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The One Thing You Need to Know: ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success Hardcover – Unabridged, March 7, 2005
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"The One Thing You Need to Know is actually a modest title. It contains many things you need to know. Marcus Buckingham is flat out the most original, provocative writer there is on the subjects of leadership and management. He comes to his theories the old-fashioned way: by truly getting to know the people and the workplaces he writes about. He also happens to be a wonderful writer and a joy to read."
-- Tony Schwartz, coauthor of The Power of Full Engagement; president, The Energy Project
"Buckingham is a superb writer and speaker who can make complex ideas crystal clear, cut through to the core insight, and reveal its crucial importance. He has been an inspiration to all of us at Lexus."
-- Denny Clements, group vice president and general manager, Lexus U.S.
"As I read The One Thing You Need to Know, for the first time I had the urge to compare someone -- Marcus Buckingham -- to Peter Drucker. Buckingham performs the most magical of acts: He speaks with surpassing common sense, yet reaches profoundly uncommon conclusions. This is a wise -- and radical -- book; a true gem worth savoring."
-- Tom Peters
"Given the tremendous complexities of today's business environment and consumer expectations, Marcus Buckingham is able to deliver a clear path of understanding to the simple truths at the heart of managing and leading. The 'one thing' I find invaluable about this book is its unique, challenging examples about how to stay laser focused on operational excellence."
-- Robert L. Nardelli, chairman, president, and CEO, The Home Depot, Inc.
"Marcus Buckingham has a keen sense of what it takes to excel, and he backs his insights with an impressive body of in-depth interviews and research. This is an important book for anybody who aspires to effective leadership, managing, or any kind of enduring individual achievement."
-- Richard M. Kovacevich, chairman, president, and CEO, Wells Fargo and Company
About the Author
Marcus Buckingham spent seventeen years at the Gallup Organization, where he conducted research into the world's best leaders, managers, and workplaces. The Gallup research later became the basis for the bestselling books First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Best Managers Do Differently (Simon & Schuster) and Now, Discover Your Strengths (Free Press), both coauthored by Buckingham. Buckingham has been the subject of in-depth profiles in The New York Times, Fortune, BusinessWeek and Fast Company. He now has his own company, providing strengths-based consulting, training, and e-learning. In 2007 Buckingham founded TMBC to create strengths-based management training solutions for organizations worldwide, and he spreads the strengths message in keynote addresses to over 250,000 people around the globe each year. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jane and children Jackson and Lilia. For more information visit: marcusbuckingham.com
Top customer reviews
- Thought provoking.
- He makes a distinction between managers and leaders. He challenges the classic thinking of "everybody is a leader” or “management is leadership” and makes convincing arguments about the difference in roles of managers and leaders.
- Great managers have to turn talent into performance. That means recognizing talent and finding the right opportunities. Not unique though
- Generally on point on the qualities desired for great management. Hiring - talks about behavioral techniques in assessing people, Set clear expectations - SMART goals, Praise and Recognition - Praise often and suit to the recipients needs. Care for people - Duh!. He augments that with utilizing unique strengths of people and tailoring management time and quality to match that. All good. He ignores succession planning and institutionalization of processes/practice though which I think is a key aspect of management too.
- Agree with his belief that great managers should focus on strengths and less on weaknesses. Challenge your people.
- His advice on the steps to deal with developing employees that are struggling is sound. Impart training, pair up with a partner or offer structural help. If all fails, rearrange the employees working world? Ok so may be a different job opportunity might work but he fails to mention that sometimes the employee just isn’t a good fit. good managers should know when it’s not good practice to continue a relationship.
- Practical advice on recognizing triggers of employees. One has to be careful though of too much specialized handling or you risk team cohesion at times
- Good breakdown on different learning styles of employees and good managers begin able to recognize and adjust
- I really liked his set of questions for identifying the three levers in future and current employees (strengths, trigger, learning)
- Great example of leadership with Rudy Giuliani’s speech snippet in the aftermath of 911. “I don’t know what the final number will be, but it will be more than we can bear.”
- Learning about the fascinating catalogue “human universals” by Donald Brown. He picks the top 5 (need for security, community, clarity, authority and respect) and how it is central to leadership to understand their interplay. Cool concept. Clarity wins!
- Lucid explanation of the key concepts around great leadership. Who do we serve? Core strengths? Core score? Leaders understand when there is a need to introduce good behaviors and pursue that with rigor.
- Great distillation of leadership discipline. Reflection, choosing heroes carefully, practice are all great ideas and generally held in great esteem in leadership practice.
Explains the controlling insight for happy marriages to be the ones where partners are overly generous about each others qualities. it all boils down to perception and mind game. Obviously he is only shining the light on a existing body of research, there was little offered to convince of the model at play. It’s clever advice but isn’t actionable by the vast majority 😃
Don’t agree with his assertion that “success doesn’t come to those” that aspire to well-roundedness, breadth and balance. I agree that prioritization is important. I agree that some items need disproportionate attention than others but as a manager one needs to have a certain “jack of all trades” skills. Leadership is the attitude that sits on top of those skills.
He is right on pushing back on the utopian vision of “everybody can be a leader”. I think though that setting that sort of expectation for the entire org allows a common operating framework and allows for leadership to emerge naturally. IMO leadership is a matter of attitude - it’s not title or position. It’s not always that leadership is all about crisis. It can happen at a microcosmic level for e.g. when an engineer pushes back on short term thinking on a technical design and ensures the “right thing” gets done.
Example of the walgreen store clerk who blew away everyone with her amazing sales performance for a great management example? How is stoking someones ego a good management principle? What happens when she leaves? Great management should also be about institutionalization - right?
His definition of leadership as “great leaders rally people to a better future” is somewhat myopic. Leadership is multi faceted? The “how” matters as much as “what”. I propose an alternate slightly modified definition “Great leaders consistently rally people to a better future against all odds and enable people to learn from failures” Even at this I find this somewhat limited. But I agree that “clarity” is super important to leadership and perhaps an anchoring quality but without being able to back that up with solid execution is going to make the leader ineffective.
Humility is not a required attribute of leadership? There is conflation of ego, self assurance etc. in the text where he describes this attribute and frankly I think this was more management consulting than anything else.
His advice for managing super sized egos of prima donnas is to play up the challenge in front of the employee. “No one has ever pulled this off before” like emphasis is not a sustainable management quality that will work in the long term.
The three twenty per centers in his example don’t represent the world. He acknowledges that and it is true. it only shines a light on a slice of success.
He offers the most compelling description of what makes an outstanding coach or manager - teasing maximum performance out of those he or she is charged to motivate:
"In short, the state of mind you should try to create is one where he has a fully realistic assessment of the difficulty of the challenge ahead of him, and at the same time, an unrealistically optimistic belief in his ability to overcome it. The more skilled you are at creating this state of mind in each of your people, the more effective a manager you will be." (Pages 106-7)
I have heard my friend, Dr. Scott Snook of Harvard Business School, use this quotation to great effect in explaining the remarkable success of Coach K in the twin case studies that Snook teaches about the contrasting coaching styles of Coach K and Bobby Knight. IT seems counter-intuitive that a great coach or manager combines hyper-realism with hyper-optimism, but Buckingham and Snook both make an ironclad case that this is, in fact, true in the realms of business, athletics and warfare.
As he wraps up his argument in this powerful book, Buckingham offers a pithy summary of the contrast between managers and leaders:
"To excel as a manager you must never forget that each of your direct reports is unique and that your chief responsibility is not to eradicate this uniqueness, but rather to arrange roles, responsibilities, and expectations so that you can capitalize upon it. The more you perfect this skill, the more effectively you will turn talents into performance.
To excel as a leader requires the opposite skill. You must become adept at calling upon those needs we all share. Our common needs include the need for security, for community, for authority, and for respect, but for you, the leader, the most powerful universal need is our need for clarity. To transform our fear of the unknown into confidence in the future, you must discipline yourself to describe our joint future vividly and precisely. As your skill at this grows, so will our confidence in you." (Page 284)
These examples of Buckingham's insight offer the tip of the iceberg in terms of the wisdom and common sense that he offers in this book. It provides practical guidance to anyone who aspire to manage well and to lead with integrity.
One of the key concepts I really liked is about the differences between managers and leaders.
Managers are all about PEOPLE. Their job is to align team strengths with the needs of the organization, to care for people, to show them he or she has their career in mind, to give them direction and resources and to cover their back.
Leaders are all about VISION. They have an ability to visualize a better future so clearly and they are so passionate about it, they can't help but do everything they can to make that future a reality. Their vision and passion make people follow them independently of their position in the org.
A Great Manager is a catalyst that turns people's talent into performance that is aligned with company goals. A great manager demonstrates he or she sincerely cares about the team, making employees believe their success is the manager's primary goal. Great managers get satisfaction from the small improvements in growth they see in the people they manage.
Great Leaders rally people to a better future. Great leaders are restless for change, impatient for progress and deeply dissatisfied with the status quo. The possibility of a better future burns them and propels them. Great leaders see the future so vividly they have no choice but to do everything in their power to make this future real. Great leaders are curious, bold and confident, and they have a great sense of optimism - therefore great leaders are not made, they are born.