First, Break all the Rules

I have a sort-of-new job at work and so I have had a spate of reading business books. First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman is about how great managers get the best out of people. I’m a manager and I think I’m pretty good at it, but I can do better and lately I know I’ve not given my team as much attention as I would like.

First_Break_All_Rules_cover_imageFirst, Break all the Rules is based on identifying great managers and studying what they do, both within organizations and between organizations. It distinguishes between good and great. The book doesn’t just look at what average (good) managers do, it looks at the people who are exceptional. What is interesting is that what great managers do is defy conventional wisdom.

For example, most performance management is based on helping people identify their weaknesses and overcome them. Great managers focus on strengths and getting people into situations/roles that enable them to capitalize on what they do best. Weaknesses are worked around. I realised I’m tired of working on weaknesses and I’m inspired by the idea of building on strengths.

It also talks about how competencies tend to reduce everyone to averages rather than helping people to be their best. We’ve just introduced competencies at work, lol.

It was published in 1999 and some of the examples feel a bit dated. I liked it and found a lot useful. Part of the reason I liked it is because I’m already doing some of the things it says great managers do, so clearly the book is amazing. Some of those things aren’t supported by my peers and managers and I’m liking the reassurance that I’m on the right track. But also, I’m inspired by new-to-me suggestions.

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