Posted by: Bill von Achen | March 18, 2011

Eight Behaviors of Better Bosses

According to its website, “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But what can we learn when the world’s largest search engine looks inward to answer the question, “what makes a better boss?”

According to a recent article in The New York Times, Google began its quest for answers to this question in early 2009, under the code name Project Oxygen. The Project focused the company’s massive analytical capabilities on the question of what critical behaviors define the best managers at the company. Project participants poured over performance evaluations, employee feedback surveys, nomination filings for top manager awards, and other internal documents, searching for data on the characteristics that differentiate the best managers from the also-rans. Then, just like any Google search, the Project Oxygen team ranked the critical behaviors in order of importance.

Here are the ranked results of Google’s search to identify the key critical behaviors of the most effective managers:

Be a good coach: Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive. Have regular one-on-one meetings, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employee’s specific strengths.

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

Express interest in your 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.

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 your position to help remove roadblocks.

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

Help your employees with career development: Meet with your employees to discuss their professional and career goals, and to identify specific skills to target for further development. Provide suitable opportunities to develop those skills, through appropriate job assignments and formal and informal training.

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 mission and making progress towards it.

Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team: When necessary, roll up your sleeves and conduct work side-by-side with the team. Understand the specific challenges of the work.

While the results of Google’s painstaking research may not be surprising, they affirm the view held by most management experts that the job of managing is about getting work done through others, and that the most effective managers focus their energies on providing their employees with the support they need to excel.

To access The New York Times article, “Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss,” go to our Resources page, and click on the link under “Effective Management”

What do you think of Google’s eight good manager behaviors? And how would you rate your management skills against Google’s eight-point scale? Share your thoughts and ideas on these questions here.


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