Some people view great leadership as an art or a natural gift. Not Google. Ten years ago, the famously data-obsessed company decided to apply the full force of its considerable number-crunching skills to an all important but seemingly mysterious question for organizations: What makes a great manager?
The now famous result was "Project Oxygen." The mammoth research project involved sifting through more than 10,000 observations about managers and correlating these with measures of team success. The result was a list of eight key behaviors that set exceptional managers apart from mediocre ones (to Google's surprise, technical excellence didn't make the cut.)
You might think that's a solved problem then. But as any Google watcher knows, the company doesn't content itself with finding a solution and then resting on its laurels. Instead, it continues to tinker with and optimize everything. Apparently, this applies to Project Oxygen, too. In a new post on its Re:Work blog, the search giant offers an update on its original study.
"We took a second look at our research, refreshed our behaviors according to internal research and Googlers' feedback, and put them to the test," reports the post. The bottom-line takeaway: The company missed a couple of key skills the first time around.
Improving at these 2 skills will boost your team's performance
So which new behaviors emerged as essential when Google took a second look at which managers were producing the best results? While classics like the ability to coach employees, avoid micromanagement, and support employees' career development remained important, Google found these two skills had previously been overlooked:
Collaborating across the organization
Having a manager who did these things well made a huge difference to a team, reducing turnover, increasing employee satisfaction, and boosting performance, the new analysis found. Follow-up studies that tracked employee performance over time as people shifted between lower- and higher-scoring managers confirmed that great leadership scores do indeed lead to high team performance scores and not the other way around.
"We've found that quality management is not only critical, but dare we say, that it also causes better employee outcomes," the post boldly asserts.
How to get better at these key skills
Stressing how important these skills are begs the question: if you're a manager who strives for excellence, how can you improve them? Google's got your back there, too. The company has long offered free tools for manager development based on its research. Now it's updated them to help other companies train their leaders in the expanded list of skills.