Break All The Rules
by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
book is the product of two studies: the first asked, “What do the most
talented employees need from the workplace?” and the second asked,
“How do the world’s greatest managers find, focus, and keep talented
employees?” The Gallup Organization interviewed more than one million
employees and eighty thousand managers for these studies making them,
together, the largest study of its kind ever undertaken.
authors cite Thomas Stewart who states that the most valuable aspects of
jobs are “the most essentially human tasks: serving, judging,
creating, and building relationships.” In other words, a great deal of
the organization’s value resides in the minds of its members and when
they leave, they take this value with them. Many times, they take it to
discovered twelve core questions that give an organization the most
important information it needs to attract, focus, and keep the most
talented employees. They are:
Do I know what is expected of me at work?
Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every
In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for
doing good work?
Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as
Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
At work, do my opinions count?
Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is
Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
Do I have a best friend at work?
In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my
This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and
questions help in developing a great workplace. Questions regarding pay,
benefits, senior management, or organizational structure fell out of
their list of core questions as they discovered that these questions
were equally important to all employees – most talented, good, bad,
what Gallup calls “meta-analysis” they discovered that “those
employees who responded more positively to the twelve questions also
worked in business units with higher levels of productivity, profit,
retention, and customer satisfaction.” Gallup also discovered that
“employees rated the questions differently depending on which business
unit they worked for rather than the company. This meant that, for the
most part, these twelve opinions were being formed by the employees’
immediate manager rather than by the policies or procedures of the
overall company. We had discovered that the manager – not pay,
benefits, perks, or a charismatic corporate leader – was the critical
player in building a strong workplace. The manager was the key.”
showed that people leave managers. If there is a retention problem, look
to the managers first.
authors state that “the best thing any leader can do to drive the
whole company to greatness is, first, to hold each manager accountable
for what his/her employees say to these twelve questions, and second, to
help each manager know what actions to take to deserve “Strongly
Agree” responses from his/her employees.”
authors state that to be most effective, the twelve questions must be
dealt with in order. Great managers begin with the first six and know
that they must spend a great deal of time and energy there. Great
managers know that each person is different and they work to capitalize
on this. They do not try to change or mold people but help them become
more of what they already are. As a result, great managers do not
believe that everyone has unlimited potential; they do not help people
fix their weaknesses; they insist on breaking the “Golden Rule” with
every employee; and they play favorites. In short, they break all the
rules of conventional wisdom.
play a vital and distinct role. This role is to “reach inside each
employee and release his/her unique talents into performance.” This is
accomplished by working with each employee one-by-one. The manager role
is the catalyst role. Looking back to the twelve questions, the first
six provide the detail for the catalyst role.
managers differ from great leaders. Great managers look inward.
They look inside the organization, into each individual, into the
differences in style, goals, needs, and motivation of each person. They
then work to release each person’s unique talents into performance.
Great leaders look outward. They look at competition, the future,
and the various ways to move forward. They must be visionaries,
strategic thinkers, and activators.
managers see themselves as catalysts that have four core activities: 1)
they select for talent, 2) they define the right outcomes, 3) they focus
on strengths, and 4) they help the employee find the right fit. The
authors call these “the Four Keys” of great managers.
for talent –
Talents are any recurring patterns of behavior that can be productively
applied. The key to excellent performance is “finding the match
between your talents and your role.” Your talents are a part of you;
they are a result of the way you perceive the world. Talent cannot be
taught. Talents are powerful since they are transferable from situation
to situation. The manager’s role is not to try to teach people talent.
It is to help them earn the accolade “talented” by matching their
talent to the role. Great managers know this and believe that every role
has its own nobility. Managers need to know what talents they want. To
determine this, they first look at the company – they think about the
culture of the company, how the expectations will be set, and the others
on the team. The great managers study their best workers and select for
the right outcomes
– Great managers are hemmed in by two fervent beliefs: 1) people
don’t change that much, and 2) an organization exists for a purpose
and that purpose is performance. This creates a dilemma – how does a
manager retain control and focus people on performance? The authors’
answer: Define the right outcomes and then let each person find his/her
own route toward the outcomes. Great managers do not create “one best
way” to do things. They trust their workers. A manager’s basic
responsibility is to turn talent into performance. This involves
satisfying customers. Workers must understand customer expectations. The
authors state that four customer expectations are consistent across
various types of businesses and types of people. The expectations, which
are hierarchical, are: Level 1 – accuracy (if the company consistently
fails here, customers defect), Level 2 – availability (hence the rise
of drive through windows, ATM machines, and Web sites). It should be
noted that most companies meet these expectations today and that meeting
them is more a commodity than a competitive advantage. Level 3 –
partnership (customers want you to listen to and understand them; the
authors point out that a customer who feels understood is a step closer
to real satisfaction and loyalty. Level 4 – advice (customers feel the
closest bond to organizations that have helped them learn).
customer expectations known and understood, the right outcomes are set.
The manager, after defining the outcomes, identifies a person’s
strengths, defines outcomes that play to these strengths, finds a way to
measure the outcomes, and then lets the person go for it.
on strengths –
Great managers “Focus on each person’s strengths and manage around
his weaknesses. Don’t try to fix the weaknesses. Don’t try to
perfect each person. Instead do everything you can to help each person
cultivate his talents. Help each person become more of who he already
is.” Great managers are aggressive in trying to identify each
person’s talents and helping him/her cultivate those talents. They do
this by casting people in the right role, managing by exception
(treating each person differently, each according to their needs), and
spending the most time with their best people (giving these people the
time they need to help them excel).
managers manage around a weakness by asking two questions: First, is the
poor performance trainable? Second, is the nonperformance caused by the
manager tripping the wrong trigger? If you can genuinely answer “No”
to both questions, then by default the nonperformance is probably a
nontalent becomes a weakness when you find yourself in a role where
success depends on your excelling in an area that is a nontalent. There
are three possible routes to helping a person succeed: 1) Devise a
support system (focusing on strengths which help every worker excel is
“more productive and more fun than trying to fix the weakness”); 2)
find a complementary partner (focusing on helping workers capitalize on
who they are and not trying to fix who they aren’t); 3) find an
alternative role (when you realize the person has been miscast you look
to find him/her another role).
the Right Fit –
Great managers stick to their goal: “Regardless of what the employee
wants, the manager’s responsibility is to steer the employee toward
roles where the employee has the greatest chance of success.” This
means doing away with the Peter Principle. It also means recognizing
that one rung on the corporate ladder doesn’t necessarily lead to
another. Great managers ask: “Why not make prestige more available?
Why not carve out alternative career paths by conveying meaningful
prestige on every role performed at excellence? Why not create heroes in
every role?” Great managers believe that every role performed at a
level of excellence is valuable. The authors say that every role should
be measured and rewards established for reaching or exceeding goals.
Great managers excel at giving performance feedback. They shared these
characteristics: 1) their feedback was constant, 2) each session with
the worker began with a brief review of past performance (usually about
ten minutes of the hour-long meeting) then shifted to the future, and 3)
they made a point of giving their feedback in private.