Book Review: Rule-Breaking Works

by Jennifer Miller on September 16, 2009

in Book Review

In preparation for reviewing Marcus Buckingham’s soon-to-be released book Find Your Strongest Life, I decided to pull some of Buckingham’s earlier books off the shelf and give them a second look.  This review is the first of a three-part series. 

First, Break All the Rules
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

The Highlights
A decade ago, First, Break All the Rules put the current “strengths” movement of leadership practices on the map. Based on over 25 years of extensive research by the well-respected Gallup Organization, it represented data culled from surveys of over one million employees and 80,000 managers.  The book’s main premise is that the best front-line managers flout conventional wisdom and break several key “rules” of management, thereby creating highly performing teams that in turn produce exceptional results for their respective companies.

Buckingham and Coffman identified four areas in which the best managers break the rules of conventional wisdom. These managers:

  • Select for talent, not just “skill”
  • Define the right outcomes for the job, but let individuals define their own path to performance
  • Focus on employees’ strengths, not fixing their weaknesses
  • Find the right fit for employees (where can they best leverage their talents?)

Jen’s Take On the Book:
Even after 10 years, two take-aways from this book remain clear in my mind:

  1. The research supported that people don’t “quit” their company; they “quit” their boss.  Meaning, direct supervisors have a huge impact (positive or negative) on retention.
  2.  The notion that people have unique, “enduring” natural talents that basically don’t change a whole lot over the course of their life was an interesting idea. The authors assert that even copious amounts of excellent training will only provide marginal improvement if someone doesn’t have a natural talent for the skill being taught.  Sobering stuff for a training professional like me to hear.

 Best for: managers looking for a well-researched and documented case of how to capitalize on employees’ strengths.

 Take a pass: people already hip to this concept.

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