“People leave managers, not companies.”
We’ve all heard this phrase from Victor Lipman’s The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World. And this brings us to the question—what makes a good manager?
Luckily, Google, the biggest technology conglomerate, launched Project Oxygen. The aim was to uncover the behavioral traits of the high performing managers. Based on their findings, the company started training its employees to inculcate managerial values that are proven to work.
Eventually, Google started observing a noticeable improvement in key metrics such as employee turnover, satisfaction, and performance.
Is a good coach
Onboarding managers to lead coaching initiatives can initially seem like too much effort. However, a recent study shows that coaching employees result in higher productivity, better engagement, and enhanced customer service.
“If you’re still figuring out your leadership style or think you might need to change things up, you may want to consider approaching leadership from the mindset of a coach,” suggests a Forbes Coaches Council post.
So, how does one acquire the “coach mindset”?
“Great leaders educate themselves on the strengths and weaknesses of their teams,” says Tameka Williamson from Celestial & Associates Consulting. “Then you can empower them to take ownership and solve problems under your guidance, focused on working together as a high performing team that is solution-oriented.”
Empowers the team and does not micromanage.
Nobody likes a manager that’s always breathing down their necks about every little thing. Controlling how your employees work and insisting they carry out tasks your way negatively impacts the team’s productivity and general morale.
A good manager trusts the process of his/her team members and focuses more on empowering them to perform any or all assigned tasks in an independent manner.
In fact, Google’s research also points out that you cannot be an efficient manager if you’re constantly micro-managing your team without giving them “the right balance of freedom and advice”.
Creates an inclusive team environment
An inclusive manager is cognizant of their unconscious bias and consistently takes appropriate measures to hold themselves (and other team members!) accountable. Especially, when working with international teams, you’re likely to encounter people from all walks of life. So, it’s crucial that you’re sensitive to other cultures, beliefs, rituals, and norms.
In order to avoid an accidental misstep, you should start by paying heed to the small stuff. For example, do you frequently interrupt people in meetings? Did you pass on a working parent for promotion because you assumed that they wouldn’t be open to added responsibilities? Do you observe celebrations/informal get-togethers for festivals that aren’t directly associated with your religion?
The key here is to understand that your team members approach every situation (work-related or otherwise) very differently than you. Acknowledging these differences without singling out an individual can go a long way.
Is productive and results-oriented
A lot of managers are more focussed on establishing authority and demanding respect from their team, whereas, you should actively use yourself as an example to set the tone about the work ethic you’re expecting.
For example, if you consistently come in late, or don’t check-in with your team weekly about the deliverables, it wouldn’t be surprising if people around you follow suit—and worse, don’t take you seriously.
Identify the strongest/weakest links in your team and define processes accordingly, to ensure that tasks-at-hand are being executed without a roadblock.
Is a good communicator
While communicating effectively is important for any manager, you must also understand that a large part of your job also includes listening to your team.
Be thoughtful but avoid sugarcoating things, and most of all, encourage constructive criticism, so you can improve your communication skills. “Focused, curious listening conveys an emotional and personal investment in those who work for us,” says Muse contributor Kristi Hedges. “When you listen to people, they feel personally valued. It signals commitment.”
Supports career development and discusses performance
In the research, Google found that more than half of a company’s employees are thoroughly unaware of the expectations that they should be delivering on at work. As a result, they become too comfortable with staying inside the box, and doing only what they’re told.
As a manager, you must convey the exact responsibilities you want an employee to handle. Discuss individual performance, acknowledge everyone’s contribution during product development
Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
Your team will always turn to you for guidance. Therefore, you must have clarity on the company’s vision, “the bigger picture” and the overall roadmap to success.
Stephanie Davis, the winner of one of Google’s Great Manager Awards, recommends using feedback reports to understand the importance of communicating a clear vision to boost productivity. “[My team] wanted me to interpret a higher-level vision for [everyone],” she said. “So I started listening to the company’s earnings call with a different ear. I didn’t just come back to my team with what was said; I also shared what it meant for them.”
Has key technical skills to help advise the team
Laszlo Bock, the former VP of People Operations, believes that if you’re a manager (especially on the engineering side), you must have a more profound technical knowledge than the rest of your team. This, in no way, implies that you must know everything about everything. In fact, you will often find yourself in a position where you are managing people who have a strong technical foundation.
Remember to be honest about your technical shortcomings. And always be open to learning new things or learning old things the new way.
Collaborates across the company
Collaborating doesn’t necessarily mean simply ‘cooperating across multiple departments and teams’ and calling it a day. It constitutes of a shared vision, an in-depth understanding, and mutual respect for everyone’s role in a project with the intention of delivering exceptional business outcomes.
As a manager, it’s your job to ensure that people you’re working with feel committed to their everyday responsibilities, even if they don’t have clarity on how they impact “the big picture”.
Promote knowledge transfer, and that’s framed around end-goals. Incorporate feedback loops so your team members can measure their contributions.
Lastly, establish a psychologically-safe environment that has plenty of room for individual growth. So, employees can test the limits of their imagination and find truly innovative answers to challenging problems.
Is a strong decision-maker
A recent study that included 500 managers found that 90% of the participants fail to adhere to the best practices when it comes to faster decision-making.
When presented with a problem, you should step back and consider all perspectives, so you don’t end up focussing on one aspect and neglecting the others.
Don’t be afraid of challenging the status quo. But also take into account the business goals that’d be directly affected by your decision. Develop an eye for risk, so that you’re able to identify and avoid the pitfalls of a potential decision.
Remember, sometimes, your decisions might not lead to the desired outcome. However, you must refrain from dwelling on past mistakes. Instead, focus on making the best possible decisions given the circumstances.