Sunday, August 3, 2014

Book Review: First Break All the Rules

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do DifferentlyFirst, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few years back, in a fit of misguided patriotism, I took a J.O.B. in a government agency with a mission to help people who would otherwise struggle to get by. Two weeks in, I realized I was reporting to a supervisor who knew nothing about being a supervisor. Worse, one of her colleagues decided to "help" by inserting himself into everything our unit did. I had two bosses, and I had no idea how to make either of them happy.

Then one day, I spotted this book on Boss #2's shelf. I'd already enjoyed others by Marcus Buckingham, and I knew that one way to connect with someone is to read something they recommend. So I asked to borrow the book. He agreed, but was clearly annoyed. He didn't like anything about me and he made sure I knew it.

What a belly laugh I had when I discovered that Buckingham had written a how-to manual for being a good manager! Treat people the way they want to be treated... define outcomes for your staff... focus on their strengths...match the people to the work... all the things neither of these two supervisors were doing. Of the 12 questions that predict employee satisfaction and performance, my peers and I could answer only one or two positively. LOL.

I read the book in a few days and returned it to Boss #2 right away. "Here's your book back. Thanks for letting me borrow it. Have you read it?"

"Of course I've read it!" he practically snapped. (God, Cathy, you are so stupid.) End of discussion.

So, here is the thing about books: they are excellent tools for learning. If someone wants to change and grow and gain a new skill, there is probably a darn good book about whatever they want to learn. But books are not magic bullets. They can't make people change or improve their skills. If they could, I might still be in that job. As it was, I lasted only a few months before happily returning to consulting, where I still use the book to help clients who want to learn how to be better supervisors.

To download a two-page summary of the book, written by me, click here.

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