It’s the Manager

It's the Manager Book Review

Written by Dave Rothacker

“…People leave managers, not companies.” – First, Break All The Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, 1999

First, Break All The Rules is based on research conducted by the Gallup Organization. Starting in the early 1970s and continuing for over twenty years, they interviewed or surveyed one-million employees and eighty-thousand managers.

Gallup never took its foot off the accelerator. Today, the organization has more data and insights on the attitudes and behavior of employees, customers, students, and citizens than any other organization in the world. 

Based on all of that research and experience, Gallup’s Chairman and CEO, Jim Clifton and its Chief Scientist Jim Harter, released the book It’s The Manager, this year. 

“Of all the codes Gallup has been asked to crack dating back eighty years to our founder, George Gallup, the single most profound, distinct and clarifying finding – ever – is probably this one: 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.”

For twenty years, I’ve been saying that First, Break All The Rules is the best book on management I’ve ever read. Today, while still relevant, it’s number two. My number one book is It’s The Manager!


HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical and Remodeling Industries

We take our best-performing technician, plumber, electrician, and or installer out of the truck and make them a manager. “Here’s the key to the building. Here are your business cards. Good luck.” Other than the fact that your top-producing coworker is no longer in the field, what could possibly go wrong?


Management is evolving. Are you?

Let’s travel back in time to the 1950s. You just landed a job with Fred’s Furnaces. Fred spent time and money training you on the installation and care of gravity furnaces. You blossom into a superior craftsman. Technology changes over the years, however, and you don’t keep up. How effective can you be?

The same is true for management. One of today’s gravity furnaces is the dreaded, archaic, and mind-numbing coworker annual review. Are you still doing those?


What has changed?

The workforce is changing. In addition to Generation Y (millennials), we now have Generation Z, those born after 1997, graduating from college and joining the workforce. Although I am a Baby Boomer, I share many of the Gen-Y beliefs, and they were my beliefs before Gen-Yers were born. For this reason and others, I am not fond of grouping ideals, beliefs, and behaviors by age and applying a label to them. 

Gallup describes Generations Y and Z as the drivers of change. I am going to call it the new workforce. 


It Starts with the CEO / Owner

If you’re interested in jettisoning gravity furnace management culture from your business and embracing 21st-century management culture, the change in beliefs must start with you the CEO / owner. 

The next level involves changing manager’s beliefs and then finally how these managers develop their coworkers.


Gallup has discovered these six major changes: 

  • The new workforce will not just work for a paycheck, they want a purpose
  • They no longer pursue job satisfaction, they are pursuing development
  • The new workforce does not want bosses. They want coaches
  • They do not want annual reviews, they want ongoing conversations
  • The new workforce doesn’t want a manager who fixates on their weaknesses
  • They do not view it as their job, it’s their life


The authors break this change down under these main topics:

Strategy – Inspirational messages are important. But they’ll have no significant impact unless leaders build a strategy to bring multiple teams together and make great decisions.

Culture – Your organization’s culture has a direct measurable impact on performance.

Employment Brand – With social media and instant communication your organization’s reputation travels much more quickly now than in the past.

Boss to Coach – A culture of high employee development is the most productive environment for both your business and your employees.

The Future of Work – Diversity, digitization, mobile technology, remote work, artificial intelligence, and the demand for workplace flexibility blazon in change.


Leading With Strengths

For years Gallup has been teaching companies to lead with their strengths. Back in 2001, they published Now, Discover Your Strengths, a book that describes 34 strength themes. They’ve continued to hone their message and program. Today it’s known as CliftonStrengths, in honor of Donald O. Clifton, a psychologist, the godfather of the strengths assessment movement and one of the authors of Now, Discover Your Strengths

It’s the Manager authors devote a section of the book to identifying and elaborating on each of the 34 themes. They provide tips for leading with the theme and tips for leading others who are strong in that theme.

There is an access code, located in the back of the book, to take a free CliftonStrengths assessment. 

One of our local banks in Tampa, which is one of the nation’s largest full-service providers of consumer and commercial banking, is using the Gallup methodologies and in particular, leading with strengths. Each employee has a laminated strengths card on their desk for their coworkers to see and perhaps as conversation starters for their customers.  


It’s a Reference Manual

It’s the Manager is not designed to be read cover to cover. Simply review the book’s topics, which I list above, and choose the one that’s cutting off your oxygen and making your face blue. The brevity and conciseness of each chapter allows the reader a quick understanding and provides an actionable direction. 

 People are leaving managers. Hopefully, they’re not yours!


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