Buckingham, Marcus and Coffman, Curt. (1999). First Break All the Rules. (EN-0301)
New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 0-684-85286-1 (hardback)

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R E C O M M E N D E D   R E A D I N G

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman Simon & Schuster, 1999, $25, 271 pages ISBN 0-684-85286-1

Retention and productivity of employees are among the issues that increasingly concern information management professionals. The bottom line of good management, of course, is measuring the effectiveness of an organization. Suppose the good management could be distilled into its essential components. That is what authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman claim the Gallup organization did by interviewing more than a million employees and tens of thousands of managers and studying their responses to a large set of questions, including:

  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 to learn and grow?

Answers to these questions discriminated between excellent worker productivity and average. Moreover, for many different companies in many different businesses, the answers to these questions—those that reflect the employee’s relationship with his or her immediate supervisor—trumped more accepted measures of corporate excellence such as pay, benefits, or charismatic leadership.

These interviews resulted in great insight. The authors contend that talents may not be taught. While some managers believe what is missing can be supplied with more training or experience, great managers capitalize on an employee’s natural strengths and work around the weaknesses. To the extent that the book explains superior performance by employees and managers, it is extremely worthwhile.

Reviewed by Joel A. Cohen (cohen@canisius.edu), associate vice president for Library and Information Services, Canisius College.

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Editorial reviews from amazon.com.

Editorial Reviews

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman expose the fallacies of standard management thinking in First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently. In seven chapters, the two consultants for the Gallup Organization debunk some dearly held notions about management, such as "treat people as you like to be treated"; "people are capable of almost anything"; and "a manager's role is diminishing in today's economy." "Great managers are revolutionaries," the authors write. "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."

The authors have culled their observations from more than 80,000 interviews conducted by Gallup during the past 25 years. Quoting leaders such as basketball coach Phil Jackson, Buckingham and Coffman outline "four keys" to becoming an excellent manager: Finding the right fit for employees, focusing on strengths of employees, defining the right results, and selecting staff for talent--not just knowledge and skills. First, Break All the Rules offers specific techniques for helping people perform better on the job. For instance, the authors show ways to structure a trial period for a new worker and how to create a pay plan that rewards people for their expertise instead of how fast they climb the company ladder. "The point is to focus people toward performance," they write. "The manager is, and should be, totally responsible for this." Written in plain English and well organized, this book tells you exactly how to improve as a supervisor. --Dan Ring

From AudioFile
First, Break All the Rules is the culmination of over 80,000 interviews conducted by The Gallup Organization. This is insightful work; no pundit-speak and no ivory tower theorizing. The authors stress that good managers spend more time with their best performers than with their less productive counterparts, that they fit people into the right roles and hire for talent rather than experience, that they focus on strength rather than weakness, and that they clearly define the right results as opposed to the right steps. Buckingham and Coffman also illustrate ways to promote and compensate people for honing their valuable talents instead of seeking new tasks that will take them up the company ladder. Buckingham, a senior lecturer in Gallup's Leadership Institute, delivers the text as if he knows what he's talking about, which he does. M.D.B. (c) AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

From Booklist
The authors, both management consultants for the Gallup Organization, use the company's study of 80,000 managers in 400 companies to reach the conclusion that a company that lacks great frontline managers will bleed talent, no matter how attractive the compensation packages and training opportunities. With this in mind, they sought the answers to the follow-up questions: "How do great managers find, focus and keep talented employees." Using case studies, diagrams, and excerpts from interviews, Buckingham and Coffman guide us through their findings that discipline, focus, trust, and, most important, willingness to treat each employee as an individual are the overall secrets for turning talent into lasting performance. The book concludes with suggestions on how to become a great manager, including ideas for interviewing for talent, how to develop a performance management routine, and how to get the best performance from talented employees. Although this is clearly an infomercial for the Gallup Organization, it nevertheless offers thoughtful advice on the essential task of developing excellent managers. Mary Whaley

Book Description
The greatest managers in the world seem to have little in common. They differ in sex, age, and race. They employ vastly different styles and focus on different goals. Yet despite their differences, great managers share one common trait: They do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. They do not believe that, with enough training, a person can achieve anything he sets his mind to. They do not try to help people overcome their weaknesses. They consistently disregard the golden rule. And, yes, they even play favorites. This amazing book explains why.

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization present the remarkable findings of their massive in-depth study of great managers across a wide variety of situations. Some were in leadership positions. Others were front-line supervisors. Some were in Fortune 500 companies; others were key players in small, entrepreneurial companies. Whatever their situations, the managers who ultimately became the focus of Gallup's research were invariably those who excelled at turning each employee's talent into performance.

In today's tight labor markets, 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. No matter how generous its pay or how renowned its training, the company that lacks great front-line managers will suffer. Buckingham and Coffman explain how the best managers select an employee for talent rather than for skills or experience; how they set expectations for him or her -- they define the right outcomes rather than the right steps; how they motivate people -- they build on each person's unique strengths rather than trying to fix his weaknesses; and, finally, how great managers develop people -- they find the right fit for each person, not the next rung on the ladder. And perhaps most important, this research -- which initially generated thousands of different survey questions on the subject of employee opinion -- finally produced the twelve simple questions that work to distinguish the strongest departments of a company from all the rest. This book is the first to present this essential measuring stick and to prove the link between employee opinions and productivity, profit, customer satisfaction, and the rate of turnover.

There are vital performance and career lessons here for managers at every level, and, best of all, the book shows you how to apply them to your own situation.

Based on the largest study of its kind ever undertaken, more than 80,000 managers in 400 companies reveal revolutionary insights about successful managerial behavior.

Book Info
Presents in-depth interviews by the Gallup organization of over 80,000 successful managers. Discusses how they select an employee; for talent rather than experience, set high expectations, and motivate employees through encouragement and development of their strengths. DLC: Executive ability.