Google Lists the 8 Traits of a Great Manager

Google Lists the 8 Traits of a Great Manager

... and technical ability is dead last.

Anyone interested in leadership should be interested in what follows. Google — a company built on a very intelligent and lucrative "secret sauce" form of algorithmic search — has finally set out to apply its unique brand of "data analytics" to something that matters very dearly to our hearts: management practices.

Google’s HR team, known within the Googleplex as "People Operations", commenced something called Project Oxygen in 2009 in order to find out the traits and qualities that make up a great manager (at Google, not in general).

The task was huge — more than 10,000 observations were gathered about managers, across more than 100 variables from various performance reviews, feedback surveys and other reports.

The resulting manifesto was entitled the Eight Habits Of Highly Effective Google Managers, which The New York Times edited and wrote about here.

They are listed in order of priority.


1. Be a good coach Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing negative and positive Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to the employee's strengths

2. Empower your team and don't micro-manage Balance giving freedom to your employees while still being available for advice Make "stretch" assignments to help them tackle big problems

3. Express interest in employees' success and well-being Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work Make new folks feel welcome, help ease the transition

4. Be productive and results-oriented Focus on what you want the team to achieve and how employees can help achieve it Help the team prioritise work, and make decisions to remove roadblocks

5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team Communication is two-way: Both listen and share Hold all-hands meetings and be specific about the team's goals Encourage open dialogue and listen to the questions and concerns of your employees

6. Help your employees with career development

7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team Even amid turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy Involve the team in setting and evolving the team's vision, goals, and progress

8. Have key technical skills, so you can help advise the team Roll up sleeves and work side-by-side with team, when needed Understand the specific challenges of the work


Interestingly, Google found that technical ability was not nearly as important to employees as simply having a boss who was supportive to their needs. What employees valued most were bosses who acted kindly, fairly, and took an interest in developing them (i.e. the boss as coach).

To be clear, the analysis was only concerned with building a list out of Google's own internal experience (of what employees at Google responded to in a boss), but it seems worthwhile to consider the list’s importance to leadership in general.

From our perspective, their findings validate "the basics" of good management practice, which are on display in dozens of books, articles and training seminars — disguised under different words. It probably also re-enforces a lot of people's view that coaching is synonymous with management, or at least good management.

Overall, the "8 Habits" are worth taking the time to single out as a leadership resource due to the credibility of its author. Unlike the dozens of "10 Things Great Leaders Do" marketing-style lists, this one is based on extensive research and actually ranked from most important to least important, which makes it easy to assess your own development needs as a manager. If you are looking at #1 and thinking "holy hailstorms Batman, I don't do that often enough," then it's something easy enough to do more targeted research on. To the Googlemobile!

What do you think about the list?

Is it too "basic?"


“I don't think the list is too simplistic, I think it is spot on and nearly in the right order. I would place number 7 (Vision and Strategy) higher up the order.
I also think there is notone magical way to be a good manager to everyone in every task, you need to overlay this with a Situational Leadership approach too.”

“Thanks for your comment Peter - a great insight on using models like Situational Leadership to adapt our approach to the unique individuals we lead/manager. We appreciate you taking the time to comment!
The DTS Crew”

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