Google Experiment Goes Wrong; Confirms Need for Leadership Training

When Google launched “Project Oxygen” years ago, they had a theory. The belief was that their large layer of middle managers (like most organizations have) was slowing them down. They believed that middle managers created a bureaucracy within the organization that literally got in the way of production. What they found was something completely opposite, and the findings should be a wake-up call to business leaders.

As reported in Inc. Magazine by Scott Mautz, the experiment actually proved Goggle’s theory was wrong. Instead, it proved how important middle managers really are to an organization. But Google did not simply see a failed experiment and stop there. Google turned the results into a study and found specific traits managers need to have to be successful in the manager role.

Key Take-a-Ways
When you review the traits required for success, you may realize that most of these things are not part of training within organizations. Typically, companies assume that good managers come with these traits already ingrained, and that is quite simply not reality – especially when hiring or promoting new managers.

The traits Google found are listed below. Think of some of your best managers, and some of your not-so-great managers as you review the ten traits. Do they have all of these? Do they have any of these? Have we ever taught them to do these things, or held them accountable to these things?

• Be a good coach
• Empower teams (don’t micro-manage)
• Create an inclusive environment
• Be productive and results-oriented
• Be a good communicator
• Have a clear vision and strategy
• Support career development
• Have expertise
• Collaborate
• Be a strong decision-maker

Again, as you review this list, ask yourself if your managers currently have these traits, and ask yourself if your company trains to and supports these traits? For example, do your managers even know that it is important for them to be focused on their teams’ career goals? Chances are good that it is not a priority for managers, and chances are also good that you have never asked them to make it a focus.

Think about your most newly hired managers for a moment. Do they know how to coach employees? Do they know the importance of open communication? With the pressure to make a great impression, to hit numbers, and to achieve goals, are the things on this list even a priority at all? Maybe one or two, but probably not all ten. The problem is that these 10 things help build great teams, help create high morale, and help to build a great culture.

Great companies create a tool to train their leaders to be focused on items like this list, and then give them support and hold them accountable to do so. Below is a great example from Mid-States Concrete Industries, located in South Beloit, IL. The Mid-States TEAM Leadership tool ensures that leaders are focused on specific traits – focused on having specific conversations with each employee, so that they are supporting, coaching, and building relationships with each team member.

In this example, Mid-States is focused on a team member’s two-year anniversary with the organization. The manager and HR department work together to review past achievements and ensure the employee is working towards career goals. The marketing team makes sure the employees’ milestone is celebrated on social media platforms. And the milestone earns the team member a one-on-one meeting with the president of the company, Hagen Harker to celebrate the milestone and discuss the future.

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A tool like the Mid-States example goes a long way in making sure that managers are just as focused on supporting their teams as they are on overall production – a key to overall team success!

Podcast 63: 5 Steps to Creating an Organization Obsessed with Going Above and Beyond

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About The Author

Dave Murray

Dave is the Senior Customer Experience Consultant for The DiJulius Group and has helped dozens of companies create incredible systems that allow them to consistently deliver superior customer service. Dave’s experience has varied from leading call centers and front-line team members, to working closely with key partners and stakeholders.