Book Recommendation: First, Break all the rules

First, break all the rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman is a remarkable management book which attempts to prove that standard management practices don’t work, and instead offers new set of rules. This book is a proponent of strengths-based management principle that believes that it is better to focus on strengths of your employees and make them better, instead of focusing on their weaknesses and attempt to ‘fix’ them. For me, when I first read this book, it was an ‘aha!’ moment; and I have been a fan of the book (and the whole strengths-based philosophy). Something that I always believed in, I now had words and frameworks to understand and explain.

The book has been based on survey data from Gallup from thousands of managers. Their analysis brought them to this insight:

People don't change that much.

Don't spend time trying to put in what was left out.

Try to draw out what was left in.

That is hard enough.


Some of the not-so-common insights from the book that I found insightful are as follows:

  1. Don’t spend time trying to improve a deficiency, spend that time instead in improving their strengths
  2. When you find someone deficient in a critical skill, try to pair them up with someone who possesses the skill, and use this team (instead of individuals)
  3. Everyone has the talent to be exceptional at something. The trick is to find that ‘something’, what Marcus calls casting (drawing from actor selection for movies).

A must read for anyone who things they are a good manager. For balance, make sure you also read about criticisms leveled against strengths based leadership (one of them here).

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