Guide: Identify what makes a great manager

Introduction

Research shows that managers matter. They can have a significant impact on business outcomes and employee engagement. But many organizations do not adequately select or develop their managers, and miss a great opportunity for business advancement. To start, explore the external research and determine what behaviors make great managers great at your organization.

Guide: Identify what makes a great manager

Learn about Google's manager research

Google set out to determine what makes a manager great at Google. But first, a research team tried to prove the opposite: that managers actually don’t matter, that the quality of a manager didn’t impact a team’s performance. This hypothesis was based on an early belief held by some of Google’s leaders and engineers that managers are, at best, a necessary evil, and at worst, a layer of bureaucracy.

The team defined manager quality based on two quantitative measures: manager performance ratings and manager feedback from Google’s annual employee survey. This data quickly revealed that managers did matter: teams with great managers were happier and more productive.

But knowing that managers mattered didn’t explain what made managers great. So the team asked employees about their managers. By going through the comments from the annual employee survey, performance evaluations, and Great Manager Award nominations, the team found eight common behaviors across high-scoring managers. The researchers also conducted double blind interviews with a group of the best and worst managers to find illustrative examples of what these two groups were doing differently.

Google manager behaviors 1 Is a good coach 2 Empowers team and does not micromanage 3 Expresses interest/concern for team members’ success and personal well-being 4 Is productive and results-oriented 5 Is a good communicator 6 Helps with career development 
7 Has a clear vision/strategy for the team 8 Has important technical skills that help him/her advise the team

Guide: Identify what makes a great manager

Determine what makes a great manager

The People Operations team uncovered what makes a great manager at Google, but that doesn’t mean what works for Google managers will work for any organization.

To determine what makes managers great in your organization, consider these questions:

  • If managers matter, whom do you need to convince and how? Google used internal data to convince engineers and leaders that managers matter. How will you convince your organization?
  • What makes a great manager at your organization? Google found eight behaviors of successful managers - you might find you have two, three, or ten. Internal data, like employee survey results and interviews, can help uncover the elements of good management at your organization. You can also explore external research (below) to get started.

  • Manager Research Shortlist: