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The Water Cooler

A blog of fresh ideas and findings from organizational leaders and researchers on how they’re making work better, shared regularly.

Google's ongoing effort to make managers awesome

Filed under: Managers
Google's ongoing effort to make managers awesome
Managers matter a lot and can have a huge impact on employee performance. Learn how Google came to terms with this and sought to make every manager at Google awesome.

Google hasn’t always properly appreciated management. In 2002, Google ran an uncontrolled “experiment” by simply getting rid of all managers. It didn’t go well. So in 2008 a team of researchers set out to prove what some at Google suspected — that managers don’t matter. But very quickly the team discovered quite the opposite. Managers matter a lot.

Michelle Donovan, one of the original researchers, recently spoke about how the study was conducted, the surprises they found, and how that work still influences how Google trains and supports managers today. The research project was called Project Oxygen and sought to figure out exactly what makes for a great manager at Google. The guiding question shifted from “Do managers matter?” to “What if every Googler had an awesome manager?”

Project Oxygen identified a set of common behaviors among the best managers and those behaviors now guide management development programs. The team has been able to show an overall improvement in management at Google by helping managers get better at coaching, empowering teams, managing team energy, staying results-oriented, communicating, developing teams, and sharing a vision.

You can see Google’s new manager training materials here and learn more about how you can empower managers in your organization with re:Work’s managers resources here.