NEW DELHI: A must read book for all managers/ aspiring managers is First break all the rules written by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The book is an outcome of two research studies made by the Gallup Organisation and provides an insight into two important questions:

• “What do the most talented employees need from their workplace?”

• “How do the world’s greatest managers find, focus and keep talented employees?”

Most of us have studied and practised the conventional principles of management. However, the book sounds and is unconventional. Why most of us stick to the time tested and usual systems and beliefs has been explained thus in a sentence — “Conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason, it is easier”. However, “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 individualise.”

Some of the secrets of great managers who “turned talent into lasting performance”, as shared in the research findings described in the book are given below:

• The best a manager can do is to make each person comfortable with who they are. It’s about allowing people to be at peace with themselves and not forcing them to become like us or some other person we appreciate. So many of us have been stressed precisely for the same reason — that we are not like so and so or that our team members are not able to become so and so!

• “I was just interested in who they were. I spent a lot of time with them. I listened.” While most of us think it’s safe to keep a safe distance from our people because “familiarity breeds contempt”, the research findings showed — “how can you manage people if you don’t know them, their style, their motivation, their personal situation?” What it means is that we can get the best out of our people only if we know and understand them fully. And to be able to do that we have to be with them and spend time with them.

• Managers should not treat everyone the same-because everyone is different. So many of us strongly believe that managers should be fair and transparent — and one way of showing that we are fair, objective and impartial is by treating all equally — having no favourites and giving no favours. We all know and appreciate that all of us are different —however we have been ardent supporters of ‘equal treatment’. If people are different it is but natural that they need to be treated and handled differently.

• People want to feel understood. Treating them differently is part of helping them feel unique. Most of us want to feel important — on so many occasions we felt frustrated because we were being treated like ‘so many others’. So often we have cribbed, “There is no difference between horses and donkeys”— point is how many of us have actually understood the importance of treating every individual differently so as to make him feel special?

• Pick the right people. And once you have picked them, trust them. So many of us have faced trust issues — so often we have spent time and effort on mindless processes and procedures just to make sure people do not do what they are not supposed to do. “If you expect the best of people, they’ll give you the best. I have rarely been let down. And when somebody has let me down I don’t think it is right to punish those who have not by creating some new rule or policy.” Isn’t this what most of us do? — make new rules for those who would in any case never had broken the old ones!

• Never pass the buck. Never say I think this is a crazy idea but corporate insists. So often we have taken the easy route of getting things done — shifting the blame on the ‘corporate’ or ‘management’— we want people to think that we are good and that it is ‘management’ or ‘corporate’ which is unreasonable — we may succeed in the short term — however in the long run people do understand what is what.

• Make very few promises to your people and keep them all. Again so very different from the usual practise of talking big and doing nothing.

The above is a very miniscule percentage of the insights presented in the book. All those who aspire to become great managers and do not know where to begin this is the right place to begin — pick up a copy of First break all the rules and get going.

(The author can be reached at kalpanaaro-ra@hotmail.com )