Google’s Rules: How to be a Better Boss

March 15, 2011

The New York Times recently reported on a very interesting project at Google.  Project Oxygen was started internally to identify for Google what it takes to “build a better boss”.  By doing what Google is best at – data-mining – the company looked back over 10,000 employee interactions such as performance reviews and feedback surveys. The outcome was eight characteristics that Google employees admire most in bosses.

While the list may seem to state the obvious – empower your team, have a clear vision, help employee’s career development – what surprised Google most was that having a manager with key technical skills was ranked as the 8th and last leadership trait.  This was, to a certain extent, counter to the prevailing engineering bias in Google; “you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you”.

Going further with the data analytics, Google looked at the outcomes of managers and their impact on employees. With a starting point that the best managers have teams that perform better, are retained for longer and are overall happier, Google built these traits into their hiring process for new managers and their development processes for existing managers.  The outcomes were startling.  Google showed a statistically significant improvement in managerial quality for 75 percent of the worst-performing managers.

The trait identified by employees as the most important managerial behaviour: Be a Good Coach.

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Managing your top teams anxiety

April 9, 2010

All of us suffer from anxiety; it happens when we face into a new, difficult or challenging situation. Anxiety in itself should never be an issue but it can be a problem if it is not recognised and managed.  Organisations that are undergoing upheavals are likely have increased levels of anxiety. Leaders need to learn to recognise and manage the anxiety in their top teams to ensure that it does not affect performance at a time when the they need to rely on the tope team more than ever.

People Management list some of the steps that can be taken to manage anxiety. Aimed at L&D specialists, the article is equally valid for Leaders. Some of the steps for managing anxiety include:

Validate feelings
Get your top team to talk about how they experience the pressures they face. As we often feel weak if we acknowledge being less than confident, this normalising of emotions can be helpful.  A leader can start the process by admitting that they have anxieties.

Challenge behaviour
Empathy is important but honesty is vital.  Leaders need to understand the negative impact on their team – and the wider organisation – of the failure to manage anxiety. Direct criticism may evoke defensiveness; simply describe how the organisation experience the practical consequences of this behaviour.

Identify triggers
Having helped your team understand the impact of their behaviour, work to identify key situations, people or events that trigger anxiety. The more we are aware of our default position(s), the better we can resist them.

In the pressure cooker of modern organisations, it can be seen as weak to acknowledge the existence of anxiety.   It is the Leader’s responsibility to address this issue – failure to do so can increase the likelihood of a failure of performance.


Coaching V Mentoring V Consulting

March 11, 2010

I am spending an increasing amount of time coaching executives – reflective of the exciting business world. One challenge that I face is that the coachee wants a solution and, quite often, wants it now.  This can be based on a misunderstanding of the nature of coaching and mixing it up with mentoring – an experienced person sharing wisdom – or a consultant – an experienced person brought into to provide a solution. Coaching is about allowing the coachee to find their own solution.  Getting these distinctions across at the beginning of a coaching assignment is crucial.

I came across a great summary in Excellence in Coaching edited by Jonathon Passmore:

  • A therapist will explore what is stopping you driving the car
  • A counsellor will listen to your anxieties about the car
  • A mentor will share tips from their own experience of driving cars
  • A consultant will advise you on how to drive the car
  • A coach will encourage and support you in driving the car