Every leader wants to be a great leader. But what makes a leader great? 

That's a question Google spends considerable time and effort trying to answer. (It only makes sense that one of the most analytical companies in the world puts some of its analytical horsepower into determining how great teams are built and led.)

Over time, the company determined the key behaviors of its best team managers.

And then Google started asking team members to answer the following questions, using a 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree) scale.

Check them out -- and, more important, consider how your employees would rate you:

  1. My manager gives me actionable feedback that helps me improve my performance.
  2. My manager does not "micromanage" (get involved in details that should be handled at other levels).
  3. My manager shows consideration for me as a person.
  4. The actions of my manager show that he/she values the perspective I bring to the team, even if it is different from his/her own.
  5. My manager keeps the team focused on our priority results/deliverables.
  6. My manager regularly shares relevant information from his/her manager and senior leaders.
  7. My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about career development in the past six months.
  8. My manager communicates clear goals for our team.
  9. My manager has the technical expertise (e.g., coding in Tech, selling in Global Business, accounting in Finance) required to effectively manage me.
  10. I would recommend my manager to other Googlers.
  11. I am satisfied with my manager's overall performance as a manager.

And then a couple of fill-in-the-blank questions:

12. What would you recommend your manager keep doing?

13. What would you have your manager change?

One thing immediately jumps out: Only one of the 13 questions, question No. 9, asks employees to rate their manager's hard skills. 

Every other question focuses on soft skills: communication, feedback, coaching, teamwork, respect, and consideration. The evaluation predominately assesses not what managers know but how they do their jobs. 

Which means the best managers add value by helping their teams succeed -- their success comes from the team's, and each individual on that team's, success.

Of course, you could argue that possessing superb technical skills is less important for Google's team managers since it's easier for Google to recruit and retain incredibly skilled people than it is for many companies.

But that argument misses the point. While early on most employees need some degree of training, the emphasis soon shifts from what they know and can do to how they use their knowledge and skills.

For example, take question No. 2: Does my team leader micromanage? Just about every task has a best practice, so most leaders implement and enforce processes and procedures.

For employees, though, engagement and satisfaction are largely based on autonomy and independence. I care the most when it's "mine." I care the most when I feel I have the responsibility and authority not just to do what I'm told but to do what is right.

Good leaders establish standards and guidelines, and then give their employees the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best within those guidelines.

Good leaders allow their employees to turn "have to" into "want to," because that transforms a job into something much more meaningful: an outward expression of each person's unique skills, talents, and experiences.

That is what helps build a great team. 

Which is why that is what great leaders do.

Hopefully, like you.

Published on: Oct 26, 2018
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