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"First, Break All The Rules,
what the world's greatest managers do differently"

by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Gallup Organization, Simon & Schuster, 1999
272 pages in hardcover


Instructions for downloading the book review
in MS Word and Excel files, highly recommended.


Click here to download the zipped file, "1stbreak.zip; 18 KB", that contains two MS Word files, the review, Filename "1stbreak.doc; 30 KB", and the miscellaneous quotes, Filename "1stbquot.doc; 33 KB", plus the Excel workbook, Filename "1stbreak.xls; 23 KB"

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Comments from 100 users of job matching


Click here to read the comments of 100 managers that use job matching to identify which of their qualified job applicants have the right "talents" for the job.

Book Review

"First, Break All The Rules, what the world's greatest managers do differently" by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization is an exceptional book. We recommend that you purchase and read it. This memo is based on the book but it should not be a substitute for buying and reading the book. The authors deserve your purchase and you will be rewarded for it.

The authors' recommendations are based on Gallup's interviews of over 80,000 managers in over 400 companies across numerous industries -- the largest study of its kind ever undertaken. This book helps explain why job fit is so important when selecting employees. The authors' define a "talent", (page 71) as "a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied...The emphasis here is on the word 'recurring.' Great managers say 'Your talents are the behaviors you find yourself doing often.'"

Job matching identifies the recurring patterns of behaviors of top performers (page 103) so that managers can identify which job applicants have the same recurring patterns of behavior. If the authors are correct, and we think they are, this book is a reliable source of insight into how to select and manage your people. According to the authors (page 28) measuring the strength of a workplace can be simplified to 12 questions

  1. Do I know what is expected of me?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to
    do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received
    recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work that
    encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company, make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my coworkers committed to
    doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work
    talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities
    at work to learn and grow?

Questions that have everyone answering "Strongly Agree" are weak questions.

The authors repeat the following four lines several times in the book (pages 67, 79).

  • People don't change 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.

Great managers look inward...Great leaders, by contrast, look outward...Great managers are not simply managers who have developed sophistication (page 63).

When hiring, Conventional Wisdom says (page 66)...

  1. select a person...based on his experience, intelligence and determination.
  2. set expectations...by defining the right steps.
  3. motivate the person...by helping him identify and overcome his weaknesses.
  4. develop the person...by helping him learn and get promoted.

When hiring, Great Managers say...

  1. select for talent...not just experience, intelligence or determination.
  2. define the outcomes...not the right steps
  3. focus on strengths...not weaknesses
  4. help find the right fit...not the next promotion

Conventional Wisdom says...

  1. Experience makes the difference.
  2. Brainpower makes the difference.
  3. Willpower makes the difference.

Great managers agree with the three items above but great managers label willpower a talent and it is almost impossible to teach (page 72). Only the presence of talents can explain why, all other factors being equal, some people excel in the role and some struggle (page 73).

As manager you need to know exactly which talents you want. (page 101) Great talents need great managers if they are to be turned into performance. (page 102)

Each employee breathes different psychological oxygen. (page 151) You cannot learn very much about excellence by studying failure...Excellence is not the opposite of failure. (page 157)

Whereas conventional wisdom views individual specialization as the antithesis of teamwork, great managers see it as the founding principle. (page 173)

In the minds of great managers, consistent poor performance is not primarily a matter of weakness, stupidity disobedience, or disrespect. It is a matter of miscasting (page 209)

Here are the Four Keys that senior managers can use to break through conventional wisdom's barricades (page 236):

  1. Keep the focus on outcomes.
  2. Value world class performance in every role.
  3. Study your best.
  4. Teach the language of great managers.

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