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Book Review

First Break All the Rules

by Buckingham and Coffman

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.

The only downside to First Break All the Rules is a common one... it's about 100 pages too long. So while the first half of the book is a must-read, the second half is a must-skim.

The greatest managers in the world 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.

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.