We all have opinions on the most important qualities of managers. Zack Friedman provides a really good list in his article “Google Says The Best Managers Have These 10 Qualities.” In this article, Zack shares the results from Google’s Project Oxygen – where they determined what makes a manager great at Google. Here are my perspectives on each, as well as a couple of qualities that Google missed.
1. Is a good coach
I completely agree with the intent of this item. But have some concerns over the word “coach.” A coach is a person who teaches and trains. That assumes the manager knows more than the employee. That is oftentimes not the case.
What I would prefer to see here is “mentor”. A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser. Someone advises or trains. Someone who can help guide even when they are not the expert.
2. Empowers team and does not micromanage
This is one that sounds good on the surface. Everyone wants to be empowered. No one wants to be micromanaged. On the surface, I completely agree.
I recommend going a bit deeper in determining how to manage. I am a fan of situational leadership. In that model, the manager adjusts their style to fit the development level of the employee. It recommends four different styles: Directing; Coaching; Supporting; and Delegating.
3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
I don’t have anything to add – great quality!
4. Is productive and results-oriented
I don’t have anything to add to this one either. I completely agree and have written about the need to “Get stuff done!”
5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information
Yes. I might combine this with #9. Managers need to be good communicators in all directions. They need to listen first and talk second. They need to be a good conduit of information in an effort to help not only their team but the company to be successful.
6. Supports career development and discusses performance
I like the way this one is written. I believe the career is the responsibility of the employee, not the manager. The word “Supports” is perfect here.
I would be tempted to expand “discusses performance” to something like “has frequent discussions about performance.” Some managers use the performance management process as the only time that they discuss performance. That can often mean annually or at most quarterly. I prefer that performance be a part of regular discussions – both what is going well and what needs improvement or could be handled differently.
7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
This is good, but maybe a bit idealistic. Not all good managers are strong at vision and/or strategy. They may be better at execution. Or they may be junior – needing to develop.
8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team
I agree with this. I don’t like the idea of a manager not having the technical skills to do this – at least in a technology company. We went through a period where many companies thought that it was acceptable for managers to just manage. I think that we are over that now:)
9. Collaborates across Google
The intent of this is right, although this also may be a bit idealistic. Most managers do not “Collaborate across Google.” But they do need the skills to collaborate across the company as required in their job!
10. Is a strong decision maker
Yes. And in the case where they personally do not know the right answer, leverage others to quickly get to a decision.
A Couple More Qualities
Is honest, develops trust
Many of the qualities described above demonstrate honesty and will develop trust. But I wanted to call these out separately given their importance. A manager who demonstrates these will receive amazing support from their team.
It is table stakes for great managers to be productive and results-oriented. What I like to see in my managers is innovation. The technology industry is changing so quickly that we need everyone, regardless of the role that they play, to innovate.
Wrapping It All Up
I really like the list of manager qualities that came out of Google’s Project Oxygen. They are really good. I recommend sharing them broadly.
And consider adding in my two.
Get Stuff Done!
Make An Impact – How Goals Can Help
Situational Leadership Summary