First, Break All the Rules

By Gallup

Brett Dwyer writes:

This is a recommended read for any manager, no matter your department or level. It’s relatively conceptual, rather than having step-by-step instructions. But it will certainly stimulate ideas, help you understand some of the challenges you’ve been battling with, and in general, push you to be a better manager.

My takeaways were:

  • That leadership and management are two different things. A good leader is not necessarily a good manager, and vice versa (and this is ok). Managers look inward towards the organisation, whilst leaders look outward towards the marketplace.
  • Conventional wisdom tells us to devote extra time to helping the employees that are struggling, when in reality we should be spending as much extra time as possible with the high performers; they can go from great to excellent with the right mentoring.
  • You can’t change someone’s behaviours (or, it’s very difficult, at the least). Managers can be prone to mistakenly believing (or hoping!) they can.
  • It’s also common to see superstars placed in teams with the weaker performers – the idea being that it creates the best balance. However, putting superstars with other superstars is the way to go; the results will be incredible.
  • It’s ok to play favourites. Not everyone is created equal. In fact, the fairest way to act is to play favourites.
  • There’s a hierarchy of needs that stimulate a loyal workplace. It starts with basic elements that suggest employees clearly understand what they get from their role and then what they contribute, followed by higher-order ideas about whether they belong and finally, how can they grow. It’s important to tackle these from the ground up, basics first.
  • I did find the authors definition of “Talent” versus skills and knowledge a little confusing – but I was still able to get the gist. Some things that are needed in order to excel in a particular job cannot be learned. Rather, it’s just an inherent trait of that particular person.
  • Focus on each person’s strengths, and manage around their weaknesses. Don’t try to fix the weaknesses.
  • Don’t treat people the way you would like to be treated. Treat them the way they would like to be treated. (Ask them!)
  • Using bands of pay for each role (eg: $80,000 – $150,000) makes sense. The best salesperson could certainly be paid more than their manager. (And in addition, the salesperson should not be “promoted” into management if it will not be a good fit for them.)
  • Structure your regular check-ins with the team, and keep notes from these meetings. However, much of the responsibly about tracking progress towards goals should lie with the team member.


What separates the greatest managers from all the rest?

They actually have vastly different styles and backgrounds. Yet despite their differences, great managers share one common trait: They don’t hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. They don’t believe that, with enough training, a person can achieve anything he sets his mind to. They don’t try to help people overcome their weaknesses. And, yes, they even play favorites.

In this longtime management bestseller, Gallup presents the remarkable findings of its massive in-depth study of great managers. Some were in leadership positions. Others were front-line supervisors. Some were in Fortune 500 companies; others were key players in small, entrepreneurial firms. Whatever their circumstances, the managers who ultimately became the focus of Gallup’s research were those who excelled at turning each individual employee’s talent into high performance.

Gallup has found that the front-line manager is the key to attracting and retaining talented employees. This book explains how the best managers select an employee for talent rather than for skills or experience, set expectations, build on each person’s unique strengths rather than trying to fix his or her weaknesses, and get the best performance out of their teams.

And perhaps most important, Gallup’s research produced the 12 simple statements that distinguish the strongest departments of a company from all the rest. First, Break All the Rules is the first book to present this essential measuring stick and to prove the link between employee opinions and productivity, profit, customer satisfaction and the rate of turnover.

First, Break All the Rules presents vital performance and career lessons for managers at every level — and best of all, shows you how to apply them to your own situation.

We’d love to hear what you thought of this book! Please leave your comments below.