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How to grow good managers? Conclusions of Project Oxygen

From the first days of Google’s existence, employees doubted the need for managers, as it was believed that the company was created by engineer-programmers who did not want to waste time communicating with management and controlling their colleagues.

A few years after the company’s founding, Larry Page and Sergey Brin wondered whether Google needed managers at all. In 2002, they created a flat organizational structure, eliminating all managers, but a few months later, they abandoned their idea. They came to the conclusion that managers help employees follow the team’s overall strategy, prioritize tasks, support career growth, and synchronize individual goals with the company’s goals.

Later, in 2008, Google’s People Innovation Lab launched Project Oxygen, a long-term research initiative. Since then, it has turned into a comprehensive program that evaluates key managers and develops them through communication and training. By November 2012, many employees had gone through this methodology, and the company has since demonstrated significant improvements in many areas of managerial effectiveness and productivity.

Project Oxygen: What Makes a Good Manager?

  • Is a good coach.
  • Motivates the team and avoids micromanagement.
  • Expresses interest and care in the team’s success and personal well-being.
  • Is productive and results-oriented.
  • Is a good listener and communicates information effectively.
  • Helps with career development.
  • Has a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  • Possesses key technical skills that help them interact with the team.

How to apply these findings in your company?

Good employees don’t always make great managers. Although it may seem that Google values managers with technical knowledge, managerial skill is given much more importance. For a manager, it’s important to be patient, possess excellent communication skills, have the ability to see the big picture and set long-term goals. So instead of hiring or promoting people with excellent technical skills to leadership positions, appoint people with excellent leadership qualities to these positions.

Become a good coach. This is especially important in the world of technology. Engineers and developers truly need managers who know the difference between coaching and micromanagement. One of the most important responsibilities of a manager is to guide their employees towards goals that align with the company’s tasks and long-term objectives. But at the same time, it’s also important to leave room for creativity. Google, for example, introduced a policy allowing employees to dedicate 20% of their time to other projects. And those 20% turned into popular products like Gmail and AdSense. Similar policies have been adopted by other global companies.

Feedback culture. The ability to provide feedback correctly is the strongest tool for a manager. Two-thirds of millennials believe that their leaders are responsible for providing opportunities for development. Despite this, many managers often hesitate to give constructive feedback to their employees, fearing their reaction. However, this is an important part of the development process.

When giving constructive feedback, some managers first tell their employees what they are doing well. It’s important to ensure that the emphasis is on their actions, not personal qualities. For example, “I noticed that you made a mistake in the report yesterday,” not “You are careless.” Always give advice on how employees can fix the situation and praise them for good decisions.

Get to know your employees. This is important on both a professional and personal level. Knowing your employees’ strengths will help you give better feedback and show them that you are sincerely interested in their careers. Leaders who know their employees’ strengths are 71% more likely to work with interested and energetic people. Show them that you are interested in their career and professional goals, and this will help you gain loyal employees.

Provide your managers with the tools they need to manage. For example, tell them how to give feedback correctly or how to conduct 1:1 meetings. Hold regular All-Hands Meetings and motivate managers to involve all employees in their preparation.

We provide detailed information about the tools for managing and developing employees in our immersion program, which takes place in the heart of the world’s innovation – Silicon Valley. To learn more about the program, click the button below.

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