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Google's 8 Simple Rules for Being a Better Manager

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Image via Ahmad Faizal / Shutterstock.com

In early 2009, Google's HR team began a project code-named Project Oxygen. Their mission, reported the New York Times, was to build better bosses. After combing through performance reviews, feedback surveys and other data-rich metrics, they distilled the essence of what makes a good manager down to eight jaw-droppingly simple rules. Odds are you've heard all of these--but when was the last time you practiced them all in concert? 

Below, a comprehensive list of what Google sees as the ingredients of highly effective managers:

Eight Good Behaviors

1. Be a good coach

  • Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the postive.
  • Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths.

2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage

  • Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice. Make “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems.

3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being

  • Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work.
  • Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition

4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented

  • Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it.
  • Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.

5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team

  • Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information.
  • Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team connect the dots.
  • Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.

6. Help your employees with career development

7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team

  • Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy.
  • Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.

8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team

  • Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed.
  • Understand the specific challenges of the work.

Three bad behaviors

1. Have trouble making a transition to the team

  • Sometimes, fantastic individual contributors are promoted to managers without the necessary skills to lead people.
  • People hired from outside the organization don’t always understand the unique aspects of managing at Google.

2. Lack a consistent approach to performance management and career development

  • Don’t help employees understand how these work at Google and doesn’t coach them on their options to develop and stretch.
  • Not proactive, waits for the employee to come to them.

3. Spend too little time managing and communicating

[via The New York Times]

Image via Ahmad Faizal / Shutterstock.com

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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