Google's 8 Habits of Effective Managers

In 2002 Google tried to create a completely flat organisation - they got rid of managers, in an attempt to remove barriers to collaboration and rapid idea development. What the realised very quickly was that this approach achieved the opposite - decisions bottlenecked and chaos almost ensued. 

This sparked an internal research project to discover the qualities of outstanding management at Google. After analyzing reams of data consisting of performance reviews, surveys, feedback and interviews, statisticians zeroed in on 8 key qualities, ranked in 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.

Three counter-productive behaviours to effective management

1. Have trouble making a transition to the team

  • Sometimes, fantastic individual contributors are promoted to managers without the necessary skills to lead people.
  • People hired from outside the organization don’t always understand the unique aspects of managing at Google.

2. Lack a consistent approach to performance management and career development

  • Don’t help employees understand how these work at Google and doesn’t coach them on their options to develop and stretch.
  • Not proactive, waits for the employee to come to them.

3. Spend too little time managing and communicating

Further reading on this... 

How Google Sold its Engineers on Management - HBR