Google’s databases are immense. Now, after ten years of data collection, they can tell you the habits every good manager should have.
Think back to all of the various bosses and managers you’ve had over the years. Which ones stand out as the best and the worst?
You might have had bad bosses that micromanaged, didn’t communicate, or lacked vision. Good managers, however, might be more encouraging, collaborative, or hands-on. It varies per person in terms of preferences, but certain traits are unequivocally better than others.
There are countless articles on this very subject, but now, Google has a definitive answer.
They initiated Project Oxygen in 2008 to answer the question “What makes good managers good?” Ten years worth of data later, trends began to emerge. Google experts combed through the results to pinpoint key traits.
If you want to emulate effective and good managers, practice these five habits.
Trait #1: Effective Managers Collaborate
If you’re familiar with startup culture or tech culture, you might know the term “silos.”
It’s also, obviously, a farming term, but for the sake of this article, it refers to a specific way some companies structure their teams.
For instance, consider your average marketing firm — you probably have around five groups. Copy, Graphics, Accounts, HR, and Management. You might also have a Web team in the mix, as well, but these all represent “silos.”
The teams may interact, but their jobs remain relatively housed in their own camps.
But this may not be the most effective way managers can lead their teams. After all, “silos” can contribute to “us vs. them” mentalities, harming overall productivity and workplace contentedness.
Good managers know that they need to collaborate across ALL teams and encourage their employees to do the same. However, this doesn’t mean just saying “Get to know your fellow employees” or something off the cuff.
It requires working knowledge of what all the teams do, what their objectives are, and how they fit into the company’s vision. The big picture can’t come together without all of the components for painting, after all.
This holistically leads me to the second trait of good managers according to Google.
Trait #2: Get “in the Trenches” With Employees
Everyone has a bad day once in awhile — even good managers. But instead of chastising someone about it, effective leaders look at things a different way.
Sometimes, all it takes is showing your employees that you are just as committed to the project as they are. It’s good for morale, teamwork, and productivity.
It also shows that you can “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.”
Managers who say one thing but show different agendas with their actions can harm productivity and morale at best and actively hinder company success to the point of total failure at worst.
Collaborating and working with your teams requires the next important trait, too.
Trait #3: Communicate Well and Often
Everyone knows how important communication is, even in the information age. Actually, especially in the information age since text often loses some key aspects of human communication.
Communication can be verbal, non-verbal, physical, or otherwise. But it isn’t just the way you communicate that matters; it’s also the vocabulary you use and your tone.
While you might say “Great job” thinking you’re supporting your employee, your tone or body language might instead say “This wasn’t that important to me, but I’m saying what I think you want to hear so you’ll work harder.”
This might sound like an exaggeration, but consider books like If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda. Yes — the one from the TV show M*A*S*H.
The actor recalls how developing emotional intelligence helped people in tech and business fields better their communication skills. He naturally does so with strategies like improv and others found in the acting world. But it’s a fantastic read for all and useful for bosses.
This also extends to knowing what kind of intelligence you might possess as a leader.
Not everyone needs to be the best at ALL of them or even most of them. But you do need to work to understand other intelligence types and have those types present on your team. For reference, there are 9 types of intelligence including:
Determining which one you are is a key step in adopting the next Google-sanctioned trait of good managers.
Trait #4: Support Emotionally to Improve Productivity
Happy employees are generally more productive, so studies show. So it behooves employers to work to keep their employees happy, right?
This can come in a variety of ways from having company parties, providing raises commensurate with time and experience, bonuses, or just providing simple things like mental health days or childcare leave.
But these are “big things” in the grand scheme of day-to-day operations.
Smaller interactions accrue over time and can either build up or eat into an employee’s emotional ledger with you as a manager.
Let’s go back to that “Great job” you told that employee with bad body language and an indifferent tone. That employee might be having a tough time at home or balancing multiple jobs or just be having a bad day. They could also be totally fine.
Regardless of the employee’s emotional status, they notice that behavior of yours. And then, if it happens again, they might notice it as a pattern. They might think, “Am I doing something wrong? Maybe my best isn’t enough…”, etc.
Maintaining a positive emotional ledger comes down to performing the necessary emotional labor to maintain company happiness, success, and relationships within the company.
For those unfamiliar with emotional labor, check out this guide on QZ. Ironically, employees often perform emotional labor for their bosses rather than the other way around. This results in unhappy employees because they are also doing other types of labor, too.
Now, this isn’t to belittle your role as a manager — in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Building these positive relationships and doing the work to maintain them including communicating, collaborating, understanding, and supporting. These all play into the final trait Google found most good managers to exhibit.
Trait #5: Trust Employees to do Their Jobs
This gif is from the movie Mean Girls which, if you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s on Netflix. Go watch it right now or just watch this scene on YouTube.
It exhibits how a flippant attitude toward things can negatively affect you.
While this is played for comedic effect and trades in popularity vs. becoming a better manager, it does showcase how insecurity can lead to disaster.
Many employees work worse when their boss micromanages them and it results in many great employees leaving companies.
The tendency toward micromanaging may start out innocently enough: as an impulse to make sure employees put their best work forward. But it can warp over time when mixed with stress, anxiety, insecurity, and inattentiveness.
The final trait Google data showed good managers to have was trust in their employees. Not only trust them to do their jobs, but to come to them if they needed help.
Of course, employees will only come to you for help if they feel it’s the kind of environment where they can do that. That’s why cultivating all of the traits on this list is necessary in order to join the ranks of Google-approved bosses.