The hypothesis was that the quality of a manager doesn’t matter and that managers are at best a necessary evil and at worst a useless layer of bureaucracy. Project Oxygen’s initial work, in 2002, included a radical experiment: a move toward a flat organization without any managers.
The experiment was a disaster, lasting only a few months, as the search giant found that employees were left without guidance on their most basic questions and needs.
Never intimidated, Google pivoted to extensively study the opposite question: What are the common behaviors of its best managers? He obtained a list of eight attributes, verified quantitatively and qualitatively in multiple ways. He then implemented those findings in 2010 for his organization to ingest and use.
The results were remarkable.
Laszlo Bock (at the time Google’s vice president of people operations) told The New York Times, “we had a statistically significant improvement in manager quality for the 75 percent of our worst performing managers”. Additional analysis has since added two more attributes to the list.
Below are the 10 traits that Google believes make the best managers (and what it expects of them), combined with my perspective on each trait.
You either care about your employees or you don’t. There is no gray area. If you care, then you will invest time and energy into helping your employees become better versions of themselves. That’s the first 50 percent of being a good coach.
The other half is knowing that you are a facilitator, not a fixer. Ask good questions, don’t just give answers. Broaden the point of view of your trainees instead of giving it to them. Sure, I’m oversimplifying. But not much.
Absolutely no one likes to be micromanaged. Research from empowerment expert Gretchen Spreitzer (University of Michigan) shows that empowered employees have greater job satisfaction and organizational commitment, which reduces turnover and increases performance and motivation. Additionally, empowering supervisors are viewed as more influential and inspiring by their subordinates.
Everyone wins when you learn to let go.
Individual fulfillment is often a joint effort. People get great joy from being part of a winning team. The best managers facilitate esprit de corps and interdependence.
And employees respond to managers who are concerned about winning and winning well (in a way that supports their well-being).
Take seriously the productivity of your employees and give them the tools to be productive, keeping the number of processes to a minimum.
The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Often this does not happen due to lack of effort on the part of the transmitting and receiving parties. Invest in communication, and care enough to listen.
Former Procter & Gamble CEO AG Lafley once told me that 90 percent of his job was communication.
Without the North Star, employees navigate on the rocks. Enroll employees in building that vision and strategy, don’t just impose it. The first networking commitment, the last fulfillment. And be prepared to communicate it more often than you ever thought you could.
The best managers care about the careers and development of their people as much as they care about themselves. People crave feedback.
People don’t work to achieve a 20 percent return on assets or any other numerical goal. They work to give meaning to their lives, and meaning comes from personal growth and development.
Google wants its managers to have key technical skills (like coding, etc.) so they can share the “Been there, done that” experience. So, be there and do that to develop your core experience, whatever that may be. Stay up to date on industry trends and read everything you can.
In a global and remote business world, collaboration skills are essential. Collaboration occurs when each team member feels responsibility and interdependence with their colleagues. Nothing is more destructive to a team than a leader who is not willing to collaborate. It creates a “it’s up to us” vibe that kills culture, productivity, and results.
The alternative is indecision, which paralyzes an organization, generates doubt, uncertainty, lack of focus and even resentment. The strong decisions They come from a strong sense of self-confidence and the belief that one decision, even if proven wrong, is better than none.