Free Answers From Google On How To Be A Better Manager

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Google Has Been Searching For What Makes A Good Manager
Google Has Been Searching For What Makes A Good Manager

One of the biggest challenges that modern IT leaders face is how to do a good job of managing their IT team. The burden of making the right technology decisions, managing budgets, and meeting the needs of the rest of the company is challenging enough, but what can make or break a manager is how good of a job you do nurturing and growing your staff. The folks at Google have the same issues and they’ve harnessed their immense computing power to come up with a solution…

How Google Solved The Riddle Of IT Management

I’m not sure if you’ve been reading the news lately, but Google’s been having a problem: they are starting to lose their IT employees. Once upon a time Google was the coolest place on the planet to work, but things have changed.

With the arrival of cooler places to work (i.e. Facebook), folks have been defecting from Google in droves. Adam Bryant reports that this may be one of the reasons that some of the Google number crunchers were tasked to work on a new project in early 2009: Project Oxygen.

This team was charged with crunching all of the data that Google had gathered in order to determine what characteristics of bosses the Google employees were looking for. Basically Google wanted to know what makes someone a good boss.

To determine this, the team wrote code to process all of the performance reviews, results from employee feedback surveys, and nomination forms for top managers. What they were looking for were words and phrases that dealt with either praise or complaints.

What Google Found Out

At Google, technical expertise has always been what they’ve valued in their employees the most. Managers there were encouraged to be hands-off types of managers – don’t hold your people back. The thinking was that if workers got stuck, they could then reach out to their bosses for help because it was assumed that their bosses had deeper technical skills.

Well guess what, they got it wrong! It turns out that what IT workers were really looking for is what we’ve always been told that a manager should be: involved.

Here are the top 5 most important characteristics of an effective IT leader as uncovered by Google’s data mining efforts:

  1. Be a good coach

  2. Empower your teams and don’t micromanage

  3. Express interest in team member’s success and personal well-being

  4. Don’t be a sissy: be productive and results orientated.

  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.

What All Of This Means For You

I guess what Google found out shouldn’t really come to any of us as that much of a surprise. I think that we always knew that the secret to successfully managing an IT department had to be the same secret that every other department in the company was trying to uncover.

Google started out thinking that the ability to master technology was the answer and ended up with a completely different answer – it’s the human touch in the end that is the most important. I believe that this lends a lot of creditability to their findings.

IT Managers need to step back for a minute and think about what this means: we’ve got to start to take the time to truly connect with our team if we want them to experience true job satisfaction. I believe that we can all do this, it’s just that we all need to take the time to do it right!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you agree that an IT leader’s technical skills are less important than their “soft” people skills?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’ve got some bad news for all of you IT managers out there: it turns out that 25% of the best workers in the IT department are planning on leaving within the next 12 months. Not to depress you even more, but it turns out that those internal job change programs that you have perhaps created that are intended to develop the next generation of IT leaders don’t seem to be working – 40% of the internal rotations that are made by IT “high-pots” (high potential) employees end up in failure. Let’s take a look at what problems you need to solve …

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