What Google's Mistakes Can Teach Us About Leadership
One of the things that Google is famous for is data-based decision making. When they want to find the most effective way to do something, they look at the numbers and work from there. However, even a company as married to analytics as Google is vulnerable to lapses and oversights. Recently, their data showed that their process for hiring and promoting the best managers for the job was all wrong.
When you look at where Google made their mistake and what they did to correct it, you could save your company some money and heartache and also create a more effective workplace.
Google's Error and Assumption
Besides a dedication to data, Google's other key characteristic is a high regard for technical expertise. Tech savviness was so prized that, historically, it was one of the top factors in whether someone would get promoted to management.
When Google set out to learn whether their hiring and promoting strategy was working, they discovered something interesting: the best managers were not necessarily the ones who were technical experts at all.
After gathering and analyzing data from 10,000 manager observations, they learned that the quality they valued most had almost no bearing on whether someone was a good manager. Instead, soft skills were what made all the difference.
What the Data Says Makes a Good Manager
Google used their large pool of data to identify eight qualities and habits that make great managers. While technical skill was on the list, it was the least important of all the qualities on it. In order of importance, the qualities that make great managers include:
- Good coaching.
- Empowering your team to work without micromanaging. A good manager hires good people, then gets out of their way.
- Interest in employees' well-being and success. People are more motivated and show greater job satisfaction when they know that the people they work under care about them.
- A results-oriented and productive outlook.
- Excellent communication skills, especially good listening.
- An interest in employees' career development. Good managers understand that we all do better when we all do better.
- A clear vision and strategy.
- Key technical skills. These aren't important because your manager will be doing hands-on work, by the way. They are important because it allows the manager to advise the team that they've assembled for the job.
In addition to the revelations above, Google discovered a lot about the types of managers who make employees happy. The most important quality is a calm demeanor and an even keel. In a high-stress environment, someone who keeps things steady is key. They also discovered that the best leaders puzzled through problems with employees instead of just telling them what to do.
By looking at the real data about good managers, Google was able to improve their hiring practices, improve worker satisfaction, and increase productivity.
The biggest takeaway? Always challenge your assumptions. You may learn that what you thought was effective may be harming your company more than it helps. By taking an honest look at your analytics, you can seize startling revelations. Use them to make your company a better place and to rise above the competition.