Revealed: The Most Important Management Behaviour

In: BlogDate: Apr 29, 2013By: Henry Stewart

At our Happy Workplaces Conference last week we got to experience a Google manager induction, from Emma Rapaport. She explained that some years ago Google had discovered, from its exit interviews, that some people left the company at least partly because of their manager. Their response was to work out what made a great manager, in what became known as Project Oxygen.

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They started with the data on performance across thousands of managers, analysed what their most effective and least effective managers did, and came up with a set of eight common behaviours across the most effective managers. These eight are now used in every new manager induction at Google, their courses are tagged according to which behaviour they help and the managers attend training in any in which they need development.

What The Data Tells Us

Wow. For me this is an example of what sets Google apart. First, most companies would have little idea of trends in Exit interviews. Second many companies would accept as inevitable that some people leave because of their managers. I’ve seen research suggesting that across all companies 1 in 2 people leave their job to get away from their manager. The analysis was pure Google – no value judgement, just find out what the data says. And finally they made sure what they had discovered was used across all manager development in the company.

Now a quick Google for Project Oxygen will reveal what those 8 attributes are. But what Emma revealed is that the 8 are ranked, so they know which are most important. Last night I tried an exercise with a group of senior managers at Cass Business School. I gave them the list of 8 characteristics and asked them to rank the top 2. Nobody identified what Google found to be the most important characteristic: Be a Good Coach.

Be a Good Coach

Even after it was revealed, most of those managers looked puzzled. So I asked how many had a coach. Most did. I asked what that coach did well:

“They make me believe in myself”

“They guide without telling”

“They ask questions to help me solve my problems”

Isn’t that what you would want of your manager? The penny started to drop. Or check out the graph below, suggesting a very strong and close link between the effectiveness of a manager as a coach and the satisfaction and commitment of employees. I don’t know the Canadian Clemmer Group, that this comes from, but the claim is that it is based on 250,000 feedback surveys:

Put This Into Action

Google is clear that all of the 8 attributes are important. But I focus on Be a Good Coach because they see it as the most important one and because so few managers see this as their key role.

How would you manage differently if your emphasis was on being a coach to your people? What do you need to do to develop your skills in this area?

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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