HR and Recruiting

10 traits of a great manager, according to Google

Written by Kate Lopaze

There are many reasons that Google has been successful in its bid to become a globally dominant company. (Its onetime motto, “don’t be evil,” probably didn’t hurt.) But one of the most important factors is one you can’t see by going online and using one of their many tools, or asking your Google Home to tell you: effective management. You don’t build a company that big and that successful without quality people at all levels.

In its regular Project Oxygen studies to analyze how to improve management and leadership at the company, Google has come up with a number of traits that make a good manager.

1. “Is a good coach”

A coach is only as strong as what his or her players produce. A high-quality manager supports the team, always working closely with team members to provide guidance, motivate them, and make sure that everything is moving along as it should.

2. “Empowers team and does not micromanage”

It may seem like getting the outcome you want from employees means micromanaging their every move. In reality, it’s a fast way to take power away from individuals and make them less likely to grow and change in ways that make the work better. A great manager knows when to step back and let team members take agency and initiative, building their own confidence and leadership skills while getting the work done. Trusting your team to do what they need to do is a morale booster, and helps create more productive, more satisfied employees.

3. “Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being”

If employees don’t feel supported, work is likely to suffer and you start losing talented people. A great manager makes sure that each team member feels valued and supported in their work. Knowing that your manager cares about you, and not just the work output, improves morale and helps employees feel like a necessary part of the team’s goals.


4. “Is productive and results-oriented”

Setting goals and making sure everyone is working effectively toward them is a key part of managing well. It’s up to the manager to set those expectations, and show that he or she is just as committed to them as everyone else.

5. “Is a good communicator—listens and shares information”

Nothing causes frustration in the ranks faster than poor communication to and from the top. There’s a reason that communication skills are on just about every job description under the sun. It’s not just about passing information, it’s also about knowing how to hear and understand what’s going on, react appropriately, and communicate outward. That means being able to navigate sticky work politics, as well as take feedback and concerns from employees.

6. “Supports career development and discusses performance”

A great manager doesn’t just see team members as faceless worker bees doing the same job over and over indefinitely. A great manager works with team members to find opportunities for improvement and define job goals in a way that pushes them forward. Performance reviews (whether formal or periodic “how are things going?” check-ins) can identify ways employees can grow and let them know you’re there to support that.

7. “Has a clear vision/strategy for the team”

Another morale killer: not really understanding how or why the work is being done. Managing well includes coaching employees toward a particular goal or strategy. Sometimes those are handed down from above as part of a larger corporate mission, but other times it means defining what your group hopes to achieve. Having a clear strategy and communicating that to team members shows how everyday work is contributing to the company’s larger goals or mission. It’s your job to make sure everyone’s seeing the forest and the trees.

8. “Has key technical skills to help advise the team”

It may be that your job is assembling and cultivating experts—not being an expert yourself in a particular process or skill set. You don’t necessarily have to be better than your employees at everything, but you should definitely have enough technical skill to be able to speak intelligently about it, and be ready to provide guidance or support when necessary.

9. “Collaborates across Google”

No team is an island. (Okay, that’s not quite how it goes, but you get the gist.) No matter how specialized your team may be, chances are you have to get information from other teams, communicate with other teams, or collaborate on projects with other teams. It’s important to make sure those connections with other groups and colleagues across the company are valued, and ensure that communication is smooth between your team and others.

10. “Is a strong decision maker”

Being the boss means having to make the decisions, tough or not. Getting input from others is important, but if you want to push your managerial skills to the next level, that means owning the decision-making process and backing your decisions with as much information and education as possible.

If you’re looking to boost your bossing, paying attention to these 10 qualities will help you become a well-rounded manager.

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About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.

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