Monday, June 16, 2008

Book Review: "First, Break All The Rules"

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

(Note: Most of the posts on this site cover mental health, legal, media, forgiveness, and spiritual topics.  This book doesn't really address any of these, but I did read it, and it is a good book, so here is a short review.)

This book was written in 1999 by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of The Gallup Organization.  It is basically some conclusions from extensive research on what the best managers do, including:
  • Understand that each person has special talents (recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) that can not be taught
  • Help people recognize and develop their talents
  • Select and place people based on their talents
  • Define the right outcomes (describe excellence) and allow people to achieve those outcomes in their own way
  • Measure performance against outcomes
  • Expect the best from people
  • Complement or support missing talents
The book also includes some guidelines for customer satisfaction that I find to be very interesting.  The customer satisfaction hierarchy is:
  1. Accuracy
  2. Availability (there when needed)
  3. Partnership (we are in it together)
  4. Advice
These build advocate customers who are very loyal.

It is also important that a company provide a framework for personal growth and management by creating heroes in every role, defining measured levels of performance, and having overlapping pay bands.

One important thing that I learned from this book is that it is better to build on strengths than it is to shore up weaknesses.  How can we ever excel if we spend our time developing our weaknesses rather than our talents?  Why struggle with something that we are not good at when there is someone else with the exact talents needed who could do it instead?

Here is a simple example: I am better with numbers than I am with words, and I occasionally work with engineers who do not speak English.  Should I take the time to learn their language?  No!  Instead, I should focus on enhancing my technical knowledge (my talent) and rely on an interpreter who is better with words (his talent).

How should we spend our time?  How can we be happy in our work?  How should we work together in an interdependent community?  How can we achieve excellence?  To me, this book helps answer these questions by encouraging us all to focus on developing and using our talents.