The transition from individual contributor to manager is not an easy one. In many cases, the skills that got you the promotion will not be the same ones that make you effective as a manager. Luckily, we have organizations like Google that have spent years researching this transition, to help us demystify the secrets to new managers’ success.
Using Project Oxygen, an internal study that analyzed more than 10,000 manager impressions including performance reviews, surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards and recognition, Google identified eight habits of highly effective managers. Google also designed a management training workshop to share its newfound knowledge with its bosses and now the world.
Through the company’s Re:Work website, a resource that shares Google’s perspective on people operations, Google posted this training presentation in hopes that it could benefit all.
Let’s take a look at the six key attributes that Google instills in its managers.
1. Mindset and values
Implementing research from Dr. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, Google encourages its managers to develop a growth mindset. As opposed to a fixed mindset (the belief that skills and abilities are predetermined), individuals with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be cultivated. This simple idea develops leaders who are more eager to learn, challenge themselves, and experiment, and it eventually boosts their performance. Although success will always require tenacity, hard work, and concentration, this research suggests these traits are byproducts of a quality that underpins them, optimism.
Also, Google encourages its managers to identify values and leverage them within their management styles. The purpose is not to impose set values, but rather to empower leaders to leverage their individual morals to drive deeper meaning and impact to their work. Managers have to make tough decisions. When faced with uncertainty, values can be a manager’s saving grace.
2. Emotional intelligence (EI)
Per Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis (experts on the topic), EI is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and leverage this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. In other words, it’s a heightened sense of self-awareness.
Managers who are self-aware make better decisions, communicate more effectively, and are more relatable. In fact, Goleman reported not only that EI-based leadership may be the most important driver of climate but also that climate may account for 20 to 30 percent of organizational performance.
3. Manager transition
All right, so this one doesn’t seem like an attribute. However, if you take a look at Google’s new manager training facilitator’s guide, you’ll notice some common themes. As instructors encourage new supervisors to share their transition challenges and frustrations with their peers, they simultaneously teach that it’s OK to be vulnerable and honest. As managers open up and tell their stories, others chime in with advice and guidance providing actionable new strategies.
It’s important for all managers to know that you’re not in this alone. Others have faced similar challenges and can help — if you let them.
Through Project Oxygen, it was revealed that the number one quality of effective managers is being a good coach. Google defines good coaching as:
- Timely and specific feedback
- Delivering hard feedback in a motivational and thoughtful way
- Tailoring approaches to meet individual communication styles in regular one-on-one meetings
- Practicing empathetic “active” listening and being fully present
- Being cognizant of your own mindset and that of the employee
- Asking open-ended questions to discover an employee’s acumen
Managers’ words have the power to build or destroy. Google understands this sensitivity and teaches its supervisors to be consistent (free from bias) when delivering feedback across their teams, to balance positive (motivational) and negative (developmental) feedback, to be authentic and appreciative, and to state growth opportunities in a clear, compassionate way.
6. Decision making
To ensure judgments aren’t made in a vacuum, Google has established a routine to help managers make better decisions. This framework includes asking and articulating:
- What are you solving for, and is everyone on the same page? (Identify and communicate the root cause.)
- Why is it important? (Does it support other business goals?)
- Who is the decision maker?
- How will the decision be made?
- When can people expect a decision? (Keep stakeholders in the loop, and manage expectations.)
Also, to ensure informed decisions are made, Google encourages managers to test their ideas out loud and collect feedback by explicitly advocating for their opinions (voicing individual views, reasoning, and providing data), testing their understanding by inquiring about others’ perspectives (soliciting ideas and feedback), and then synthesizing the responses to ensure a comprehensive understanding before making a decision While these six attributes may seem basic, according to a New York Times article, the results are anything but. Google reported a statistically significant improvement in 75 percent of its underperforming managers after implementing the program.