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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What Next for Employees?

July 27, 2010

The Towers Watson 2010 Global Workforce Survey provides some interesting insights that should be taken into account by all Leaders when planning for the future of their organisations.  Based on 20,00 workers in 22 countries, some of the key points in the survey include:

  • Employees see security as a fast disappearing part of the employment relationship although 76% want a secure position above all else
  • Only 38% of employees think that their leaders have a sincere interest in their well-being while less than half think that their leaders inspire and engage them
  • Almost 40% of employees are either disenchanted or fully disengaged
  • 42% of staff think they have to go elsewhere to advance

As many organisations are finding out, it is one thing to keep employees when they have no other options but, when the upturn does come around – and for some companies, it already has – these employees will start to question how they have been treated during the downturn. The best of these employees will have the earliest options to move to what they consider to be a better job.

Now is the time for Leaders to begin reengaging with employees through, for example, challenging work design, growth opportunities and, putting in place recognition programmes.


Assumptions about Managing People

October 7, 2009

Bob Sutton writes a blog about the  links between managerial knowledge and organizational action.  He has a very interesting and challenging post based on a closing discussion at the Singapore Human Capital Summit. As Bob said, his aim was to challenge the assumptions of the audience rather than come up with a definitive list.

Bob Sutton’s Top 10 List of Flawed Assumption About Managing People

1.  HR ought to be all about spotting, hiring, and breeding individual talent (HR could pack a bigger wallop by focusing on teams and networks more).

2.  HR should focus on finding, hiring, and developing the very best people (Bad is stronger than good – about 5 times stronger  — so screening-out, reforming, expelling the very worst people is more crucial to collective performance).

3. Find some great superstars and pay them whatever is necessary to keep them happy… and certainly a lot more than everyone else (The best organizations pay higher than competitors, but have more compressed pay).

4. Competition makes people, teams, and companies stronger (Unless people and teams are rewarded for undermining one another rather than helping each other… dysfunctional internal competition is one of the most pervasive problems in American firms).

5. Harmony and having a shared vision are crucial to success (Perhaps for routine work; but creativity depends on battling over ideas. Part of HR’s job should be to teach people how to “fight as if they are right and listen as if the are wrong”).

6.  The key to success is copying practices used by the best companies. (The best companies may be succeeding despite rather than because of their HR practices).

7.  Every company needs a great performance review system. (Are they really worth the time and effort? Do they do more harm than good?).

8. Taking a leadership position brings out the best in people. (This is a dangerous half-truth.  Giving people power over others turns them into  self-centred jerks).

9.  The most important thing HR can do is to find and develop great senior leaders (Having an organization with a high proportion of good bosses is probably more important).

10.  The best organizations have the best people, “the people make the place.” (There are huge differences in talent, but the best organizations typically have the best system and not necessarily the best raw talent).