I am somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to “research” reports. My husband is a school teacher and often has to help his students understand the context or agenda of reports they hear in the media. It is rare that the research funders are identified along with the research conductors, so I was pleased that some research that caught my eye earlier this year came with clear attribution.
In March, Google published its findings on what makes a good manager. Like most everything Google does, this report received lots of attention and was widely re-distributed in vehicles from The New York Times to business blogs from coast to coast. The responses ranged from “this is valuable stuff – share it with all your managers immediately” to “this is common sense but not always well executed”.
My response when I first read the report was to observe that six of the eight good behaviors listed were about helping their team members with information, skill development and focus, and only two were about “hard” skills like accountability for results or technical skills. The “soft” stuff – coaching, empowering, welcoming, communicating, achieving balance, etc. – clearly is important in Google’s culture, but I was initially skeptical that these were keys to strong management performance.
I came around quickly though when I considered that managers can be technical experts, good individual performers or well liked by all, but if they can’t get their teams to produce good results, we can’t consider them good managers. Managers succeed by leveraging their teams – good team performance relies on the manager’s ability to set clear expectations, keep a focus on the team’s goals or strategy, assign the right resource to the task, and motivate or guide the team through rough spots.
If you want to improve your managers’ performance so that you can have improved team performance, share Google’s insights and ask your managers to consider how they rate against Google’s better managers rules.