Book: First Break All The Rules

First Break All The RulesI spend a lot of time obsessing about: 1) how to be a good manager, and 2) how to have any idea if I am doing a good job. So I was happy to discover First Break All The Rules (Amazon), because it contains (data driven!) information on how to be a good manager, and also a list of questions which – if you’re doing a good job – the people who report to you will be able to answer a resounding “yes” to.

Treat people as individuals. Focus on strengths. Don’t fix people, fix situations. Focus on outcomes not process. 

When I became a manager one of the things that I had – and continue to have – a lot of anxiety about is that I didn’t feel like I had a good model of what a good manager looked like, and I was really wary to learn from bad managers, because I don’t think that teaches you very much (this sentiment is echoed in the book). So for me the biggest and most useful takeaway is that a great manager can look any number of ways, but the people who report to her will be able to answer “yes” enthusiastically and confidently to all these questions.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the equipment and material I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my work is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, have I talked to someone about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Note – the first 6 are foundational, and to address the second 6 without the foundation of the first 6 is like building a house on sand.

The book is a little dated in places, but I’ve found it a really worthwhile read and I’ve got a lot out of it. If you’re a manager at any stage, I highly recommend reading it (I wish some of my managers had read it!). And in my 1:1s over the next little while, I’m going through this list with the individuals who report to me and figuring out the places where I can do better.

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