ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

November 1999


Boeing Flies High

Fostering Creativity: An Early Start

Are We There Yet?

If It Ain't Pretty - I'm Outta Here

Flying Above Mediocrity

Teams At The Top


Large Ideas Expressed In Small Amounts
by Peter Block


Brief Cases

Diary of a Shutdown

Views for a Change


Book Reviews with a Twist

"First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently"

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman


I've Got a Secret

The authors, both employees of The Gallup Organization, have drawn upon more than 80,000 interviews with over 400 companies during the past 25 years to produce a book that attempts to summarize the "secrets" of great managers. In essence, what they've found is there is one universal characteristic shared by excellent managers: the readiness to ignore the rules revered by followers of conventional wisdom.

The book lists 12 questions managers should ask of all their employees to provide a base assessment relative to the strength of the workplace and measure the core elements needed to attract, focus and retain talented employees. Among these 12 are: “In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?;” “Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?;” and, “At work, do my opinions seem to count?” Through intensive research, the authors found that affirmative responses to these questions directly correlated to not only productive work environments but also accurately predicted positive outcomes of business units.

This led the researchers to those managers and leaders heading units having favorable responses

You Don't Put Your Right Foot In…
Another concept to be tossed aside is the traditional golden rule: "Treat others as you wish to be treated.” Instead, managers are urged to "Treat a person the way she/he wants to be treated.” Implicit is that managers take time to know staff as individuals, discovering not just their needs but their desires. A preeminent theme is that managers are catalysts whose job is to focus people toward performance, assisting them in becoming more of what they already are.

The Great Managers’ Mantra
While great managers share much less than you might think, the following succinctly describes the foundational belief of all great managers:
- People don’t change that much.
- Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.
- Try to draw out what was left in.
- That is hard enough.

This insight is the source of great managers’ wisdom and actions, serving as the foundation of their success. It provides illumination regarding many of the beliefs of great managers, to wit: Everyone has limited potential; and a manager should always be fair.

Beg, Borrow, Steal…Well, OK, Buy This Book
Written in a breezy and open style, "First, Break All the Rules" is not only insightful but is quite prescriptive. The book can also be enjoyed on several levels: academically, as a very quantitative approach to management; practically, with many useful ideas and tips; and by all levels of employees, as the book is not written merely from a managerial point of view.
Parts of the book are pedestrian. Many ideas touted as revolutionary and innovative are, in fact, quite common and ordinary and unsurprising to many. It is, however, the general understanding that one comes away with that is extraordinary. In today's new economy with managers finding it increasingly difficult to find and retain talented staff (and with talented staff discovering it difficult to find and retain talented managers!), "First, Break All the Rules" offers a wealth of prescriptions for success.

I recommend that you drive, don't walk or run, to your nearest bookstore, or better yet, point and click to your favorite .com virtual bookstore, and buy this book. It will definitely change many of your long-standing ideas regarding quality management and make you a better manager, employee, team member…whatever!


"First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently" Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, 1999, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, ISBN 0-684-85286-1. 271 pages.
Reviewed by: Bradley P. Hodges, vice president-corporate services, Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka, Topeka, Kan.
November '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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