Book Review: First, Break All the Rules

I’d recommend First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently to all new managers – well, to all managers for that matter. The first point the book makes is that who you work for is more important than the company you work for, your job description or even your paycheck. I agree, 100%.

We have said that an employee may join a company because of its prestige and reputation, but that his relationship with his immediate manager determines how long he stays and how productive he is while he is there. We have said that the manager is the critical player in turning each employee’s talent into performance. We have said that managers trump companies.

The next main point they make is that everyone is different and you should spend your time finding the perfect role for them and the perfect way for them to accomplish their goals. Don’t waste your time trying to improve your employees’ weaknesses. Get them the skills they need or find them the resources or partnerships they need, and put them in the right roles – where their talents and drives match the job they have. They break talents and skills into skills, knowledge and talents. The first two are teachable but "talents" are inherent. I saw their talents more as drivers. A talent was more than just what you are good at but what motivates you do what you do well.

The authors define 12 questions that measure the key things needed to attract and keep good employees:

What do I get?

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

What do I give?

  1. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  2. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  3. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  4. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

Do I belong here?

  1. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  2. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  3. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  4. Do I have a best friend at work?

How can we all grow?

  1. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  2. This last year have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

According to the authors, managers should spend their time making sure the first two sets of questions are answered: "what do I get?" and "what do I give?" They also point out that most organizations aren’t set up to treat people like individuals (in the sense that we all have different talents) – instead they try to get everyone to do a job well in the same way – nor to reward people in their current role without promoting them out. They offer suggestions for how managers can work within existing company policies. They also provide a section on what to do if your manager is still working on becoming a perfect manager – a section how to manager yourself and help your manager work best with you.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently is well worth reading for anyone who is a manager, aspiring to be a manager or frustrated with their current manager.