Leadership Lessons

8 leadership lessons from the book Facebook’s HR chief recommends to all new managers

lori golerFacebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler.Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

When Lori Goler, Facebook’s Vice President of People, joined the company in 2008, she got to work making the company a “strengths-based” organization.

It’s a term based on Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s 1999 bestselling management guide “First, Break All the Rules.” The coauthors were Gallup analysts at the time and drew insights from 25 years of Gallup studies of 80,000 managers across 400 companies.

They “broke all the rules” of convention by concluding that the best managers fostered strengths and ignored weaknesses rather than creating a team of well-rounded individuals. They also found that managers were more important to their employees’ success and happiness than the overall company’s culture and initiatives.

Goler found the lessons in “First, Break All the Rules” so valuable that she recruited Buckingham through his independent management consulting firm, TMBC, to help her at Facebook, and she recommends all new managers at the company read the book.

Goler has successfully adapted Facebook’s culture from a scrappy social media company into a tech giant that’s also regarded as one of the best places to work in the United States.

Business Insider highlighted eight of the book’s core lessons below:

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Strong personal relationships are crucial for success.

Buckingham and Coffer write that 12 questions “capture everything you need to know about the workplace.” Your employees should respond positively to each of the following:

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 seven 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 is important?”

9. “Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?”

10. “Do I have a best friend at work?”

11. “In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?”

12. “This last year, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?”

Great managers do not follow the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule, which states that you must treat others as you would like to be treated, is one of the most common pitfalls of management, argue Buckingham and Coffman.

It may come from good intentions, but acting as if your employees share your exact same approach to working is setting them up for failure. “So the best managers reject the Golden Rule,” the authors write. “Instead, [these managers] say, treat each person as he would like to be treated, bearing in mind who he is.”

Amazon

Managers and leaders are profoundly different, but both are necessary.

Buckingham and Coffman write that there’s a school of thought that portrays managers as automatons moving work around, while leaders are those actually moving the company forward; in this school of thought, great managers have the potential to become leaders.

This isn’t correct, the authors argue. They are simply different roles within an organization and both are necessary.

“Great managers look inward,” they wrote. “Great leaders, by contrast, look outward.”

That is, leaders do not have the time to determine the individual needs and styles of their employees because they are focused on bigger-picture thinking. It’s up to managers to establish these relationships and foster excellent output.

Employees should primarily be hired for talent.

Experience, intelligence, and determination are also important factors to consider when looking at a job candidate, but the primary focus should be on talent, Buckingham and Coffman argue. They define talent as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.”

Therefore, when interviewing candidates, managers should be looking for an indication of their character and how they will behave in the workplace.

Facebook engineers brainstorm in the company’s London office.Facebook

Employees should be guided by outcomes, not steps.

To accommodate for different approaches to work, great managers give their employees the freedom to find their own paths to agreed-upon results.

“Define the right outcomes and then let each person find his own route toward those outcomes,” the authors wrote.

Great managers spend most of their time with their best people.

Buckingham and Coffman write that it seems intuitive that managers should spend more time with struggling employees than with top performers, but that their research shows the opposite is true because top performers are responsible for the work that moves a company forward.

The authors write that when a manager spends time with an employee, “they are not fixing or correcting or instructing. Instead they are racking their brains, trying to figure out better and better ways to unleash that employee’s distinct talents.”

Marcus Buckingham.Marcus Buckingham

There must not be a one-track path to success within a company.

Buckingham and Coffman share several stories that illustrate the sad reality that many companies promote top performers into positions that prevent them from exercising their talents.

To have a thriving organization, a company must offer several developmental paths, creating “heroes” in each primary function so that an employee is actually rewarded with more freedom to excel.

Feedback should be regular and actionable.

Six-month or annual performance reviews should never be surprising for employees. The ideal meeting frequency varies across industries and companies, but if managers meet with their employees on a one-on-one basis at least once a month and they agree upon goals, then success can easily be measured.

This also fosters a relationship of open communication, which allows the team to operate more smoothly.

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