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How One Good Read Set the Keystone of My Management Philosophy

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

I was in Las Vegas during Lab Week, the annual recognition of the great work the diagnostic lab team performs. One of the lab directors I visited had green, yellow, red, and blue construction paper hanging in her office under the banner “Know Your Personality.” The director was taking her team through the color-coded personality test and awareness process. She believed the exercise would lead to better teamwork and self-awareness amongst the techs. While I spoke to her about her program, I reminisced about a business book I read almost two decades ago that still, to this day, shapes my management philosophy.


In 2002, I was riding the bus from my home outside of Madison to the University of Wisconsin where I was studying to earn my MBA. With no smart phones, and social media still years away. I spent my time on the bus learning and reading.


The first business book I read was Marcus Buckingham’s classic First, Break All the Rules.

It was a real page-turner for this wide-eyed, aspiring, businessman. Everything I thought I knew about management was flipped on its head in the pages of that book.


The theme of First, Break All the Rules is that great managers don’t manage to the status quo. They are willing to break the rules and create an environment where their teammates contribute by using their strengths and talents.


Throughout my career, I found I was most successful when I was able to play to my strengths. When I am around business people, salespeople, and executives who lead by leveraging their strengths I am inspired.


With new management teams, I have them take the Strengths Finder survey.

Once completed, each of my leaders discovers five strengths unique to each of them. I then ask each to write a paragraph that incorporates their strengths into a business situation.

For example, my paragraph reads like this.


“When I wake up in the morning I get a chance to decide what kind of day I will have. When I work out in the morning I have accomplished a task that will help me build momentum for the rest of the day (ACHIEVER.) At work, I am happily drawn in when talented business people ask me to help them do their jobs at a higher level (MAXIMIZER). I am especially motivated if the request for help will contribute to winning market share (COMPETITION). As we work on solving the problem it is important for me to understand the background and history of the situation to offer my best advice (CONTEXT). Finally, if individuals use their strengths to the fullest they achieve their maximum potential (INDIVDUALIZATION).


Together, we all read our prepared paragraphs to each other. We learn how to engage one another other by focusing on all our strengths. We bond, we grow, and find ways to win together (COMPETITION!).


Buckingham’s early work connected with me. Helping teams maximize their strengths, and more importantly, using these strengths to succeed is gratifying. Those bus rides back in 2002, and that first business book, had a profound impact on my management style.

Thank you, Marcus, for opening my eyes to strengths-based management. Your book has helped me and those I work with.


What business book has helped you become the leader you are today?

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