In an effort to be like the cool kids with MBA’s, I decided to read The One Thing You Need to Know (. . . About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success), by Marcus Buckingham. I had seen Mr. Buckingham speak at an internal company meeting before, and I, like pretty much everyone there, was pretty much mesmerized. He’s a very dynamic speaker, and he throws out some pretty unconventional ideas in a very convincing fashion. After seeing him speak, and after seeing this book (his third) on all the cool kids’ bookshelves, I felt that I had to add it to my stack.
I think this might be the first B-school type book to be reviewed on BGB. Call me a trailblazer, a trendsetter, a pioneer, or whatever you like. But I figure If I’m going to spend my precious reading time on something, well then I’m going to post on it.
The book is a pretty interesting read. Despite a surprisingly large number of typos (maybe the editor’s boss should have read the book for its content and moved the editor into a position that wouldn’t exploit his or her weaknesses in spelling and grammar), it flows pretty well and is pretty engaging. By the way, my editor just told me to stop using the word “pretty”, which by my count has made six appearances already (including the one in this sentence).
I don’t want to cheat Mr. Buckingham out of royalties by giving away the “secrets” revealed in the book, but I think I can safely say that he tries to distill the essence of great leadership, great management, and sustained individual success each down to one critical philosophy. My problem with the book (not to say that I didn’t enjoy it or that I don’t give due credit to Mr. Buckingham’s ideas) is that I’m not sure what the takeaway from the book should be. As I mentioned, I don’t read many books in this genre, and so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with what I’ve “learned”.
This is due to a couple of factors. First, I think it’s safe to say that some of these guiding principles or philosophies that make you a great leader or a great manager apparently can’t be taught or learned. So you either have them or you don’t. In that respect, this book doesn’t provide the type of insight that can turn you into something that you’re not; rather, it provides a method for you to determine if you should bother trying your hand at leading or managing. Second, it’s really difficult to figure out how to apply his “one thing” for sustained individual success in the real world. While he acknowledges that it may seem a bit far-fetched and somewhat impractical, he didn’t convince me that it actually isn’t. Without giving it away, suffice it to say that I agree with him that, for example, if I didn’t like fighting fires, I shouldn’t be a firefighter, because I would have difficulty exhibiting sustained success in that role. Gotcha. But when you take his theory down to a more granular, real-world level, it’s hard to understand how I’m supposed to change my role in the manner suggested and get away with it.
This is not a negative review. If you like this kind of stuff, I would recommend this book, because it may change the way you think about your career, or at least provide you with a different lens to look through. But I think my strength, and my path to sustained individual success as a reader, lies in reading fiction or humor.