The Excellent Boss, Google-Style

A few years ago, Google researched the factors that made a boss great, according to roughly 10,000 observations of over 10 variables.

This made headlines in technology news for a number of reasons. The most significant reason was that Google instituted coaching of its managers to ensure more comprehensive alignment with the results. It announced that its application of the research results had improved the quality of three-quarters of its worst-performing managers.

The second reason it made headlines is that technical skill came in at the bottom — perhaps somewhat surprising for business leadership in a leading tech company that not only revolutionized the search engine but is renowned for innovative, “moon-shot” projects.

More recently, Google updated its list of factors that make a boss great. It’s worthy of note that the update — let’s call it “Great Boss 2.0” — is not tremendously different than Great Boss 1.0. Two behaviors were updated a bit, and two were added.

Coaching, support, and team leadership are all great boss qualities.

The Top 10 Qualities

What are the factors that make a boss great? Here’s Google’s second list.

1. A good coach

The results were quite clear that a good manager doesn’t tell the team how to do things. A good manager creates teachable moments that teach the team how to do things. Guide on the side, not managing step by step.

2. Gives the team power and does not micromanage

And on the managing step by step front…don’t. The team needs enough freedom to develop their own ways of doing their work and they need to experiment a bit.

3. Shows concern for success and well-being of all team members

While “showed concern for success and well-being” in the team made the first list, this is one of the updated qualities. An emphasis on inclusive team environment is an update to the quality. Psychological safety is important to employees, and it’s also an important element in learning and experimentation.

4. Is productive and results-oriented

This made both lists. Results and productivity matter just as much to employees as to the management line.

5. Is a good communicator–listens and shares information

Good managers listen to team members (and other people) and are as transparent as possible. They give feedback frequently, both positive and negative. Their communications are constructive and easy to understand.

6. Supports career development and discusses performance

Employees want to feel invested in. This is one of the updated qualities; the old one was “help your employees with career development.” The update reflects a greater emphasis on performance feedback and options for different paths.

7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team

Excellent managers not only know where they and their team are going, they share the information. They also align each member’s contribution to the goals and objectives overall.

8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team

While technical know-how is important, it’s interesting that teamwork skills are more near the top. In other words, great bosses have to have the technical skills, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.

9. Cross-collaborates

A warring mentality is not liked. Collaboration was. Working for the benefit of the entire organization is a good thing. This is new to the updated version.

10. Is a strong decision maker

Decision-making with no fear is another factor new to the update. Employees gave the thumbs-up to managers who lead and make sure the team understands the rationale.

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