Business Development: First Break All The Rules


Author: Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Edition: 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85286-1

In the introduction, Buckingham and Coffman state that the greatest managers in the world may differ in many ways but they have one thing in common – they do not hesitate to challenge and break all the rules of conventional wisdom.

The sub-title gives you a clue to the focus of this book - what the world‟s greatest managers do differently. The book is a model of best practice, great wisdom, extreme reach and great practice. First there is the incredible research - one million employees and eight thousand managers over 25 years! Secondly the base premise that if you want to find out how the world‟s greatest managers achieve outstanding performance from people, then ask both sides of the equation – the people and the managers.

The book is based on 25 years of research by the Gallop Organisation. This entailed analysing the 90 minute interviews with over 80,000 managers at different levels of seniority. They discovered that great managers do four things well:

  1. Select for talent - When selecting someone they select for talent – not simply experience, intelligence or determination.
  2. Set expectations - When setting expectations they define the right outcomes, not the right steps.
  3. Motivating the person: - When motivating someone they focus on strengths, not on weaknesses.
  4. Develop the person - When developing someone they find the right fit, not simply the next rung on the ladder.

The authors also quote the insight common to 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."

The authors have developed an excellent set of twelve questions which is the distilled criteria of great management practices. The important thing is that their twelve questions are a direct link between employee engagement and productivity, profit, customer satisfaction and staff retention. These are excellent questions to use in an employee opinion survey because they relate to four overarching questions.

What Do I Get?

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

What Do I Give?

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

Do I Belong Here?

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

How Can We All Grow?

  • In the last six months have I talked with someone about my progress?
  • At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow? 

The fundamental premise of the book is that managers need to match jobs with talent and strengths rather than experience and skills.

The final chapter provides some excellent practical suggestions about the art of interviewing, performance management, the strengths interview and career discovery questions.

This book is a compulsory read for all CEOs and Managers as it provides great insight. The 12 questions listed are simple and profound and worthy of being used to assess staff satisfaction.