Google, the king of search engines, recently set out on a search of its own—to identify the qualities that make the highest- quality managers at Google Inc., and then to replicate those qualities across the entire company.
Being Google, it first looked at data. According to a New York Times report, a “people analytics” team compared correlations in the words and phrases that came up again and again in performance reviews, feedback surveys and recognition nominations.
The end result: A simple, yet elegant, list of eight management practices that the best Google managers consistently do. Some are obvious, but all serve as a good reminder of what an effective manager should be doing on a daily basis.
Here’s the list, in order of importance to Google:
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. 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.
3 common pitfalls
Google also identified three common pitfalls that its managers often run into:
1. Have trouble transitioning into management. Sometimes, fantastic employees are promoted to managers without the necessary skills to lead people.
2. Lack a consistent approach to performance management and career development. Be proactive. Don’t wait for the employee to come to you.
3. Spend too little time managing and communicating. Managing via e-mail isn’t as effective as face-to-face.