Deep Thoughts Tools

This Is What Makes A World-Class Manager

I believe that looking after and leading other humans is one of the most challenging roles we can take on (outside of raising children of course).

That’s why we could all use a little help in putting our best foot forward.

Below, I’ve compiled data from a high-performing organisation to inform and inspire our own discovery on this topic.

There is no straightforward approach to building world-class managers.

No one has all the answers, sadly.

But, we have lots of data and experiences from those who’ve walked the walk from which we can learn.

What we can learn from high-performing organisations

Back in 2008, Google launched Project Oxygen aimed at discovering what makes a great manager at Google. 

Although this research focuses on the walls of Google, there’s much we can all learn about the role of management at one of the world’s largest and most profitable organisations.

This project kicked off in 2008 and continued until the end of 2018, accumulating a decade worth of research.

In their original findings from 2008, Google identified 8 behaviours on which they educated their managers, and of course, many other organisations copied to do the same in pursuit of similar success.

An update was released in 2018 which scaled to 10 behaviours to reflect the world at that point, including👇

Google’s data showed a strong statistical relationship between these behaviours and the effectiveness of managers across all corners of the organisation over the decade.

We could agree that these ten probably cover most, if not all, of the behaviours we look for in people managers.

The funny thing is that before Google conducted this research, they funded another internal research project to prove don’t managers don’t matter in a modern organisation!

Instead, they discovered that they do and they better find out what makes them great.

The turning point came in how the team defined manager quality.

They did this based on two quantitive measures: manager performance ratings and manager feedback from Google’s annual employee survey.

To their surprise, this data revealed that managers did matter.

Not only did they matter. They discovered that teams with managers were happier and more productive. Who would have thought, eh?

How can you do the same in your organisation?

No doubt, Google’s findings inspire us all, but how do we find out what makes managers great in our organisations?

Well, lucky for us, Google has made this method open source for all to use.

The team recommends that to determine what makes managers great, we should consider these three questions:

1/ Do managers matter in your organisation? 
Explore external research and internal input like surveys or interviews to determine if people managers matter to your team members’ performance and happiness.

2/ If managers matter, whom do you need to convince and how? 
Google used internal data to convince engineers and leaders that managers matter.

How will you convince your organisation?

3/ What makes a great manager at your organisation? 
Google found ten behaviours of successful managers – you might find you have two, three, or twelve.

Internal data, like employee survey results and interviews, can help uncover the elements of good management at your organisation.

You can also explore external research through, you guessed it, a simple Google search to get started.

What might you discover?

If, like me, reading research like this gets you excited to do the same in your workspace.

Although I like the behaviours that Google have listed, we could certainly add a few pieces to make this even better.

One thing that stands out for me is Emotional intelligence.

Though not specifically called out in the ten behaviours, we can see a few areas where it would overlap.

Nonetheless, the lessons learnt during the pandemic have brought this behaviour to the forethought of how we lead (and so it should).

Teaching people how to be more emotionally aware and lead with empathy can only be positive moves, right?

Hopefully, this edition has given you some food for thought, data to utilise and some idea on how to take action in your practice.

Before you go… 👋

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