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📈 Google Leadership Principles At a Glance

Google Leadership Principles At a Glance cover

Google Leadership Principles At a Glance


A leadership team is one of the company’s most important assets. Leaders motivate, inspire, make important decisions concerning the company’s future, and drive change.

Clearly defined leadership principles build the value ladder any business requires to thrive.

What makes a good leader? What kind of skills does a leader need for a team to be supportive? What are the top leadership principles to adopt to skyrocket your business?

Google may just have some answers.

ImportantGoogle has spent more than a decade studying management techniques and leadership traits in order to determine the most common behaviors and principles of effective leaders.

Its Project Oxygen, launched in 2008, identified the top behaviors and principles of the company’s highest-performing managers.

WarningIn 2003, Google had just 800 employees. Now, more than 70,000 people work under the umbrella of Alphabet, the parent company created in a 2015 corporate reorganization.

All those people at Google needed leaders. People who could do it in an environment of incessant change and planetary scale.

ImportantIt was the company’s success at reliably turning the supremely talented people it found into elite managers that enabled it to maintain and extend its dominance over two decades — an eon in internet time.

It’s no secret that being a good leader can make all the difference in how happy your team is and how well it performs. 

And it seems Google is strongly determined to do better for their managers and the teams they lead.

Regardless of what you think of the tech giant, there is no doubt their organization has made a difference in the world. Ever wondered what they look for in a leader? What is expected of you if you are leading at Google?

Be a Good Coach

The top trait of a successful manager at Google is that the person is considered “a good coach” by employees, meaning that they are able to effectively teach and advise employees on how to perform tasks, while offering constructive feedback.

Employees need and appreciate a manager who takes time to coach and challenge them, and not just when they’re behind.

Eric Schmidt used to make a list of his best employees, as identified by multiple levels of peer-references, and interact with them personally to encourage them to implement their innovative ideas and to insulate them from unwanted interferences by others.

Increasingly, managers need to apply coaching skills in their role to support team members’ development.

ImportantPart of developing a coaching mindset is to show openness to growth through feedback. Managers should encourage and ask for upwards feedback to help learn in which areas to improve.

Don’t sugar-coat a critique, but deliver it with compassion. Without the right fuel-air mixture of empathy and directness, you’ll veer off into coddling, manipulative, or aggressive territory.

The best way to make feedback actionable is to make it immediate.

ImportantWhenever possible, deliver feedback within a day of whatever event you’re commenting on so it’s fresh in everyone’s minds. And don’t stress about formalities.

Don’t wait until annual review time. Don’t even wait until your next 1-on-1 meeting.

WarningKim Scott, author of Radical Candor (and, notably, a former Google exec) argues you need only two elements to provide effective feedback: show that you care personally and challenge the other person directly.

Empower Your Team

Micromanaging is a common mistake managers make without even realizing it, one that discourages and frustrates employees.

Good managers at Google do not micromanage employees , they empower their team to take control of their own work and projects.

ImportantIn other words, employees need to be given enough reign to get their work done without constant interference that can cause delays and hurt performance.

Give your team space. Be flexible.

In order to make the employees the owners of their work, Eric Schmidt used to provide a very broad definition of the company goal and leave the implementation entirely to the employees.

Good managers are able to give direction and autonomy all at once.

WarningBy setting team goals, managers provide people with clarity on what they’re working towards and align with how they are contributing to the team and business success.

At the same time, they cultivate trust in giving employees the freedom to work on their tasks with minimal hand-holding.

Empowering people is helping them to uncover and focus on their strengths, encouraging professional development.

ImportantBest managers offer the right balance of freedom and advice, showing they trust their direct reports, and advocate for the team.

When the company became too large to easily manage the flow of new ideas and projects, Google instituted a schedule of meetings between employees and the company’s founders and chief executives. At these meetings, employees can pitch new ideas and projects directly to the top executives.

All Google employees follow a rule called the 70/20/10 rule, under which they are expected to devote.

0 %
assigned by management
0 %
related to core projects
0 %
new ideas and projects

The company credits this rule with being the driving force behind many of Google’s new products and services, because people are given enough space to be creative.

Be Inclusive

As part of the manifesto of the good Google manager, you will express an interest in team members’ success and personal well-being.

For many managers, this may seem outside the realm of responsibility.

ImportantAnd yet, it plays a key role in employees feeling engaged and recognized in the workplace. While revenue and profit is important, we should also remember that people are the ones helping us achieve our targets.

As a good leader, you must allow employees to function outside the company hierarchy.

As corporate hierarchies can often obstruct employees’ work, Eric Schmidt reinforced the existing system of allowing employees a certain degree of freedom to create their own projects and choose their own teams.

It’s not enough just to have a diverse team, good leaders and managers strive to create an inclusive environment every day.

Employees want to feel valued by their managers, so a good boss takes an active interest in their employees’ individual success and happiness with their work.

You will celebrate the small wins. A team lunch after reaching an important goal shows you care and helps team members form personal connections. Even a quick public acknowledgment when somebody turns in outstanding work goes a long way.

Managers should be attuned to their team members’ wellbeing, demonstrating that they are valued members of the team.

ImportantBeing able to sense when people are not doing well, are overworked, stressed, or are in a conflict, are key qualities that help managers delegate and re-prioritize tasks, to help their team be more effective.

Showing an interest in people’s wellbeing also helps to develop a greater sense of trust.

You will try to be open-minded about flexible working arrangements. If you’re willing to entertain reasonable requests, they’ll pay you back in dedication and loyalty.

Be Results Driven

Employees don’t want to work for a lazy boss. They’d rather be part of a team that’s productive and successful, and that’s hard to do if the leader doesn’t set the tone.

As a manager, you’ll be looked to as a role model.

ImportantYou can’t expect people to give their best at work if they don’t see you doing it, so be sure you’re always on your A game. That means putting in the effort and getting results.

Whilst having high emotional intelligence is an important skill, it’s natural that managers are expected to be results-oriented.

Having a clear and established set of goals for your employees can help a manager keep them on track to produce consistent results.

It’s comforting to think in terms of tasks to complete. But the business doesn’t care about your to-do list.

WarningIt cares about what you were able to achieve. Outcomes count. Outputs of effort  don’t.

Setting clear expectations might be the most foundational element for employee engagement. Great leaders give people a measurable target to hit and give them the space to run at it.

In a study by Gallup, only about half of all workers surveyed strongly indicated that they knew what was expected of them at work.

“Underpromise and overdeliver” is pretty good advice in most corporate settings, but it’s the opposite of what leaders were taught at Google. There, overdelivering meant you weren’t setting your targets high enough.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure our teams are delivering on key results and are achieving the goals set out.

ImportantWe also need to ensure these results are contributing to the company’s overall success. In this scenario, the ability for managers to strategize, organize, execute and delegate is extremely valuable.

InfoThat philosophy was baked into the way managers handled OKRs (objectives and key results), a method of goal-setting and performance tracking that began at Intel but is now even more associated with Google.

Listen More, Speak Less

Communicating effectively is one of the basics of being a good manager (or a good employee for that matter). But it’s also important to remember that great managers prioritize listening.

Good communication skills are a must once you find yourself in a leadership position.

ImportantLeaders need to be able to communicate when there’s room for improvement, but also know how to provide recognition when it’s due.

When you listen to people, they feel personally valued. It signals commitment.

No matter what the situation, managers should practice their listening skills, which in turn will help them get a better understanding of the team dynamics and interactions.

There’s a reason Google-speak like “moonshot” and “10Xer” has because standard startup lingo.

Even though it’s the ultimate culture of engineers, Google founders appreciated the power of language to inspire people across a huge organization to accomplish huge things.

Communication skills are necessary for success in nearly any position. In fact, billionaire investor Warren Buffett has said that “one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now — at least — is to hone your communication skills.”

As a leader, you must understand the importance of storytelling.

ImportantGreat leaders are great storytellers because narrative is how we learn. The power of a story is to inspire your teams and help them feel connected to the company’s mission and vision.

Remember that knowledge is power.

Sharing information can help remove bottlenecks and also keep everyone feeling like they are in the loop and empowered to make decisions.

Serve Your Team

The best bosses at Google show a vested interest in their employees’ growth and future success. Such support can make them happier, more effective workers.

Leaders have to play many different roles and one of those is supporting their direct reports’ professional development.

ImportantLearning how to identify and leverage strengths in the workplace is the main differentiator between high performing teams and those underperforming.

Career development and guidance are essential — give your team the tools they need to thrive.

The trick is being willing to guide them away from your team if that’s what is best for them. Have career-related discussions in your 1-on-1s twice a year, and fuel them with open-ended questions.

In reviewing employees’ performance, Eric Schmidt made it a point to identify reviewers from among professionals whom the concerned employee respects for their objectivity and impartiality.

Leadership isn’t about us, it is about others and how we can help them grow, achieve and reach the goals they and the organization set.

ImportantTo inspire high performance, leaders need to set hold employees accountable for meeting expectations and respond quickly when employees need support.

Give a Vision

A strong leader needs to present employees with clear and articulated goals, along with a road map to achieving them, to ensure that they can work efficiently and at a high level.

It’s vital for leaders to have a vision of what they want their team to achieve and how they plan to do so.

This helps give focus and direction to everyone on the team and also to the rest of the business to know what each team is doing to contribute to the business strategy.

Each team is composed of individuals with their own unique talents, and leaders need to coordinate and guide these individuals to work together.

Simon Sinek’s TED Talk covers some of the basics. This competency calls on many of the skills mentioned above and is the glue between them all.

There is a strong positive correlation between performance and a shared sense of purpose: two thirds of high-achieving teams understand how their work benefits customers and the business, whereas only one third of low-achieving teams do.

Leaders who are transparent whenever it’s practical help build trust within their organization.

ImportantPlus, your team will accomplish more when they see how their work fits into the larger picture. A clear and shared vision can help members of your team work well together.

Substance Matters

In most cases, a leader at Google needs to have a strong grasp of the same skills their employees must possess in order to advise them on how to best complete their tasks.

Chances are, you earned your leadership position by being an exemplary individual contributor.

ImportantNow you need to keep your skills fresh enough to understand the work your team is doing and give them valuable feedback.

It’s hard for a manager to guide the team if he or she doesn’t have the right technical skills.

Managers increase credibility when they can practice what they preach.

But don’t go too deep.

WarningThe fastest way to be relieved of your leadership role is to keep doing the same work you were doing before.

Great leaders understand the jobs of their people, including their everyday tasks and challenges. If the leader is moved into a new department, he or she will take time to get to know how things are done, and work to build trust before making drastic changes or offering advice.

You don’t have to come up with the boldest ideas or be the best coder.

ImportantYou do have to show up for your people. Build a solid platform for them to stand on, then get out of the way so they can do the best work of their lives.

Final Thoughts

Google Leadership Principles At a Glance Final Thoughts
As a leader, It is important to not just see your own success, but focus on the success of others.Sundar Pichai

Google took the time and effort to determine the leadership qualities that are most important in their culture.

Yes, they could have borrowed a list of competencies from the latest leadership best-seller, but they didn’t.

ImportantThey tackled this challenge the same way they improve their search results; by analyzing their own data and drawing their own conclusions.

Google uses those traits as guidelines for training its own managers and improving their performance.

Over the past decade, Google says the company has seen improvements in areas like employees’ performance, satisfaction and turnover as a result of Project Oxygen.

The qualities identified are amazingly simple and do not require a manager to change his or her personality.

ImportantRather, the changes required are a matter of behavioral changes, which can be accomplished by regular and deliberate practice.

Strategy is important. Scenario testing provides focus. However, there is no replacement for being a strong decision maker.

WarningYou can spend unlimited time analyzing, strategizing and scenario-testing.

It’s eventually the action that matters. Are you ready?

These behaviors and leadership traits make a great manager at Google. What makes a great manager and leader  in your organization? Let me know in the comments below!

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