It’s something everyone struggles with at some point in their career… no matter what the profession, no matter what the age—being a good manager. It’s all relative of course; the term “manager” is a loaded one that evokes thoughts of leadership, knowledge, patience and for some, terror. There are those who would have you believe that the attributes of a successful manager come from experience, while others argue that those skill sets are innate and simply part of one’s DNA.
Who has got it right and why is this a somewhat problematic issue for so many?
As reported in a recent New York Times article “People typically leave a company for one of three reasons, or a combination of them. The first is that they don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company, or sense that their work matters. The second is that they don’t really like or respect their co-workers. The third is they have a terrible boss — and this was the biggest variable.”
Google, which runs the most popular Internet search engine set out to demystify the management issue and ultimately learn how to help their own staff be better managers doing what it does best–analyzing data. The company’s “people operations” team approached the issue by looking at performance reviews, feedback surveys and nominations for top-manager awards from its own staff. By identifying the correlations, patterns and discrepancies, they identified eight common habits of their most effective managers.
- Be a good coach
- Empower your team and don't micromanage
- Express interest in team members' success and personal well-being
- Don't be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented
- Be a good communicator and listen to your team
- Help your employees with career development
- Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
- Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team
Pitfalls of Managers:
- Have trouble making a transition to the team
- Lack a consistent approach to performance management and career development
- Spend too little time managing and communicating
Rather than stop there, Google took the extra step of ranking the eight habits in order of importance within Google and is blazing a trail that other companies are looking to follow. As commented on by the New York Times,“a growing number of companies are trying to apply a data-driven approach to the unpredictable world of human interactions.”
Using this data, Google ultimately developed courses for staff and helped those who were struggling with management issues. This project had the added benefit of challenging many long held management beliefs. Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president for “people operations” reflected that “In the Google context, we’d always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you,” Mr. Bock says. “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.”
This analysis has been eye opening in many respects. One major element though that was not addressed, was what I see as the other side of the coin... identifying skills for being a "good team member." This assessment I think would be particularly useful for Millennials, who are for the most part in the earlier stages of their careers and critical members of any "team." Perhaps Google will tackle this in a follow up report?
How do you think Google’s findings can be applied successful? What management issues or concerns have you experienced?