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.