Google is one of the most successful companies in the world and it’s not surprising that it hires and develops the best leaders also. In 2008 Google established Project Oxygen to determine the qualities of their highest-performing leaders. Recently, that team updated its research and provided a list of the Top Ten Behaviours of Google’s best leaders:
- Is a good coach.
- Empowers their team and does not micromanage.
- Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and wellbeing.
- Is productive and results-oriented.
- Is a good communicator — listens and shares information.
- Supports career development and discusses performance.
- Has a clear vision/strategy for the team.
- Has key technical skills to help advise the team.
- Collaborates across Google.
- Is a strong decision-maker.
Guest writer Shawn Doyle, President at New Light Learning and Development Inc, has used this list to comment in Entrepreneur.com on how organisations can best use this list to develop their own leadership talent. He believes it can be transformational in the following ways:
1. Provide leadership training
It is a sad fact that we do our managers a great disservice by not providing them with the skills they need to be successful. We assume they “know how.” Yet, while someone may be a good employee, once he or she is promoted, that promotion doesn’t mean this person automatically knows how to coach or empower or communicate effectively.
Think about this: All of the qualities on the list are not personal characteristics but skills that can be learned or improved. So it is not a surprise that when Google provided training on the needed leadership skills, the company saw an improvement in turnover, employee satisfaction and performance over time.
In the US many companies, such as SAS, Amazon, Bonobos, Goldman Sachs, Enterprise, Marriot and Pilot Flying J invest time and money in training and developing leadership skills. Pilot Flying J operates truck stops and travel plazas across America and invests significantly in training its managers to “learn everything, from operating a POS system to reading financial reports.”
Afterward, participants are assigned to a permanent location in which they will receive ongoing development training. The company also offers programs and courses through “Pilot Flying J University,” with special tracks for general managers, operations designates, recent college grads and more.
As leadership development expert Warren Bennis said “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”
2. Set expectations
Another key area is expectations. In a recent Gallup study only about half of all workers surveyed “strongly” indicated that they knew what was expected of them at work. The research suggested that setting clear expectations might be the most foundational element for employee engagement, further stating “All workers, regardless of age or stage in their career, want to know what’s expected of them in the workplace. The lack of clear expectations can cause anxiety and confusion in workers.”
If this is the case, the key questions you might want to ask are:
- Do the managers in your organization know what is expected of them?
- Do they know what is expected of them regarding how they lead their team?
- Has that been communicated?
- Are they engaging employees?
- Do their direct reports understand what is expected of them?
- Do you talk about this with the teams at work?
I meet many stressed-out people across the country who don’t know what is expected of them because it has never been discussed, set up or communicated.
3. Do an employee survey
The Google list of qualities was the result of an employee survey. It is a solid list, and I’m sure most of the leadership qualities apply to every organization. Who after all doesn’t long for a manager who is an excellent communicator?
That being said, these qualities may not all apply to your organization. There may be some company culture variables to consider. So, do a survey of employees and find out what your most successful leaders are doing to be effective; then see if those actions match the Google list. Find out what is working in your organization with managers and supervisors. The answers may raise questions that haven’t been addressed before.
4. Measure their effectiveness
An important issue to think about is how to measure the effectiveness of your managers and leaders. If you have clear leadership expectations, then you can look at how they are meeting them. You can look at financial metrics like sales, revenue and profit. We can sometimes assume we are meeting those metrics because our people are satisfied at work (although there are exceptions, of course)
At the same time, we can look at other non-financial metrics like turnover, morale, customer service and productivity. The best way to measure is to continually watch, observe and talk with people one-on-one to see how they are doing. The quantitative and qualitative clues are there. You just have to pay attention. As founder of Microsoft Bill Gates once said, “In business, the idea of measuring what you are doing, picking the measurements that count like customer satisfaction and performance… you thrive on that.”
If you can benchmark your leadership to that of Google and other world-class organizations and learn how they lead, you will raise the bar in your organization and perhaps even become world-class yourself. As President John Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
For more information on Project Oxygen click here or use Google!