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Could Google be Wrong?

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Tech giant Google started in 1998 and focused on hiring only top engineering and technology talent from prestigious schools. Ten years later, Google undertook an exhaustive analysis to determine if this was best for the company.

The results of a one-year data mining project revealed that of the top 8 managerial behaviors driving Google’s success, technical skills were the least important. The most important behaviors for great managers at Google, in order of importance [drum roll]…

  1. Being a good coach

  2. Empowering the team and not micromanaging

  3. Expressing interest/concern for team members’ success and personal well-being

  4. Being productive and results-oriented

  5. Being a good communicator

  6. Helping with career development

  7. Having a vision

  8. Using technical skills to advise

It turns out that Google’s initial premise of hiring for technical talent needed to be tweaked. And after changing hiring practices and implementing “soft skills” training to help managers with items #1-7 above, there were statistically significant improvements in management measurements.

So, who needs soft skills?

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, authors of First, Break All the Rules, conducted research with 80,000 managers at all levels from various industries which corroborates the need for these soft skills. According to their research, good managers…

  • Recognize employees as the individuals they are

  • Do not treat everyone the same

  • Focus on employees’ strengths vs. trying to fix weaknesses

Coaching, empowering, supporting, providing vision and direction and communicating clearly are all essential skills for success. And in order to practice these skills a strong manager must be associate-focused.

Here are three approaches to use to improve your management skills and get the most from your direct reports:

Identify each associate’s strongest skills and abilities

  • Two vital skills for successful coaching are observing and inquiring. For each of your direct reports observe the following:

  • With what projects, tasks or assignments does this individual demonstrate strengths? Look for above average enthusiasm, commitment and quality of work

  • What skills are involved with preferred projects, tasks or assignments?

Make your observations over a period of several weeks. Take notes. After a few weeks, review your notes to identify patterns, preferences and obvious strengths.

Then, have a one-on-one conversation to share your observations with each associate. Inquire to get their input on perceptions of strengths and work preferences. This will provide vital information that will allow you to assign work appropriately and accomplish one of the Google success factors:

Empower each individual and avoid micromanaging

Find ways to let associates add value every day

Once you know an individual’s strengths and are assigning work which plays to those strengths, most people will have a greater sense of worth and satisfaction. They will understand how they are adding value and will generally have higher job engagement and stronger performance. Shift responsibilities, change job descriptions, adjust processes. Find the right fit for each associate so that they can add value every day.

By finding ways to let associates add value every day you are accomplishing two of the Google success factors:

Expressing interest/concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
Helping with career development

Let associates know they are valued

Showing appreciation for each individual is what great coaches do. Here’s how to show appreciation:

  • Be specific: A simple thank you is nice, but specificity about what your employees do will ensure more of the behavior you want.

  • Identify impact: Let people know the impact of their behaviors. How did their actions affect others?

  • Share results: What was the net effect of the specific behavior?

  • Express your appreciation: Thanks. I appreciate your efforts. I’m grateful to you.

Is it time for you to make a managerial course correction? Focus on your coaching skills and you may get a call from a Google recruiter…

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