First, Break all the rules!

I have spent a number of hours in recent weeks working with one of my clients as they receive their Corporate Engagement results and start to work through what they mean.  I used to do this as a leader in the corporate world myself.  It seems to have become much more complicated in the last few years.  Providers of these Engagement measures have attempted to add more value by creating ever more complicated and nuanced surveys and results packs that take the simple and make it complicated.

As a result of this recent experience I reread Buckingham and Coffman’s seminal book from 1999, ‘First, break all the rules’.  Amongst other things this book argues, based on a huge body of research data, that the front line manager has the greatest impact on employee performance.  I insert the current fad ‘Engagement in place of employee performance.  There are some key and simple things that managers need to focus on the have a material impact on employee performance.  As I read through these pages (yes it is a hardback book with real pages from last century) I saw many of the same points that come through in today’s engagement conversations.

There are 12 key questions that measure the core elements needed to attract, focus and keep the most talented employees.  I love these questions because they are timeless, simple and so often neglected in organisations today.  They are:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment 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 7 days have I received recognition or praise for doing 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 job in important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last 6 months has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

These questions are in order of impact importance and the first 6 have the greatest impact on managing our people.

It strikes me that simply focussing on the first 6 questions at every level of an organisation is a simple and straightforward way to drive individual, and consequently, team performance. We seem to look for ways to overcomplicate what we do as leaders and managers and as a result drift away from the fundamentals of people management contained in the questions above.

This is the first in a series of blogs exploring these questions and their implementation in today’s workplace.

Tim is a Speaker, Executive Coach and Pragmatic Leadership Expert who works with individuals and organisations on delivering results and being more effective.  He can be contacted at tim@timothykitching.comor through his website at

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