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Google’s 8 Rules for Being a Good Manager


What makes a good boss?

Of course there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that. But tech-giant Google set out to answer that question within the context of their own company. They called it Project Oxygen, and last week the New York Times ran a piece about their findings. After sifting through enormous amounts of data, the Googlers behind Project Oxygen were able to identify eight key traits that all managers should have. The traits are by no means revolutionary or groundbreaking compared with similar studies done on the subject. But the big surprise for Google came later, when they prioritized and ranked the eight key traits by order of importance.

Laszlo Bock, Google’s Vice President of “People Operations” (read: Human Resources) and his team discovered that “technical expertise — the ability, say, to write computer code in your sleep — ranked dead last among Google’s big eight. What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.”

Even at a technology giant like Google, all the computer programming skills in the world won’t save you from being a bad manager if you can’t wrap your head around the other seven traits of highly effective managers. “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing,” Bock says of technical expertise. “It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.”

Here are Project Oxygen’s findings, Google’s “Eight Good Behaviors” of top managers, ranked in order of importance:

1.) Be a good coach. Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive. Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths.

2.) Empower your team and don’t micromanage. Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice. Make “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems.

3.) Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being. Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work. Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition.

4.) Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented. Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it. Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.

5.) Be a good communicator and listen to your team. Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information. Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team connect the dots. Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.

6.) Help your employees with career development.

7.) Have a clear vision and strategy for the team. Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy. Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.

8.) Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team. Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed. Understand the specific challenges of the work.

Via: The New York Times

Google hopes to use the information they’ve culled from interviews, surveys, and performance reviews to help coach some fledgling managers on how to better lead their teams. But you don’t have to work at Google to find the advice helpful. Anyone starting a business and leading a staff, be it big or small, needs to make sure that they are communicating and connecting with the people below them. Hiring qualified candidates is only the first part of building a good team. You yourself have to be a good boss. Even the most talented individuals can feel stifled and frustrated under the direction of someone with poor managing skills. Under such circumstances, they’re unlikely to do their best work.

As Bock summarizes at the end of the article, “You don’t actually need to change who the person is. What it means is, if I’m a manager and I want to get better, and I want more out of my people and I want them to be happier, two of the most important things I can do is just make sure I have some time for them and to be consistent. And that’s more important than doing the rest of the stuff.”

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