Back in 2002, Google set out to determine whether or not managers were necessary to the everyday function of their organization. Through an initiative dubbed Project Oxygen, the tech giant moved to a flattened org chart – one where managers did not exist. Their hypothesis was that managers didn’t actually matter and that the quality of a manager didn’t actually effect the teams’ performance either. In the simplest of terms, they were horribly wrong.
Just months into the experiment, a mass hysteria was felt throughout the company. Employees were lost, with no sense of direction or guidance for even their most basic questions. While the company’s first hypothesis was proved wrong, it did not stop Google from re-orienting the initiative. This time, they set off to determine the traits that made managerial staff such an intrinsic part of the corporate landscape.
The research team defined manager quality based on two quantitative measures: manager performance ratings and manager feedback from Google’s annual employee survey. This data quickly revealed that managers did matter: teams with great managers were happier and more productive. Further, it produced a list of the top ten traits for effective managers.
You’re a good coach
Great coaches are those that are committed to the growth and success of their team, in part for the success of the business, but also because they genuinely care. They care about developing their staff. They care about preparing individuals for the future, equipping them with the necessary skills, building on their interpersonal abilities, and guiding them through the complexity of today’s world.
Great coaches provide learning opportunities. They guide their staff, but they do not fix every problem. They ask questions, they push workers to try harder and go deeper. They help team members develop critical problem solving and decision-making skills in place of making decisions for them. They provide feedback, both positive and negative. In essence, they serve as a guiding light, not a GPS system.
Related courses: Coaching Clinic, Giving Needs-Based Feedback, and Realizing Talent in Others. Learn more here.
You empower without micro-managing
The sign of a great manager is a fine balance between providing effective guidance and hovering over your teams shoulders day in and day out. No one likes to be micro-managed. Aside from it being overbearing, it instills a negative feeling in the employee(s) at hand. They’ll begin to feel skeptical of their work, like it’s never up to par.
Effective managers find a way to make their influence known without having to reinforce it so obviously. They find ways to empower their employees to succeed on their own, while still making themselves available when needed.
Related courses: Developing Your Leadership Presence, Influencing Outcomes Through Others. Learn more here.
You create an inclusive team environment, showing concern for well-being and success
We’ve conducted plenty of our own research on the importance of inclusivity in the workplace, so we can echo this sentiment wholeheartedly. Teams cannot thrive without a collective sense of purpose, and that purpose cannot be a rallying point unless each and every member’s perspective is represented.
Further, teams typically love to win. Managers who exhibit a dedication to being a high-performing and successful team instill that energy in each individual member, in turn empowering that team to perform to the best of their individual and collective ability.
Related courses: Becoming a High-Performing Team (available FREE here), Building Team Pride & Purpose.
You are productive and results-oriented
You don’t inundate your employees with mundane tasks or over-ambitious processes. You encourage a level of productivity that is realistic and you provide the tools for them to complete tasks successfully. You allow individuals to reach their goals in a way that’s most effective to them.
You are a good communicator that listens and shares information
It’s solely on the manager to define expectations and goals for the team. This requires a fair amount of open communication. Great managers provide the necessary and relevant information their staff needs to keep moving forward. You want to give the team a good sense of what the business is working towards, and how they play a part in that ambition.
Related courses: Creating Clarity & Focus, Clarifying Performance Expectations, Guiding Collaborative Discussions. Learn more here.
You support career development and discuss performance
Part of being a great coach is wanting each member of your team to grow and be successful both in their job, but further, on the whole. You empower your people to be better people, to be better versions of themselves.
You put an emphasis on career development and provide indicators that employees are on the right track (or not). In essence, you highlight the areas where they are great, and provide them the tools they need to ramp up the areas in which they can improve.
Related courses: Conducting Performance Reviews, Clarifying Performance Expectations. Learn more here.
You have a clear vision & strategy for the team
More than having a strategy, you need to involve your people in creating said strategy. They need to understand the who, what, when, where, and most importantly, why. Teams are ineffective if they are not working towards a common purpose. Be prepared to live and breathe that strategy – and share it often.
Related courses: Connecting People to Strategy, Making Strategy Work, Bridging Strategy to Outcomes. Learn more here.
You have key technical skills to advise the team
You don’t have to know everything, but you should know a lot – specifically about what it takes to do each and every role on your team successfully. You want to exhibit a “been there, done that” attitude. If there’s a specific program your team members use, you should know it just as well as they do. Know the processes and skills required to get the job done inside and out – it’ll inspire confidence and trust in your team.
Related courses: Establishing Credibility. Learn more here.
You collaborate cross-organizationally
Collaboration within the team is incredibly important, but so is collaboration with outside networks. There is an increasing number in the relationships needed to get things done (hello, flattened organizations). Whether that means cross-departmental collaboration or bringing in Alternative Workers on specific initiatives, great managers are able to put their egos aside and co-create.
Nothing diminishes the productivity of a team like a leader who’s need to take all the credit trumps the need to get the job done successfully.
Related courses: Leading in the Digital Matrix (available FREE here).
You are a strong decision-maker
Today’s workplace is already characterized by uncertainty, volatility, complexity, and ambiguity – don’t add to it with non-answers. As a manager, you set the tone. You must be strong and transparent in your decision making. It doesn’t always have to be the right decision from the jump, but a strong sense of confidence and belief in your choice will inspire those same sentiments in your staff.
Related courses: Leading Complex Decisions, Making Collaborative Decisions, Problem Solving Results: Solutions, Improvements, and Innovations. Learn more here.
Managers: what are they good for?
As it turns out, a whole lot. Aside from serving as a trusty resource during times of need, managers create the energy of the team. Their actions, words, and processes dictate the success, or failures, for the whole. Those who exhibit a combination of the traits above are the ones who will see the most return on investment – both in terms of successfully reaching the organizations’ goal, but also in terms of fostering professional development in each individual.