Coaching & Leadership

How Google Identifies Great Leaders and How You Can Too

Hana Belbecir

Content Manager at intuo I believe continuous learning is the way to become the best version of yourself.

Finding great managers is like finding a needle in a haystack. They are so rare that when you finally find one, you better hold on to it because you can lose them in the blink of an eye. Good luck finding another great manager and leader in one. 

It was quite difficult to keep a straight face writing that introduction since that is not what we believe at intuo at all.  And we're not the only ones. Not so long ago, Google shook up the business world with their Project Oxygen where they proved that everyone can become a great leader. How? With 10 key behaviours!

Academy On Air: Project Oxygen: Why Managers Matter

Managers' essential traits

It might surprise you Google isn't only about free meals, colourful slides and game rooms. For years now, the tech giant has been doing research on what makes a great manager and how you can recognise them in your company or hire them. They summed the traits they are looking for in a manager in 10 core behaviours. When hiring managers Google asks them questions around these 10 traits or when promoting someone to become a manager they look for signals that imply these behaviours. They are ranked chronologically in terms of importance. 

According to Google, a great manager should: 

  1. be a good coach
  2. empower the team and not micromanage
  3. create an inclusive team environment, show concern for success and well-being
  4. be productive and result oriented
  5. be a good communicator, listen and share information
  6. support career development and discuss performance
  7. have a clear vision and strategy for the team
  8. have key technical skills that help advise the team
  9. collaborate across the company
  10. be a strong decision maker

While this list might seem straightforward, in reality that's not the case. Many managers are too busy with performance and numbers rather than actually managing their people. Google knows that's true, we know it and you probably do too. So next time you want to promote someone or hire a manager, it would be a good idea to check this list.

How To Identify an Exceptional Manager

No one is born a great manager. You become a great manager by having the right mindset and being handed the right tools and trainings. 

If you can improve your managers, they will have an impact on their teams which will have a great impact on the company

To identify great managers and to be able to know where they might need some coaching and training, Google sends out management surveys. In these surveys, based on the 10 behaviours mentioned above, they try to get to the bottom of how they could help managers become an even better version of themselves. 

You can use this list made by Google as a guide to check where your manager skills could need an extra push:

  • My manager gives me actionable feedback that helps me improve my performance.
  • My manager does not micromanage.
  • My manager shows consideration for me as a person.
  • The actions of my manager show that she values the perspective I bring to the team, even if it's different from her own.
  • My manager keeps the team focused on our priority results and deliverables.
  • My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about career development in the past six months.
  • My manager communicates clear goals for our team.
  • My manager has the technical skills required to manage me.
  • I would recommend my manager to others.
  • I am satisfied with my manager's overall performance as a manager.

There are also two additional questions that clearly emphasise that team members have an active voice in their manager's growth path.

  1. What would you recommend your manager keeps doing?
  2. What would you have your manager change?

Learn your way to become the next Google

It's obvious, you can't just magically possess all the traits mentioned above. You can however take measures to become all these things such as a good coach and result oriented.

That's why managers need trainingIf you bump into a manager that's not open for coaching and training, he's probably not the one you want to keep working with.

Do not hire for perfect technical skills but for emergent leadership skills

Google creates a lot of self awareness for everyone in the company. They want their people to know why they do what they do, they need to have the same mindset as the company. Google hires for emergent leadership skills and not for perfect technical skills. That's why technical skills are ranked 8th in the list above, they matter but they don't get priority over people skills. As a manager, it's way more important to have a great sense of commitment towards your employees' success. 

You don't have to be a tech giant with thousands of employees to implement the best practices mentioned above. Use the 10 behaviours and survey questions and combine them with regular one-on-ones, training, coaching and the right tools. Only this way you will become the best manager you can possibly be, and as a result lift yourself and your company to another level.

Become a better manager with Arne's Talent Enablement course.
Discover how to become a better talent manager in a 20 day, 2-min video course. Custom built for managers, this course offers tons of tips and best practices you can use right away!

Side note: the words manager and leader are used interchangeably because we believe a great manager should be a great leader and the other way around.