A friend once suggested that I read the book, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. The authors, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, lay out Gallup survey results of high-performing managers.
One of the most interesting findings was that great managers share the following beliefs.
- People don’t change much.
- Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.
- Try to draw out what was left in.
- That is hard enough.
After reflecting a bit, these seemed true enough, and yet they gnawed at something deep inside of me. Maybe it was my save the world mentality. Perhaps it was my version of the American dream. Whatever it was, these ideas challenged my belief that people can learn and do whatever they put their minds to.
It was after some time that I realized these ideas aren’t about what people can do, but rather about what people choose to do. People can change; they just don’t most of the time. Maybe that’s why I so enjoy stories of people who do transform themselves against long odds.
This insight raises an interesting question about the role of a manager. Is it to develop employees or is about helping people discover their gifts, talents, preferences, etc. and then finding a good match for them? It’s probably a little of both.