The book ‘First, Break All the Rules: what did I learn from reading this book?

Through ‘First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently’, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gall up Organization demonstrates their findings of comprehensive study of great managers across various situations. It is an outstanding piece of work as the book written in 1999 was based on 80,000 interviews with managers from more than 400 companies. Some of the managers interviewed in the study were from Fortune 500 companies list while others were entrepreneurs and key players in small businesses. Both authors had approximately 20 years of experience in studying main characteristic among great managers. It is one of the most remarkable studies ever taken and has great significance and role to play in human resource practices.

The authors in their book “First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” asks, “Should you build close personal relationships with your employees, or does familiarity breed contempt?” and they responded “The most effective managers say yes, you should build personal relationships with your people, and no, familiarity does not breed contempt.”  (Blackaby)

Great managers in the world differ from one another in terms of age, race and gender. Each of them has a different style of management and different set of goals. In spite of the varied difference, 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. The frontline manager is the key to attracting and retaining talented employees. No matter how generous its pay or how renowned is training, the company that lacks great front-line managers will suffer.  (Description and Review)

The Authors, Buckingham and Coffman identify four important jobs for great managers, which is different from the conventional thinking. These are (a) selection of people based on their talent, (b) establishing the right output while setting expectations from employees or subordinates, (c) focus on strengths while motivating an employee, and (d) finding the right job for the individual in order to develop him.

Great managers stated the main reason behind selection of employee was talent instead of experience, education and level of intelligence. Talents that can be identified are striving, thinking and relating. Striving includes the urge for achieving, building expertise and putting words or thoughts to action. Thinking includes being focused and disciplined. And, relating includes leadership and persuasion skills.

Great managers provide assistance to individuals to set up goals and objectives in line with the vision and mission of the organization. Great managers help each individual to define the expected outcomes and help them visualize success upon completion of the expected output. They motivate each individual to reach to their set goals. Great managers acknowledge and understand the diversity of people working under them. They appreciate the fact that each individual has their own strengths which will help in achieving success. They are focused on the strengths of the employees and manage around his weakness. Great managers find out way to motivate them and provide the best work environment to maximize result or to gain optimal performance. Great managers try to develop the weakness identified in an individual. They provide peer coaching facility so that the person can learn and develop his weaknesses. Training is provided to boost up skills necessary for performance.

A manager’s job is much more than helping employee to grow. He should also try and improve or enhance the performance. In order to get the best output, he needs to identify whether each person is in the right role and help individual understand career path in his role. Thus, helping the performance of the individual and helping the organization to grow. A manager’s role is not to teach people talent but to help them get rewarded as ‘talented’ by matching their talent to the role.

Nowadays, companies are challenged with finding proper resources and keeping the performers using various methods such as pays, benefits and additional trainings. Attrition rate is going higher and higher. It is becoming difficult for them to retain talented people within the organization. Overseeing all the efforts, there is one major deciding factor in attracting talents and retaining them, which is, the frontline manager. A company which lacks good frontline manager is bound to suffer. Monetary and other benefits can attract people to join the organization but the most important factor that determines retention of these people is the quality of the immediate manager and the work environment within the organization.

Great managers have no belief that people can change much. They see ineffectiveness in self-help and self-improvement programs. They say one can’t teach each employee “Nine habits of an effective life” and expect them to outshine. They lay stress on setting expectations right and identifying key strengths and weaknesses of each employees and play around with the strengths.

Great managers believe that performance is in the synapses which are the connections between individual’s brain cells. This generally develops in early childhood due to which people excel in different areas such as mathematics, strategic thinking, etc. In case a person is put in a role where his brain cells do not match it, will result in job mismatch or performance failure.

Great managers pursue some key practices such as keeping focus on the outcome, valuing world class performance, studying your best, not wasting time trying to put the leftover and try to depict what was left in.

Author has presented twelve questions which can be used to determine the productivity of the workplace. Question such as “Do I know what is expected of me?”, “At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do the best every day?”, “Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right”, “Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?”, “In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?”, “Is there someone at work who encourages my development?”, “At work, do my opinions seem to count” and so forth.

I feel this book is a useful tool for Human Resource management team or managers. It helps them to develop plans in the areas of employee hiring and retention, matching talent and competences of individual with the job profile in the organization, and career enhancements. It will help the HR manager to create a productive work environment and select or develop great managers.

Companies only used to complain about the failure and ineffectiveness of employees but this book brought a new dimension. Through this book, I learnt the importance of having a right manager in workplace. A right manager can help me develop myself in the most effective and efficient manner. He / She can act as a mentor and help me to achieve my career goals. Even the atmosphere at work plays an important part. The book will enormously help me when I grow up in professional career and take up more roles and responsibility.

I can now be a better manager and can guide my team to success. I know what exactly I need to do as a team leader. I can help organization decrease the attrition rate and can retain key individuals in my team. Many managers in today’s world, focus on developing weaknesses of employees rather than working on capitalizing or gaining from their strengths. I would rather try utilizing the employee’s strength to get maximum output. I will look for positive way through which I can enhance their talents and abilities rather than putting them on training. I will try and find out their natural interest or hobbies, which often relates to unused strengths and use it effectively to improve their performance. The book has essential performance and vital career lessons for managers at every level and shows application of theories in practicality. The book is full of ideas and ready concepts which can deliver immediate results.

Organizations can think of better uncomplicated and straight forward way to improve and achieve organizational goals and objectives. Training and enhancing skills of frontline managers is very important and decisive in carrying out many HR roles and responsibilities. Organization should spend considerable time and efforts to hone the managerial skills of line managers. Training managers is as important as increasing efficiency of other employees.

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