As we all know, Google is first at pretty much everything. In 2002 Google was the first to ask the questions, “Do companies need managers? Do startups require managers?” and got rid of management altogether. The idea was that engineers work better if there’s no one to breathe down their necks.
At the time, it didn’t work to their advantage. But that was a turning point, cause since then Google set upon a quest to identify what constitutes a perfect manager. And here are the essential techniques that will make you a better manager.
One of the fascinating things is that while Google is a technical giant, they rate technical skills amongst managers as the least important aspect. That’s one of the many ways Google’s vision of a manager is different from the rest of the world.
Google encourages PMs to stand not as much for “project manager” as “people manager.” Google provides new managers with a strong and robust support network, management resources, and learning programs. It usually trains new managers after they’ve already started their new role – generally 45 to 90 days into management. While, intuitively, it makes sense to prepare someone for a job before they start doing it. Google’s team has found managers are most receptive to learning after they’ve had some time in the new role and gathered some experience upon which to reflect.
Google encourages PMs to guide managers to be realistic about what they can commit to developing. It encourages PMs to ask the team. If managers don’t know which behaviors would have the biggest impact on their team, suggest that they ask their team. This helps discern what’s most important to the team members and shows the team that their feedback is both heard and used to act. Be a role model for improvement. Managers should focus on continuously improving as an example for their teams.
If you want to win a person’s disposition, help him or her to build a career. Career Development Assistance is one of the defining features of Google management strategies. By helping to identify achievable goals, you help your team fulfill their full potential. It’s quite straightforward. You need to ask a person what he or she wants to get from work. There are, of course, cases when you hear “more money.” And that is OK. At some point, it is the most significant aspect.
However, the motivational power of money diminishes with each subsequent achievement. So, Google suggests you accept any goal that a person deems valuable for the time being. But, if the goal says the same with time passing, there is a catch. The goals can and should change. As much for your teams as for the enterprise. Any manager can rely on one goal for a year or two. It only works if you can review the objectives every 3–4 months. Also, at some point in career development, you will need to direct a person to a higher purpose. It should be still valuable and tangible. It will be perfect if this objective is aligned with the need of a company.
Align the Goal with Opportunities
This is the direct “next step” after the defining of the goals. For example, you’ve learned that the team leader wants to become a project manager. But prerequisites for a PM are high. Will you be able to arrange such a career move? The point is to ensure that you will be able to fill in the expectations. It is better to align the goals early on. What if the person will be unhappy to know there is no desired career opportunity in the company? This person will leave anyway sooner or later. But you have a chance to change expectations. Who knows, maybe it will benefit everyone.
Measurable Action Plan
You require one. Develop a transparent development plan, or if the organization has one in place, make it understood and approachable for your team. Such a plan should convey the following:
- What a person should learn or master.
- How will you track and evaluate progress?
- What are the deadlines?
- What are the retreat options?
Project Oxygen study identified three manager pitfalls or situations where managers of all types struggled, and tips we use to mitigate them.
When a manager has a tough or sudden transition (e.g., being quickly promoted or hired from outside with little training)
In such cases:
- Guide new managers on the transition from individual contributor to manager and help them in the shift to leading others;
- Develop onboarding resources for new managers that focus on understanding your organization’s culture and expectations of successful managers.
When a manager lacks a consistent approach to performance management and career development
- Encourage managers to hold 1:1 meetings and career development conversations with all their team members, not just the high or low performers.
When a manager spends too little time managing and communicating
- Make sure to show that the organization values management. Recognize and celebrate great managers and hold them up as role models and teachers.
Humanity in HR
A top project manager knows the personal stuff of each team member as much as a professional. You should not expect super performance from a person with troubles at home or with health. A person in love will be distracted more than ever. The key here is to balance three main elements:
- Empathy: You can feel the emotional state of another person, and understand the circumstances. However, too much empathy and you will burn out.
- Compassion: It is your ability and desires to assist someone emotionally when needed. Compassion builds strong relationships. But too much of it – critics and hard talks become painful.
- Curiosity: The final component is curiosity. Real one. You can’t fake it much. People feel it.
You need to practice all three to master the skill of praising, constructive criticism, and care.