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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Michael: I am not an expert at this, you know. I'm still learning.

Gallup: That's fine. Just tell us a couple of the ideas that have helped you over the years.

Michael: Well...I suppose the first would be, pick the right people. If you do, it makes everything else so much easier.

And once you've picked them, trust them. Everyone here knows that the till is open. If they want to borrow $2 for cigarettes or $200 for rent, they can. Just put an IOU in the till and pay it back. If you expect the best of people, they'll give you the best. I've rarely been let down. And when someone has let me down, I don't think it is right to punish those who haven't by creating some new rule or policy.

Another thing would be, don't overpromote people. Pay them well for what they do, and make it rewarding, in every way, for them to keep doing what they are doing. Brad is a great waiter, but he would make a terrible manager. He loves to perform for an audience he respects. He respects the customers. He is less respectful of some of the new employees. As a manager, these employees would be his audience.

And especially important: Never pass the buck. Never say, "I think this is a crazy idea, but corporate insists." Passing the buck may make your little world easy, but the organism as a whole, sorry, the organization as a whole, will be weakened. So in the long run, you are actually making your life worse. Even worse are those who find themselves always promising things that don't come to pass. Since you never know what corporate might spring on you next, I recommend living by this simple rule: Make very few promises to your people, and keep them all.

That's it. That's my list.

Gallup: Is there anything else that you would like to tell us about your experiences as a manager?

Michael: Maybe just this: A manager has got to remember that he is on stage every day. His people are watching him. Everything he does, everything he says, and the way he says it, sends off clues to his employees. These clues affect performance. So never forget you are on that stage.


So that's Michael. Or, at least, that's an excerpt from Michael. During our research we heard from thousands of managers like Michael and from hundreds of thousands of employees who worked for managers like Michael. Some of Michael's opinions are commonly held -- never pass the buck, make few promises and keep them all. But the majority of his testament is revolutionary -- his desire to help all employees become more of who they already are; his willingness to treat each person differently; his desire to become close friends with his employees; his acceptance that he cannot change people, that all he can do is facilitate; his trusting nature. Michael, like all great managers, breaks the rules of conventional wisdom.

Like you, we know that change is a fact of modern life. We know that the business climate is in permanent flux and that different approaches to managing people wax and wane. However, in listening to managers like Michael and the employees they manage, we were searching for that which does not change. What will talented employees always need? What will great managers always do to turn talent into performance? What are the enduring secrets to finding, focusing, and keeping talented employees? What are the constants? These were our questions. On the following pages we present our discoveries.

Copyright © 1999 by The Gallup Organization

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