Back in 2008, an internal team of researchers launched Project Oxygen – an effort to determine what makes a manager great at Google. From this research, they identified eight behaviors that are common among their highest performing managers and incorporated them into their manager development programs. By publicizing and training managers on these eight behaviors, they saw an improvement in management and team outcomes like turnover, satisfaction, and performance over time.

But as Google grew in size and complexity, demands on managers and leaders increased as well. From the results of their employee survey they learned that Googlers wanted to see more effective cross-organization collaboration and stronger decision making practices from leaders. They’ve also learned more about how they need managers to show up in some of their related work streams (e.g., teams, unbiasing, performance management). So they took a second look at research, refreshed behaviors according to internal research and Googlers’ feedback, and put them to the test. They found that over time, the qualities of a great manager at Google had grown and evolved with along with the company.

The 10 Oxygen behaviors of Google’s best managers (behaviors 3 and 6 have been updated and behaviors 9 and 10 are new):

  1. Is a good coach
  2. Empowers team and does not micromanage 
  3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information 
  6. Supports career development and discusses performance
  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
  8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team 
  9. Collaborates across Google
  10. Is a strong decision maker

Check the manager survey for a tool to assess your performance or your managers.

The two new behaviors were highly correlated with manager effectiveness and the updated list of ten Oxygen behaviors was even more predictive of team outcomes like turnover, satisfaction, and performance than the original list of eight. The higher the scores a manager received on the two new behaviors, the better those three outcomes were for their teams over the next year; their team members were more likely to stay at Google, gave higher subsequent satisfaction scores on employee survey, and were better performers.

If you’ve taken an Intro to Stats class, you know that correlation does not prove causation. You could also argue reverse causation (i.e., happier, more productive employees rate their managers higher). First, results are followed over time to make sure strong management proceeded employee outcomes. Then, this pattern remained verified even when accounting for manager shifts (e.g. employees shifting to excellent managers saw improvements in turnover, satisfaction, and performance). Quality management is not only critical it also causes better employee outcomes.

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