Google Knows What Makes the Best Managers

They do these 10 things consistently well.

Michael K. Spencer
Jun 24 · 6 min read

Google has evolved a lot as the AI leader of the world and about how it handles recruiting its talent.

Tons of Tech companies no longer require that you have a bachelor’s degree. The world is changing. But some things never change.

Google spent over 10 years researching what makes the ‘perfect’ manager —and the 10 traits they have come up with aren’t at all surprising.

In fact, back in 2008, an internal team of researchers launched Project Oxygen — in an effort to determine what makes a manager great at Google. More than a decade later, Google’s philosophy around leadership has evolved.

If your company can train and promote managers who do these 10 things, you’ll build trust and inspire your people to become the best versions of themselves. I love that!

Boiling down what makes the ideal manager to ten things is obviously a bit reductionist, but in an age where human leadership has never been so crucial, it’s also worth taking a look at.

20 years ago, you probably would’ve laughed if someone said your life would one day be irrevocably changed by a company called Google. What’s a google? Google is that company that’s also reworked how we see talent in organizations.

Photo by Arron Choi on Unsplash

Google has nearly 100,000 employees in offices all around the world, over 70 offices in 50 countries, according to my Google Home device. If anyone would know about talent and how to groom managers, it would be Google.

It’s the area of Human Resources. It’s all about building leaders for tomorrow and reducing churn rates within your talented group of employees. Sure, there will be the occasional walk-out, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Simply put, if you have great managers and team leads, not only will you get the best out of your people, but they’ll also be more likely to stick around. Google has a lot of good data on this, being pretty much the original data company of the internet age.

Google has conducted research to figure out what makes the perfect manager, so it could train its leaders to develop those behaviors. In the future it’s about how soft skills blend with technical skills and how teams operate smoothly. That requires the managers with the best habits of leadership.

In an age of artificial intelligence, there’s a lot of overlap between IQ, high-end skills and people smarts, those pesky emotional intelligence quotients we’ve heard so much about.

What Makes the Best Managers

According to Google, here are 10 behaviors a good manager should display. Sorry for the suspense, I’ll try to replicate their findings now.

1. Is a good coach

2. Empowers team and does not micromanage

3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well being

4. Is productive and results oriented

5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information

6. Supports career development and discusses performance

7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team

8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team

9. Collaborates effectively

10. Is a strong decision-maker

So what do you make of these?

It’s no secret that being a good manager can make all the difference in how happy your team is and how well it performs. If you have a young child, think about how you can instill in them leadership abilities that correlate to these “Google Leader Traits”.

This is because in a future with AI, humans will need to be more creative, more social and more innovative than ever simply to keep up.

Photo by Daniyal Khalil on Unsplash

Leaders are the Oxygen of the Future of Innovation

Google’s 10 meta traits say a lot about human interactions in teams.

What are the sub-skills here?

  • coaching
  • empowering
  • collaborating
  • decisive decision making
  • highly goal and productivity oriented
  • Persuasive but advanced listener as well
  • Empathetic, shows concern for others
  • An inclusion specialist
  • Delegates, does not control (micro manage)
  • Discusses performance and gives frequent feedback
  • Has clear guidelines and group objectives
  • Has a strategy in place with priorities

These are soft skills and cognitive styles that can certainly be taught and grown in young professionals, some of whom will become your most valuable assets and leaders of tomorrow.

While some traits of leadership are inborn and some people just have a certain in-born talent for it, in an era of soft skill enhancement, it will become very valuable to have these traits. Very valuable in the relationship-economy that’s coming once AI is truly ubiquitous in our societies, smart cities and companies.

For over 10 years, Google has conducted research under the code name Project Oxygen. The goal? Figuring out what makes the perfect manager, so it could train its leaders to develop those behaviors.

The quest for better management and leadership practices is endless.

Challenge Employees in a Good Way

  • Good managers take time to coach, challenge and guide employees.
  • Employees need to trust managers enough to go to them for support.
  • The best managers offer the best balance of structure, freedom and advice tailored to each employee in their team.
  • The best managers provide software tools, tips, physical tools their people need, and allow for flexible schedules and working environments. They treat them like good humans worth investing in.
  • The best managers don’t interfere, control or micro manage the tasks of others in stifling or frustrating ways. (this leads to churn).

Inclusion Natives

  • The best managers are hyper-vigilant when it comes to expressing interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well being.
  • The best managers cultivate environments and interactions that are high in psychological safety.
  • The best managers are skilled in combating unconscious biases and in treating everyone fairly.
  • Trust is a currency in the best teams that circulates in an awesome way. That is, great teams thrive on trust — and great managers help build that trust.
  • Reciprocal trust environments mean each team member is 110% committed to giving their best work for the project.

Miscellaneous Worth Mentioning

  • The best managers model the ideal behavior of the company, usually are well above norms in productivity and goal orientation.
  • The best managers are able to inspire actions in others based on their own actions.
  • Great managers aren’t just great communicators. What sets them apart often enough is that they are great managers that prioritize listening. They take the time to actually listen at regular intervals.
  • Great managers have a genuine concern for their team members.
  • This caring is often conveyed in focused, curious listening which demonstrates an emotional and personal investment in those who work for them.
  • The best managers aren’t too permissive either. The top managers need to set clear expectations, hold employees accountable for meeting them and respond quickly when employees need support.
  • The best managers are obsessed not just with their team, but with the career development of their team members. Teams develop skills and advance their careers, good managers recognize that.
  • The best managers are strategic thinkers with higher-level vision and a game plan that’s structured enough to be productive and fluid enough to be adaptive.
  • The best managers may have technical skills but it’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison to the soft skills.
  • The best managers collaborate well with upper management and across the entire organization, sync well with its aims and objectives.
  • The best managers make decisions, especially strong tough decisions at critical points in a team’s projects.

As Tech companies grow into the best talent funnels in the world, the way we see leadership, management, human resources, recruitment and retention is also changing.

With artificial intelligence becoming more involved in the recruitment process, it’s still the best humans that impact our careers the most. It’s the teachers, mentors, managers and friends at work whom we will remember. It’s the journey of surrounding yourself with the best people in work and life that makes for a life well lived.

Google just schooled us in human leadership, and Project Oxygen is a success. Alphabet is in the area of the 4th most valuable private company in the world at the time of writing this in June, 2019.

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Discovering the optimal lifestyle of the future.

Michael K. Spencer

Written by

Blockchain Mark Consultant, tech Futurist, a prolific writer. Always writing. 🌞 DM me on Twitter for quotes:


Discovering the optimal lifestyle of the future.

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