Excerpt from First Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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First Break All The Rules

What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

By Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman

First Break All The Rules
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  • Hardcover: May 1999,
    255 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2004,
    320 pages.

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Their ideas are plain and direct, but they are not necessarily simple to implement. Conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason: It is easier. It is easier to believe that each employee possesses unlimited potential. It is easier to imagine that the best way to help an employee is by fixing his weaknesses. It is easier to "do unto others as you would be done unto." It is easier to treat everyone the same and so avoid charges of favoritism. Conventional wisdom is comfortingly, seductively easy.

The revolutionary wisdom of great managers isn't. Their path is much more exacting. It demands discipline, focus, trust, and, perhaps most important, a willingness to individualize. In this book, great managers present no sweeping new theories, no prefabricated formulae. All they can offer you are insights into the nature of talent and into their secrets for turning talent into lasting performance. The real challenge lies in how you incorporate these insights into your style, one employee at a time, every day.


This book gives voice to one million employees and eighty thousand managers. While these interviews ground the book in the real world, their sheer number can be overwhelming. It is hard to imagine what one talented employee or one great manager sounds like. The following excerpt, from a single interview, captures something of both the tone and the content of our in-depth interviews.

As with all the managers we quote, we have changed his name to preserve his anonymity. We will call him Michael. Michael runs a fine-dining restaurant owned by a large hospitality company in the Pacific Northwest. Since Gallup first met Michael fifteen years ago, his restaurant has been in the company's top 10 percent on sales, profit, growth, retention, and customer satisfaction. From the perspective of his company, his customers, and his employees, Michael is a great manager.

Throughout the book you will hear Michael's comments echoed by other managers and employees. But rather than pointing out these echoes, we ask you to make the connections for yourself as you move through the chapters. For the moment we will simply let Michael speak for himself.

Gallup: Can you tell us about your best team ever?

Michael: You mean my whole team? I have at least thirty people working here.

Gallup: Just tell us about the core of the team.

Michael: I suppose my best team ever was my wait staff team a few years ago. There were four of them. Brad was about thirty-five, a professional waiter. Took great pride in being the best waiter in town. He was brilliant at anticipating. Customers never had to ask for anything. The moment the thought entered their mind that they needed more water, or a dessert menu, Brad was there at their shoulder, handing it to them.

Then there was Gary. Gary was an innocent. Not naive just an innocent. He instinctively thought the world was a friendly place, so he was always smiling, cheerful. I don't mean that he wasn't professional, 'cause he was. Always came in looking neat, wearing a freshly pressed shirt. But it was his attitude that so impressed me. Everyone. liked to be around Gary.

Susan was our greeter. She was lively, energetic, presented herself very well. When she first joined us, I guessed that she might lack a little common sense, but I was wrong. She handled the customers perfectly. On busy nights she would tell them pleasantly but firmly that last-minute reservations couldn't be accepted. During lunch some customers just want to get their order, pay, and leave. Susan would figure this out and let their server know that, with this particular customer, speed was of the essence. She paid attention, and she made good decisions.

Emma was the unspoken team builder in the crew. Quieter, more responsible, more aware of everyone else, she would get the team together before a busy Saturday night, and just talk everyone through the need to put on a good show, to be alert, to help each other get out of the weeds.

Copyright © 1999 by The Gallup Organization

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