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Breaking All the Rules Makes a Great Manager

first_break-rules4If you’re in the business of managing people–and most executives are–then “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” (Simon and Schuster, 1999) by Gallup analysts Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman is perfect reading for you. Based on interviews with 1 million employees and 80,000 managers over the course of 25 years, the authors set out to find the answers to what makes a great manager and how to become one.

According to the authors, great managers are revolutionaries who have one thing in common: They break all the rules of conventional wisdom. Following conventional wisdom is taking the easy route, something great managers shy away from, according to Buckingham and Coffman. Great managers also do not come in a cookie cutter form; being individualistic is what has made them succeed.

What exactly do great managers do differently? Many things, actually. When a manager is in the hiring process, he or she should use an approach the authors have labeled “the Four Keys” of great managers. The Four Keys reveal how managers unleash the potential of every employee by:

Marcus Buckingham
Marcus Buckingham
  • Defining the right outcomes, not the right steps.
  • Focusing on strengths, not on his or her weaknesses.
  • Helping him or her find the right fit, not simply the next rung on the ladder.

The authors note that great managers know that very few people have the ability to change; however, great managers know how to control or correct what nature saw fit to provide. As Buckingham and Coffman write: “This insight is revolutionary. It explains why great managers do not believe that everyone has unlimited potential; why they do not help people fix their weaknesses; why they insist on breaking the ‘Golden Rule’ with every single employee; and why they play favorites. It explains why great managers break all the rules of Conventional Wisdom.”

Curt Coffman

While virtually all managers are leaders of some sort, Buckingham and Coffman explain there is a major difference between a manager and a leader: Great managers look inward, and great leaders look outward. Great managers look inside the company, into each individual, into the differences in style, goals, needs and motivation of each person. Great leaders, on the other hand, look out at the competition, out at the future, out at alternative routes forward.

“It is entirely possible for a person to be a brilliant manager and a terrible leader,” the authors write. “But it is just as possible for a person to excel as a leader and fail as a manager. And, of course, a few exceptionally talented individuals excel at both.”

With comments ranging from “excellent management book” to “a must-read for managers of all levels,” “Break all the Rules” has received overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon, with the majority rating the book as 5-star reading material. It has been translated into 22 languages, as well as appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and USA Today.

Step No. 1 to become a better manager: Pick up a copy of this book. You might learn a thing or two.

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