8 Keys to be a Great Manager – Project Oxygen

Management is an art and science. Simply put management is the ability to get the work done through others. If you cannot work in a team structure you cannot be a good manager. Now one of the most extensive research on good managers was done by the People Analytics group of Google (they named it […]

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Management is an art and science. Simply put management is the ability to get the work done through others. If you cannot work in a team structure you cannot be a good manager. Now one of the most extensive research on good managers was done by the People Analytics group of Google (they named it as Project Oxygen). The results were quite extraordinary and here are the elements of it. I first read about this in the book Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. Here are the eight keys with my take on each.

A good manager is a good coach – Being a coach is totally different than being a boss. The 21st century work force needs more coaches than bosses. As a coach, your goal is to get the most out of everyone in the team. It is not done by playing politics. One good book on this subject is “Trillion Dollar Coach.” A coach makes sure the right team is chosen to play and ensures everyone in the team is taken care.

A good manager empowers others and doesn’t micromanage – No one likes to be micro managed. Therefore, the first who principle outlined by Jim Collins in his seminal work of “Good to Great” is so important. The principle states that get the right people on the bus and get them in the right seats before driving the bus. A good manager also empowers others by giving candid feedback in private and reinforcing the positive behaviors that work.

A good manager expresses interest and concern in subordinates’ success and wellbeing– According to Geoff Colvin in his book Humans are Underrated empathy is the key 21st century skill. There are a lot of things that machines can do better and cheaper than humans can but empathy is one of the traits that humans own. It is important to develop empathy towards your fellow human beings, customers (Remember Apple is successful because of its deep empathy with what the customer will revere through breakthrough design) and family. You can develop deep empathy by understanding how everything works and putting yourself in different roles that require effective interaction. So, this can be done by expressing interest in each person in your team. This also comes from having an abundance mentality and fostering humanity across the workforce.

A good manager is results oriented– All top managers are extremely result oriented. As they say talk is cheap and its only action that counts. It’s not the number of hours you put at work but the value of the work you produce in those hours that is most important. Have a clear blueprint of the key result areas in your work and ensure the results are aligned with company objectives. The results are always what keep organizations moving towards glory. Concentrate on activities that will help you achieve your results and ensure those tasks are given top priority.

A good manager listens and shares information – Daniel Goleman made EQ very famous with his book Emotional Intelligence. It has been proven that a lot of top organizations are looking for people who have high EQ. A minimum IQ is the entry price but once that is established it is a high level of EQ which involves self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management is what will get you in and help you stay there. Keep upgrading your soft skills to stay relevant in today’s marketplace. The other key is to share information widely and no surprises through the grapevine. Transparency builds trust more than anything else.         

A good manager helps with career development– One of the keys I believe helps managers is if they institute a culture of self-reliance across their teams. Once everyone in the organization understands that the manager is interested in their career development they take charge of their careers. Developing self-reliance means you are your own boss. It is good to encourage everyone in your team to manage their career as the CEO of their life. It is your responsibility to help them upgrading their skills, taking certifications, being current and offering books to read in their area of expertise. Once they see themselves as the path maker in their lives they will become self-reliant and the organization will also benefit from their work. Being self-reliant is not a choice but a requirement to excel in any field. It has become a recent trend to talk about being the CEO of your career but Andy Grove wrote about this way back in his 1996 book Only the Paranoid Survive.

A good manager has a clear vision and strategy – What makes a manager become a leader is an audacious vision. A vision can motivate the team and vision is something that can get us out of bed and into the market to deliver excellent value. Let’s consider the vision of JFK to land a man on the moon. It was clear and audacious. Clearly set the vision for your life and enterprise. Imagine yourself in 2039 and then paint a picture of where you want your life to be. You can do the same thing for your organization as well. In the book Game Changers Dave Asprey says one thing all top people seem to have is a compelling vision of what is truly important to them and aligning all their activities around the important things. Once the vision is set we then need to come up with the strategy to execute the vision. Unless we have a good strategy in place a vision will remain a platitude.

A good manager has key technical skills – If a manager can provide hands-on direction to the team the better the results for the organization. So as a manger you can always learn new skills and ensure your team is well led.

There you have it the 8 traits of good managers. When we start thinking along these lines we can make the most of our talent and build a wonderful career in management.

You can check out my other articles on management.

14 Keys to Become an Excellent Manager

A to Z of Management

The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.

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