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By breaking the rules of traditional management, readers will be able to see things differently and find innovative ways to manage. Based on interviews with 80,000 managers in 400 companies, the lessons taught in First, Break All the Rules show that the best managers are the ones who break from the conventional methods of management.

Readers will learn how effective their current management style is by using the list of twelve questions in the book to assess where they stand. By learning, and using, the four keys to unlocking employee's potential, readers will begin to understand how misguided the old rules of business really are and learn how to get more from their employees.


The four keys for breaking the rules teach readers that effective managers focus on talent, outcomes, developing strengths, and finding the right fit.

"Talent is the multiplier. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield. The time you spend with your best is, quite simply, your most productive time."

The first key is to select employees based on talent above other factors. Readers learn here that talent is not as special as they may have thought, but simply a recurring pattern that is effective. The lessons of the first key teach readers that their job is to help each employee make the most of their talents, why talent can't be created, and that every role requires talent. Once a manager adopts this foundation of hiring for talent, the easier it will be to use the rest of the keys.

"In most cases, no matter what it is, if you measure it and reward it, people will try to excel at it."

The second key is to define the right outcomes. This key teaches readers that management is not about direct control; it's about remote control. By defining what the end result should be, readers will find that they don't have to waste time trying to control the steps along the way. Define the outcome and get out of the way. Readers will learn that their time is better spent on enhancing employee performance and keeping the focus on the goal. The result will be employees who take responsibility and become more self-reliant.

"...the manager creates performance in each employee by speeding up the reaction between the employee's talent and the company's goals, and between the employee's talent and the customer's needs."

The third key to better management is to focus on strengths and forget about "fixing" employees. This break from traditional management rules teaches that a better way is to focus on employee's strengths and manage their weaknesses. In the end, the goal is to help employees make the most of the talent that is already there and make sure they are in a job that best uses those talents. With this focus in place, managing the weaknesses will be that much easier.

"The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while he is there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor."

The fourth key teaches that great managers must find the right role for an employee's talents. Readers will find that this key is more complex than it might seem. The conventional wisdom is that promotions are just part of the system, and are often seen as inevitable. But most readers will be familiar with the unfortunate trend to promote employees until they reach their level of incompetence.

By rethinking how raises and other forms of reward are structured, readers will learn that it is possible to keep an employee in a role where they are most talented. The lure of climbing the corporate ladder will lose some of its appeal when employees know they can achieve more prestige and earn more money by continuing to excel in a position that fits their talents best.