Google hasn't always appreciated its managers. Back in 2002, Google ran an experiment to see if managers were absolutely necessary by removing bosses from the org chart. The test didn't go so well. Not only did Google find that managers were vital, but it also identified a list of attributes that made some more effective than others.

After a team of researchers analyzed thousands of performance reviews, surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards and recognition, Google discovered what it later referred to as the "Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers."

Although they weren't at the top of the list, the traits that came in at number four and eight combine to offer valuable insight into how managers can empower their teams. 

No. 4 -- Is productive and results oriented 

Google found that one of the most important roles a manager can play is to anticipate potential roadblocks and proactively remove them for their team. Coaching, good communication, and collaboration are all key, but at the end of the day if you can't deliver results, then none of those other skills matter. 

To ensure that their teams stayed on track and executed, the highest-scoring Google managers had developed the following habits: 

  • Keeps the team focused on results 
  • Helps the team prioritize 
  • Removes roadblocks 
  • Is clear about who owns what 
  • Is a hard worker; sets the pace for the team

Over the course of the year, it's hard not to give in to 'shiny-object' syndrome as new and exciting projects pop up. As teams are drawn to each additional problem, their original goals fall farther down the list. It doesn't seem like a big deal at first, but before you know it, it's the fourth quarter and you haven't made progress against your goals. 

Great managers prevent this from happening by keeping their teams focused. They help their employees say 'no' to the less important, remove obstacles that stand in their way, and roll up their sleeves when the going gets tough. 

No. 8 -- Has key technical skills to help advise the team

In order for managers to be credible advisors to their team, they have to be able to jump in and tackle technical problems when the situation calls for it. Google managers who consistently demonstrated this behavior regularly: 

  • Worked alongside their team
  • Understood the challenges of the work 
  • Helped solve problems based on their technical knowledge and skills

The message that these behaviors send is that the manager isn't above the team. It signals that the work is important, I believe in what we're doing, and I'm here to support your success. 

Google summed it up by making a powerful statement, "Managers work for their teams, not the other way around." 

As managers gear up for 2019, this research provides practical advice that you can implement immediately to improve the performance of your team. 

Published on: Jan 10, 2019