Book Review: “First, Break All the Rules”

      “First, Break All the Rules” is a management and leadership book written by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Published in 1999, the book challenges traditional management practices and provides insights into effective leadership and employee engagement.

      Readers can gauge the effectiveness of their current management approach by grasping and implementing the four principles for unleashing employee potential, readers will gain insights into the shortcomings of traditional business norms and acquire the knowledge to extract greater productivity from their workforce.

      The authors conducted extensive research within the Gallup organization to identify the key principles that high-performing managers follow. The book outlines four main themes:

      1. Select for Talent: Instead of trying to mold employees into a predefined role, successful managers focus on hiring individuals with natural talents and strengths that align with the job requirements. “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.”
      2. Define the Right Expectations: Clear expectations and goals are essential for success. Managers should define and communicate specific outcomes, rather than focusing solely on processes. “The manager’s responsibility is not to make people learn. It is to help them learn.”
      3. Focus on Strengths: Effective leaders encourage employees to leverage their strengths and talents, rather than fixating on weaknesses. Developing and utilizing strengths leads to increased engagement and performance.”Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.”
      4. Find the Right Fit: Managers should match employees to roles that align with their talents and passions, creating a better fit between individual and job. “The key to a company’s success lies in the knowledge, skills, and talents of its people. It is not enough for an organization to have brilliant strategies, efficient processes, and the latest technology. Long-term success is dependent on having the right people in the right jobs at the right time.”

      Throughout the book, the authors emphasize the importance of individualized management approaches, recognizing that each employee is unique and requires different leadership strategies. They also introduce the concept of the “Q12,” a set of 12 questions to measure employee engagement and satisfaction.

      “First, Break All the Rules” offers practical advice and examples to help managers challenge conventional wisdom and create more effective, engaged, and high-performing teams. The book’s insights have been widely embraced by leaders seeking to improve their management techniques and build stronger relationships with their employees.

      About the Authors

      Curt Coffman

      As consultant to Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 organizations, MBA and Executive Fellow, Daniels School of Business at the University of Denver. Curt Coffman has invested 30+ years in the science of the human side of organizations.

      Formerly the Global Practice Leader for employee and customer engagement at the Gallup Organization for 22 years, Mr. Coffman is Senior Partner and Chief Science Officer of The Coffman Organization. Mr. Coffman has studied literally hundreds of organizations, and millions of employees and customers. His mission is to help organizations, their executives, leaders and associates create more engaging and productive workplaces to secure the loyalty and growth of their customers.

      His work launched a new era in employee engagement and management development with First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently – one of the best selling management books of all times. He followed that up with another bestselling book, Follow This Path: How the World’s Greatest Organizations Drive Growth by Unleashing Human Potential. Now his third book, Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch: The Secret of Extraordinary Results – introduces a new focus on high performing cultures, where you just can’t wait to come to work.

      An international figure in the world of management and engagement, Mr. Coffman’s work has been translated in over 40 different languages. His research and writings have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Chief Executive magazine, CIO Magazine, The Economist, Fast Company, Fortune, the Harvard Management Update, Inc. magazine, the International Journal of Management Reviews, Microsoft Executive Circle, The New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post, and a host of other management journals.

      His research and consulting insights help organizations measure and manage workplace and customer conditions that show linkage to business outcomes.

      An insightful and completely engaging speaker, Mr. Coffman has presented to thousands of groups on the topic of creating great places to work and its impact on individuals, families, organizational growth and creating engaged customers.

      Marcus Buckingham

      Marcus Buckingham is a global researcher and the world’s authority on what the most effective leaders and highest-performing people do differently. He is the New York Times best-selling author of two of the most popular business books of all time, First, Break All the Rules, and Now, Discover Your Strengths. Marcus’ 2019 Harvard Business Review cover article, “The Feedback Fallacy,” was recently selected by HBR as one of the most influential articles of the last 100 years. Marcus is the creator of the StandOut strengths assessment and the co-creator of StrengthsFinder – his strengths assessments have been completed by over 25 million people worldwide.

      Building on two decades of experience as a Senior Researcher at The Gallup Organization, he leveraged his data-based discoveries to build a $100 million tech company focused on helping people find and contribute their strengths at work. Beginning with First, Break All the Rules, and continuing through his latest book Love and Work (Harvard Business Review Publishing, April 5th, 2022) he is known for using reliable psychometric data to get to the core of what drives engagement, resilience, and productivity. He currently guides the research agenda of the ADP Research Institute as Head of People + Performance.

      About Cowen Partners Executive Search

      At Cowen Partners, we stand at the forefront of the executive search industry, empowering companies to thrive and excel in their growth, revenue, and market presence. We specialize in identifying exceptional leaders and placing them in key positions to drive success. Our team of seasoned executive recruiters collaborates with organizations of all sizes, encompassing both public and private enterprises, pre-IPO ventures, and non-profit entities. Through a meticulous and discerning approach, we unite handpicked candidates, with companies in pursuit of the most exceptional executive talent, representing the top 1%. With the support of our experienced senior partners, we execute a diligent and efficient executive search process, ensuring leadership placements within a remarkable six-week timeframe.

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