Google Employees Weighed In on What Makes a Highly Effective Manager (Technical Expertise Came in Last)

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Google is widely known as an advocate of data-based decision making. So, it came as no surprise when it looked to its statisticians to help decode the secret formula to effective management.

After gathering and analyzing 10,000 manager observations including performance reviews, surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards and recognition, Google stumbled upon a realization that surprised many–even its former senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock.

In a New York Times article that revealed the findings, Bock acknowledged that the company had historically hired managers or promoted people who exhibited a higher level of technical expertise than others. “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing,” Bock says. “It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.”

Bock’s team didn’t stop there. Upon further analysis of the findings, they narrowed in on the “Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers.” Although technical skills made the list, it came in dead last. Here is a complete list via Business Insider (listed in order of importance):

  • Be a good coach;
  • empower your team and don’t micromanage;
  • express interest in employee’s success and well-being;
  • be productive and results-oriented;
  • be a good communicator and listen to your team;
  • help your employees with career development;
  • have a clear vision and strategy for the team; and
  • have key technical skills, so you can help advise the team.

If those weren’t shocking enough, upon further examination of the most important habits of effective managers, Bock’s group came to the following conclusions.

1. What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses.

We’ve all had bosses lose their cool. Although no one is impervious to the occasional stress overload, the truth is even a single occurrence can add layers of unnecessary anxiety to your employees’ already overloaded mental bandwidth. With the amount of variability and craziness that already comes with work, employees appreciate managers who are patient, poised, and positive. In environments that already lend themselves to stress, bosses who are regularly intense, high-strung, and impatient intensify challenging professions.

2. Manager’s who helped people puzzle through problems were more effective.

The transition to leadership also requires a transformation of thought. Managers have to redirect their focus from the “work” to their staff. Effective managers take care of their people, understanding that their people take care of the work. This is the key to scaling your technical-self as a manager.

Although he’s not typically associated with management best practices, Benjamin Franklin showed mastery with this quote: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Yes, I know it’s time-consuming. I know you have a million other things on your plate. However, collaborating and supporting your employees in this way pays dividends with each “puzzle” you help them solve. Not only is the work done consistently with your expectations, but your employees observe skills and traits vital to their success. Think of each “puzzle” as an investment in your employee’s future.

3. Top-performing managers took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.

Great managers earn respect, engagement, and outstanding effort from their staff. Great mentors and friends gain the trust, loyalty, and appreciation of those they associate with. Now imagine these roles fused together (yep — a Super Boss). Now, I’m not saying you have to be best buddies with your employees. However, managers who truly care about their employees’ success and well-being take an interest in their lives.

Imagine how far someone would go for a Super Boss.

Although promotions usually come as a result of technical mastery, to be effective in your new role as a manager, you’ll have to wear a different hat. Shift your focus to your people, and I promise, you’ll see a significant return.