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What Google’s Project Oxygen Reveals about Good Managers

Ever wonder what employees say when asked what makes a manager good? Wonder no longer. For the past decade, technology giant Google has been surveying its employees about their opinions of what constitutes a great manager. The research, dubbed Project Oxygen, was intended as a business strategy, to train future business leadership to institute best performance practices and to drive continuous improvement among Google’s management team.

Google has surveyed its employees about the qualities of good managers for more than a decade.

During this time, Google has registered significant improvement in metrics like employee turnover, performance, and satisfaction.

Intriguingly enough, Google’s employees did not focus overly on hard skills, such as tech ability. The top 10 are primarily soft skills and utilize more emotional intelligence than computer or systems training.

So what are the top 10 qualities a great manager should have, according to Project Oxygen? Here they are.

Number One: They are good coaches.

Good managers don’t necessarily solve problems on the spot. They use challenges as teachable moments to guide their teams, focusing on furthering the team’s ability to solve problems.

Number Two: They empower teams and avoid micromanaging.

Similarly, good managers will work toward the empowerment of the team and grant as much autonomy – ability to manage their own environment to meet objectives – as possible.

Good managers coach rather than stepping in to solve every problem.

Number Three: They create an inclusive team environment.

Google’s research has also uncovered the fact that employees need to feel their working environment is psychologically safe. That way, no one feels it would be embarrassing to float a blue-sky idea or ask a question. Both ideas and questions are profoundly important to solicit from employees, not dampen.

Number Four: They focus on productive behavior and results.

Good managers are productive. They will get in the trenches with their employees if necessary. They also focus on results rather than tangential issues.

Number Five: They communicate well.

Great managers both listen and share information. They use communication skills to understand team members and to be empathic when appropriate. Their communication skills are used for transparency and to grow the team’s network of information.

Number Six: They support career development and performance.

Good managers are encouraging and willing to share praise that is specific (and thus actionable and useful). However, they can also point out times when performance is falling short in ways that are constructive.

Google’s employees appreciated managers who were willing to help them achieve career goals and found it motivating to work for those managers.

Number Seven: They know their vision and strategy.

The employees also observed that good managers have a clear vision for the team. They know the goals and objectives and what it takes to get there. There is a clear strategy.

Number Eight: They possess technical skills that can guide the team.

Although hard skills weren’t foregrounded, Google employees did note that great managers need to have crucial tech skills that help them understand the jobs their employees do, as well as to advise them when necessary.

Number Nine: They demonstrate collaborative skills.

Good managers can collaborate and show their teams how to do so effectively.

Number Ten: They make firm decisions.

Great managers are decisive. They weigh decisions and consider carefully, but once a decision is made, they stand behind it.