, trust them. Everyone here knows that the till is open. If they want to borrow $2 for cigarettes or $200 for rent, they can. Just put an IOU in the till and pay it back. If you expect the best of people, they'll give you the best. I've rarely been let down. And when someone has let me down, I don't think it is right to punish those who haven't by creating some new rule or policy.
Another thing would be, don't overpromote people. Pay them well for what they do, and make it rewarding, in every way, for them to keep doing what they are doing. Brad is a great waiter, but he would make a terrible manager. He loves to perform for an audience he respects. He respects the customers. He is less respectful of some of the new employees. As a manager, these employees would be his audience.
And especially important: Never pass the buck. Never say, "I think this is a crazy idea, but corporate insists." Passing the buck may make your little world easy, but the organism as a whole, sorry, the organization as a whole, will be weakened. So in the long run, you are actually making your life worse. Even worse are those who find themselves always promising things that don't come to pass. Since you never know what corporate might spring on you next, I recommend living by this simple rule: Make very few promises to your people, and keep them all.
That's it. That's my list.
Gallup: Is there anything else that you would like to tell us about your experiences as a manager?
Michael: Maybe just this: A manager has got to remember that he is on stage every day. His people are watching him. Everything he does, everything he says, and the way he says it, sends off clues to his employees. These clues affect performance. So never forget you are on that stage.

So that's Michael. Or, at least, that's an excerpt from Michael. During our research we heard from thousands of managers like Michael and from hundreds of thousands of employees who worked for managers like Michael. Some of Michael's opinions are commonly held — never pass the buck, make few promises and keep them all. But the majority of his testament is revolutionary — 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. Michael, like all great managers, breaks the rules of conventional wisdom.
Like you, we know that change is a fact of modern life. We know that the business climate is in permanent flux and that different approaches to managing people wax and wane. However, in listening to managers like Michael and the employees they manage, we were searching for that which does not change. What will talented employees always need? What will great managers always do to turn talent into performance? What are the enduring secrets to finding, focusing, and keeping talented employees? What are the constants? These were our questions. On the following pages we present our discoveries.
Copyright © 1999 by The Gallup Organization

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Out of hundreds of books about improving organizational performance, here is one that is based on extensive empirical evidence and a book that focuses on specific actions managers can take to make their organizations better today! In a world in which managing people provides the differentiating advantage, First, Break All the Rules is a must-read."–Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford Business School Professor and author of The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First

"This book challenges basic beliefs of great management with powerful evidence and a compelling argument. First, Break All the Rules is essential reading."–Bradbury H. Anderson President and COO, Best Buy

"This is it! With compelling insight backed by powerful Gallup data, Buckingham and Coffman have built the unshakable foundation of effective management. For the first time, a clear pathway has been identified for creating engaged employees and high-performance work units. It has changed the way I approach developing managers. First, Break All the Rules is a critical resource for every front-line supervisor, middle manager, and institutional leader."–Michael W. Morrison Dean, University of Toyota

"First, Break All the Rules is nothing short of revolutionary in its concepts and ideas. It explains why so many traditional notions and practices are counterproductive in business today. Equally important, the book presents a simpler, truer model complete with specific actions that have allowed our organization to achieve significant improvements in productivity, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and profit."–Kevin Cuthbert Vice President, Human Resources, Swissôtel

"Finally, something definitive about what makes for a great workplace."–Harriet Johnson Brackey Miami Herald

"Within the last several years, systems and the Internet have assumed a preeminent role in management thinking, to the detriment of the role of people in the workplace. Buckingham and Coffman prove just how crucial good people — and specifically great managers — are to the success of any organization."– Bernie Marcus former Chairman and CEO, Home Depot

"The rational, measurement-based approach, for which Gallup has so long been famous, has increased the tangibility of our intangible assets, as well as our ability to manage them. First, Break All the Rules shows us how."–David P. Norton President, The Balanced Scorecard Collaborative, Inc.; coauthor of The Balanced Scorecard

"As the authors put it, "a great deal of the value of a company lies between the ears of its employees." The key to success is growing that value by listening to and understanding what lies in their hearts — Mssrs. Buckingham and Coffman have found a direct way to measure and make that critical connection. At Carlson Companies, their skills are helping us become the truly caring company that will succeed in the marketplace of the future."–Marilyn Carlson Nelson President and CEO, Carlson Companies

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