Study of Marcus Buckinghams What Great Managers Do

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The foundation of the study is on Marcus Buckingham's "What Great Mangers Do", which he carried out by researching 80,000 manager profiles at Gallup Organization and published in the Harvard Business Review in the year 2005.

The main objective of this assignment is to summarize the author's model theory by identifying and differentiating the great manager from the mediocre and their capacity to manage the employees adapting to new policies in human resource theories.

Further, the conceptual abstract will be supported by individual research and interviews carried out to sustain the author's publication. Also, the individual opinion of myself, which I believe has not been sufficiently supported/discussed in the theoretical context of the article.

The traditional management era.

During the traditional management era of Henry Ford, the human capital counted for very little to the success of the company and employees were not given minimum training to improve their skills. The concept of Ford is a great achievement in not in the assembly line but in terms of improved productivity. The workers were not recognized and could easily be replaced. The ultimate work place culture created is obedient and fearsome.

A new approach to Human Resource Management

Breaking away from the traditional management theories and beliefs as discussed above, thousands of managers have stated their different views on current human resource management.

"People don't change that 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." First, Break All The Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently, (p. 57)

As there are different management styles, there are equally different types of managers. To contrast the two a GREAT MANAGER emphasizes and identifies the uniqueness of each employee and capitalizes on it.

It's a game of chess

The saying the average managers' play checkers while great managers play chess, is used in explaining the theory. Every piece in checkers moves the same way interchangeably.

In playing chess you need to understand how each piece moves, knight moves in one way, a pawn moves in another, a bishop moves even different to all other pieces. Indentifying each piece and playing a coordinated plan of attack certainly will let you WIN!

Figure: http://www.chesspiece.comthechesspiece

Great mangers too act in the same way as in a game of chess. To be a successful they need to identify the strengths and weakness of each employee. Basically this is to identify the different skills each employee carries.

Managers in the pathway to prosperity in achieving the competitive edge is to get the most of what the employees have in them instead of trying to change them the way you want them to carryout the responsibilities entrusted.

The manager should concentrate on a person's individuality, according to the author. He states four reasons for this. First, it saves time. Second, it gives persons responsibility and they also identify more with their work, taking over responsibility. Third, it improves the team sense. And fourth and most important, disruption and being open to overthrowing existing hierarchies and patterns results in a company that can adapt easier to future scenarios.

Competitive Advantage

Managers can effectively capitalize on human capital to gain competitive advantage over its competitors in business. Human capital is an asset to a company and knowledge they carry can tremendously contribute to the betterment of the business. The knowledge gained can be earned through on the job training or formal training undergone by them. Workers with specific skills become inextricably connected to the entity they are employed in.

The research carried out at Aitken Spence Travels (Pvt) Ltd, the following were observed.

The company handles inbound/outbound and tour operator/destination management, and is the current market leader in the industry. Their staff has been extensively trained to handle the needs of different markets. They currently hold the industry best National Guides and Chauffer guides in the island, who are fluent in Chinese, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and other foreign languages.

Tactics to be used.

The task of getting the most out of the employees lies on the managers, certainly the effective way. The process of getting to know your employees takes time and a good effort.

-Capitalize on employees' strengths

-Activate employees' strength

-Tailor coaching to learning style

Capitalize on employees' strength

In a discussion carried out, with the Sales and Operations Manager, Sujith, at the above company, it was identified how an employee bottleneck was solved with the new thinking aspect of human resource management.


"She used to make me crazy" said Sujith explaining the trouble shooting process from the beginning. As he informed, Shanila, is in the Ticketing department, issuing airline tickets and more or less second in line in the outbound ticketing department. "I did try correcting her mistakes, she was sent for training on all (Global Distribution Systems) GDS systems, but no improvement, I kept getting Agency Debit Memos (ADMs) for the issuing mistakes, which was a burden to me and the company at the same time".

"One day I decided to sit down with her to take on the situation. She looked as if she too had doubts. While going on discussing, she expressed that when she was hired she thought the skill set would be good enough for the job. Longer I do the same process of issuing air line tickets more bored I am every day, was her spontaneous reply to the question raised by me to overcome the problem. She cast an anxious glance, and went on explaining how important the job is for her and the financial difficulties otherwise she will have to undergo and so on."

He went on to say that, "She is a talented employee and I suddenly remembered how she intervened in solving a customer complaint sometime back. I realized that her true talent was in her people skills, and she was moved in to the Sales Department. She was first introduced to the company's few current corporate customer accounts and she faired! Six months later, she became among the company's top three sales producers. I was glad indeed that she was transformed to what she is today and I didn't have to fire her after all!

In the current working environment, most managers come across the same quandary. Some may unsolved, which finally drift into confrontations or possible termination of the employee. The reluctance of solving may be due to that the managers too feel that there are partly to be blamed. The short coming of not selecting the right candidate with the right experience and skill set for the job.

The company recruiting process too has to be revisited, to analyze the hideouts of not fulfilling the basic criteria needed for the job. Avoiding such will keep away an unhappy employee and a frustrated manager and in the long run the organization will benefit.

Capitalizing on the employee strength doesn't obviously discuss only on carving the inbuilt ability and not develop the weaknesses. Certainly managing the weaknesses too.

Activate the employee strength

The strengths of employees can be hidden and not displayed all the time. Precise triggering turn on the positive approaches of the employees and the wrong triggering fail in motivating the employees and makes them unhappy.

As the author, Marcus Buckingham describes the most powerful trigger in recognition and not money.

Recognition is attached to real performance achievements of the employees. It should create morale among the working environment. The reward and recognition should be tailored to identify which behavioral patterns the work place wants to recognize. It can be the achievement of target, number of years of service, going the extra mile etc.

Aitken Sepnce Travels, the number of years of service is recognized after completing 25 years of work experience in the group. The recognition is made through publishing the employee photograph in the company news letter, with a brief history of the personnel with the experiences gained and the valued service contributed to the group. Also they are awarded a plaque by the Chairman or the Managing Director, in appreciation and hosted a luncheon afterwards.

Gansehan, a general staff who picked a purse on the road, who later handed it over to the HRD at Aitken Spence was also, recognized by publishing an article of appreciation in the quarterly magazine of the group "Athwela", and handing over a gift of recognition for going the extra mile.

The recognition expected by each employee differs at different levels, as the book "What great mangers do", by Marcus Buckinham describes as follows:


If An Employee Values

Recognition From . . .

Praise Him/her By . . .


Publicly celebrating achievement in front of coworkers


Thanking him/her privately for being such a valuable team member

Others with similar expertise

Giving a professional or technical award


Posting a photo of him and his best

customer in the office

Employee recognition is not only good, but also a communication tool to strengthen and reward a job well done! An effective recognition is a positive motivator and an assurance of the good job being repeated by the employee. Employees expect appreciation of their contribution and a being a team member. In other words it is the feel of presence within and being part of the company.

The author, Marcus Buckingham does not specifically recognize the motivating factor "money". Whilst I would list down the remarks made by few interviewees, of the research carried on whether money act as a tool of triggering recognition.

Dr.P.R.Nanayakkara, aged 34yeras, a doctor by profession, working in the government sector feels that recognition and money both will trigger motivation. Especially in a developing country the financial recognition is most welcome.

Dr.Prashantha Perera, aged 55years, had this to say " xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx"

Shahanaz Weerasinghe, aged 45 years, the personal assistant to a Managing Director had this to say.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXxxxx

Devinda Ekanayake, aged 29 years a Finance Manager by profession has t viewXXXXXX

Delreen De Silva, aged 42 years, a CIMA qualified freelance consultant, a former Accountant, said "Recognition is nice but money is nicer". No matter how much you are recognized, as you always is tip toeing on thin ice. One moment you might be recognized, next you can even be sent home. There is no employer's assurance that you will be treated fairly. Everybody is trying to save their seat not others, since they too are struggling. That's the reason I choose this path, I don't have bosses anymore"

The interviews had with the handpicked, and their thinking, draws me to conclude that the individual recognition and financial benefit are equally important within the cultural Sri Lankan working environment.

Tailor coaching to learning styles.

The key ingredient to learning is a motivator to learn what the employees like to learn. Nobody could force learning and even if it is forced it will be mastered temporarily, example, where the employees will cram and memorize for an examination.

One study found that half-life of knowledge learnt in an MBA course was about six weeks (Daniel Goleman, Primal Leadership, p.99)

In Human Resource management there are different types of learning. But the author, distinguishes the learning styles explain three styles which he describe in his publication. They are basically, the analyzers, the doers and the watchers.

How do you learn best?

The employees can be individual analyzers, doers or watchers or even a combination of two or all three.

If An Employee Is . . .

Coach Him/Her By . . .

An "analyzer"

Requires information before taking on a task and hates making mistakes

- Giving ample classroom time

- Role playing

- Giving time to prepare

A "doer"

Uses trial and error to enhance skills while grappling with tasks

- Assigning a simple task, explaining the desired outcomes, and getting out of the way

- Gradually increasing a task's complexity until role is mastered

A "watcher"

Hones skills by watching others in action

- "Shadowing" top performers

The analyzers, prefer class room lectures, role-play with them, do postmortem exercises etc. They are perfectionists. Hate to do mistakes and of the type who will not get onto a airplane until they read the manual, take lessons and figure out what exactly they are suppose to do. Believe me they do well in their first ride. The process of learning is broken down into a series of individual task and analyzed thoroughly before they perform.

Doers are the total opposite of the analyzers, they take a positive note of the mistakes made down the process to improve their performance. They learn by doing the assigned task with the greatest interest. You give the simple task and the outcome, they will make it through their way. They have to experience good and bad outcomes for them to really believe in them, and don't much care for the advice given by the manager, which will be quite frustrating sometimes. The doers are interesting when they are around, as they are the type to first jump into when new challenges are offered to. Basically they are the risk takers.

Finally the third category of learners, the "watchers". They are the safe players. Watchers like to watch the whole performance, before doing it. Simply to imitate the process and the outcome is assured.


The great managers' best handle the situation to bring out the best results to the organization. It is simply identifying the capabilities, strengths and talents of the employees and fine tuning to materialize the desired result to improve the productivity of the organization to be at the competitive edge.


In simple it is all about playing the game of chess, by moving the right piece in the right direction with an ultimate goal plan.

Differences of trait and talent are like

blood types: They cut across the superficial variations

of race, sex, and age and capture each person's uniqueness.

The unhappy employees don't contribute to the work environment. The mediocre managers assume the goals and objectives have to be same to all employees and the change is the best to adopt new behavioural patterns to carryout

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