Do you want to manage like Google? One of the world’s largest Internet companies doesn’t leave proper management to chance, and neither should you. A recent piece in the Harvard Business Review discussed how Google got its analytics-obsessed team to fully embrace the “soft” science of people management.
After a quick experiment with a flat management structure in 2002, Google realized managers actually do matter. But their bigger question was just what made a good manager, so they put their People Operations unit on the job.
Called “Project Oxygen,” this long-ranging study looked at the best managers in Google’s hierarchy, survey results from Google employees, exit interviews, semi-annual reviews and outside data points to get the answers they needed.
What did they find? Not only do managers matter, but also there are certain specific attributes that make up the ideal manager. These attributes might at first seem all over the map, but viewed from a higher level, they have something in common. This commonality unsurprisingly syncs up with the idea of proper talent alignment, ensuring your best people understand and are motivated by goals.
Google’s Top Eight
Before diving into this common thread, let’s first look at the attributes Google found the best managers possess:
Is a good coach
Empowers the team and does not micromanage
Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
Is productive and results-oriented
Is a good communicator—listens and shares information
Helps with career development
Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team
Google took the traditional common sense approach to management, codified it, and used it to find data points. These data points were then used to help managers improve their skills, so their people were always working toward the correct goals.
The Key? Transparency
What Googleists wanted from management was transparency, the corporate antithesis of feared bureaucracy. Employees don’t want to look up at endless hierarchies in your company; they want to look up and see goals so they can understand why their work matters.
Employees want insight into corporate processes, they want greater accountability, and they want to easily understand company goals. Negative management traits -- like micromanaging -- stem from a lack of corporate transparency. Since managers can’t easily see and understand their team’s workflow, they overcompensate by peering over employees’ shoulders. By instead encouraging proper talent alignment and transparency on a wider organizational level, managers are empowered to give their teams the guidance and autonomy they crave.
Talent Alignment Through Accountability
Once Project Oxygen identified the top attributes of great managers, the next step was to put this data into action. Google’s managers began receiving reports about how they ranked in each of the eight management verticals, helping them focus on the areas in which they needed work. An analytical approach is not only good for the data-obsessed techies at Google, but also can be applied to your company.
Since you can “see” the progress of your best people using talent alignment platforms, you can empower them to take ownership of their work and goals. This is the data-driven approach taken by Google, and it’s really gotten their employees on board with managers, while helping managers improve their performance.
Talent alignment works in a similar way, making sure everyone is on the same page. With transparency throughout the company and proper goal alignment, it’s easy to keep your team aligned and avoid goal decomposition. Plus, by encouraging employees to track their own progress, you can ensure your team takes ownership of their work.
This greater accountability can also help managers know where to focus their efforts. For example, managers might need to play to the strengths of a superstar employee, while providing guidance for another team member falling short. Talent alignment means managers can hone their skills, address specific issues, and guide their team toward the finish line.
If you want to manage like Google, you need to take a more analytical approach to your management process. This means not only focusing on developing the best management attributes, but also increasing transparency so your team is always headed in the right direction.
Brian Campbell is the Chief Revenue Officer of ClearCompany, the first talent alignment platform that bridges the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees’ work around a company’s vision and goals. You can connect with him and the ClearCompany team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.